Well, you gotta hand it to them. The Republican party's base finally got rid of Republican-In-Name-Only Arlen Specter. The Pennsylvania Senator has had enough and isn't going to take it anymore. He's now a Democrat. And so, a heretic was cast into the wilderness and the conservative movement offered great hosannas of joy. Better to be small but pure than large and corrupted by moderation and squishy centrism. That this defection may ensure the Democrats have a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate matters less than enforcing ideological conformity. That's how you win these days, right?
Granted, Al Franken still has to be confirmed as the winner in Minnesota and granted too Specter insists that he will be no more doctrinaire a Democrat than he was a Republican. But still. Even allowing for Democratic waverers such as Baucus and Nelson, on a number of issues Obama's path to domestic legislative success just became a little easier. True, the centre still commands the Senate, but that centre is now tipped a little more decisively in favour of the Donkey. Equally, logic demands that if Specter is to win Pennsylvania's Democratic primary next year, he may, on some issues anyway, have to advance the Democrats' agenda more swiftly than he might otherwise have felt inclined to.
From Specter's statement:
I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans. Well, yes. It's also true that if Specter believes he would lose the GOP primary, his best hope of remaining in the Senate might be to switch parties now, at a moment when it can more easily be swaddled in principle. But, again, still. Heckuva job, Club for Growth.
One other point: I suspect that Joe Biden played a big part in convincing Specter that this was his wisest course of action. If so, then Biden has done his boss no small service.