Thursday, April 30, 2009

The primary reason for Specter's switch?

This time I checked Dave's blog first, just to be sure.... I believe, therefore, I can claim, with some confidence, to be the last blogger in America to comment on Sen. Arlen Specter's switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party.

It's an item I saw in Sneed's Chicago Sun-Times column this morning that prompts my comment: She reports that Joe Biden brokered Specter's switch; Specter's call to the White House announcing the change came as a surprise to President Obama.

I've previously mentioned reading Specter's book, Never Give In. In the book, Specter attributed his bout with Hodgkin's disease to the stress of a difficult primary campaign and the obstacles he encountered as he sought to take the reins of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He was facing a re-run of that primary contest this time... and he was even less popular now with conservative Pennsylvania Republicans than he was in 2004, thanks to his vote in favor of President Obama's stimulus package.

Sneed's column this morning made me recall something else from Specter's book: He wrote warmly of his personal friendship with then-Senator Joe Biden, despite their disagreement on various issues. They frequently traveled together to and from Washington, on the train as I recall, and had plenty of time to converse privately... and to bond.

Publicly, the Democrats are euphoric over all this: Specter represents the magical 60th vote (assuming Al Franken is eventually confirmed in the Minnesota recount) that will allow the Democrats to throttle Republican dissension once and for all.

I wonder how long they'll remain happy.

Specter switched because he would have lost in the Republican primary. Primaries -- in Pennsylvania no less than anywhere else -- are the refuge of the true believers. Doctrinaire candidates will generally fare better in primaries than perceived fence straddlers. True believers -- conservative or liberal -- tend to view any deviation from their stated priorities of the moment as waffling, pandering, or treason. Because Specter was likely to fall in the primary, Democrats would probably have picked up the seat in 2010 anyway -- unless things change drastically between now and then, a possibility which must always be acknowledged -- and they would have had a more 'reliable' vote in anyone other than Specter.

Specter aggravated Republicans because he broke ranks with them on so many issues. But not all issues. It's on those issues he may break ranks with the Democrats.

In the short run, Specter's switch boosts his friend Biden in the White House pecking order. But the lift may not last. And the Obama administration will still probably have to back Specter in 2010, just as Bush had to back Specter in 2004.

And if you've had enough of politics for the day... why not head over to Captain Picard's Journal to celebrate its fourth Blogiversary? To be on the safe side, better knock first before entering Captain Picard's quarters....

1 comment:

Dave said...

Interesting. I think you may well be right.

By the way, school systems down here are starting to use Twitter to inform parents, not students, instead of using phone chains or whatever the current version of them is.