The Democrats are celebrating, Republicans are lamenting and MSM are excitedly analyzing every nuanced angle of every political strategy imaginable over Arlen Specters decision to switch his nearly four decade affiliation as a Republican to that of a Democrat. An excerpt from his statement earlier today in the WSJ:
I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.
I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.
While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.
So as Mr. Specter himself explains, his decision is about wanting to get reelected. I don’t doubt he has many worthwhile contributions he would still like to make. But as an independent, who has voted for Republicans as well as Democrats over the years, I have both admired Mr. Specter for many of his independent votes and stances, and decried his adherence to party loyalty.
For me, a more impressive time for Arlen Specter to make his principled stance forsaking the Republican party would have been when Bush and the Republican party were in power and traveling down so many avenues – Iraq, torture, FISA, financially starving much needed government agencies, manipulating government data – that I and many Americans found reprehensible.
Now after so many years, it seems like just another confirmation that our political parties have merged into one big corporate party with only the fringe Democrats pulling hard left and fringe Republicans pulling hard right.
Personally, I’m weary of the constant gamesmanship of politics. I’m frustrated by the unending election focus. I’m tired of feeling like the helpless passenger locked in the back seat and forced to watch two drunk drivers fighting to take control over the steering wheel. In the end, we are still trapped in the same car speeding down the same road and facing the same ditches and oncoming traffic hazard, while in the hands of an impaired driver.
Third party? Term limits? There has got to be a way for the american people to stop being crash test dummies for both political parties.
Ben Smith of Politico provides a great perspective on Specter once proposed limiting effect of party switches when Jim Jeffers defected in 2001.
And so while Mr. Specter’s party affiliation goes full circle – he originally was a democrat.