What did Specter represent besides himself?

posted at 5:15 pm on April 28, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Allahpundit has done a great job of covering Arlen Specter’s rather unsurprising switch to the Democratic Party today, but we’ve already seen a meme arise that blames Republicans for not embracing Specter warmly enough.  Lindsay Graham went so far as to blame Pat Toomey for daring to challenge Specter in a primary, and apparently for being so much more popular among Specter’s constituents that an incumbent Senator fell 21 points behind a primary challenger.

David Frum writes, reasonably enough, that the Republicans can’t govern without crafting a majority party, but picks the wrong poster child:

The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.

For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?

Let’s take this moment to nail some colors to the mast. I submit it is better for conservatives to have 60% sway within a majority party than to have 100% control of a minority party. And until and unless there is an honored place made in the Republican party for people who think like Arlen Specter, we will remain a minority party.

I’ll take exception to both the “catastrophe” and the idea that we lost any influence in Congress at all.  First, Specter made it clear with his vote on Porkulus that he didn’t intend to stand for much of anything — except Arlen Specter.  Republicans had been steamrolled on Porkulus, locked out of negotiations first by Nancy Pelosi and then by Barack Obama, who told Republicans, “I won.”  Had Specter held firm on Porkulus, he would have forced Democrats to compromise on the stimulus package — and many Republicans wanted a reason to throw money at their constituents, but in a somewhat more effective manner.  Instead, Specter back-doored his caucus, and then convinced Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to do the same.

Maybe that’s the reason Specter can’t get within 21 points of Toomey in a primary.

I agree with Frum that the GOP has to offer a big tent, and that we have to allow for some diversity of opinion on issues in order to build a coalition around core values.  But what core values does Specter represent?  What did his Porkulus vote tell us about his core values?  He doesn’t support the social-issues positions of some conservatives, nor does he support fiscal constraint and responsibility. I’m looking for any corner of a Republican tent that could possibly cover where Specter stands, and I’m not seeing any.  Taxes?  He voted to water down the Bush tax cuts.  Judges?  Specter went along with the Borking of, well, Robert Bork.  Specter in 1990 opposed parental notification on abortions — not consent, but notification.

But Porkulus is the real key.  Even center-right and liberal Republicans in the House rejected it.  More Democrats rejected Porkulus than Republicans voted to support it.

The surprise isn’t that Specter switched sides now; it’s that it took him this long to acknowledge reality.  His constituents realized it before he did.  It’s not Pat Toomey’s fault that Specter can’t touch him in a primary, and really, that’s why we didn’t lose any influence, either.  If Specter couldn’t stay strong on Porkulus, which got a grand total of 3 Republican votes on Capitol Hill, he’s a lost cause already.

When push came to shove, Specter couldn’t even stand up for negotiation and compromise on Capitol Hill, opting instead to negotiate for himself.  He’s not a fiscal stalwart, a social conservative, or a conservative on judges, and disloyal to boot.  What exactly did we lose here?

Update: Corrected one sentence for clarity; thanks to commenter Count to 10 for pointing it out.

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Specter wins hands down as it stands now. Let’s see what Toomey pulls.

If a Dem primary knocks out Specter then it’s even better because the choice is more clear cut for us and the people of PA.

ckoeber on April 28, 2009 at 6:57 PM

Arrogance doesn’t become anyone. You know nothing more than anyone here about where that election will go, so stop your on the cheap prognostication, it isn’t amusing or useful.

It will be an interesting election, that is all we know right now

ManInBlack on April 29, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Good analysis, Ed. However, you missed the one point, though.

Specter’s switch will make the super majority 60-vote for the Dems. For which, he could be expected to bargain for his own good, also be eyed and courted as the newest darling in the media and the left.

Which politician won’t sell the grandmother for a little love?

Sir Napsalot on April 29, 2009 at 12:26 PM

As frightening as a 60-vote majority is, it does mean that the failures are all on the Democrats, they own this crisis and continue to make it worse, They can’t blame Bush or the Republicans anymore, and people will know it.

ManInBlack on April 29, 2009 at 12:34 PM

Big tent talk irks me. Republicanism contains everything required to make it successful. Where it has failed is in choosing its representatives at every level of government. Politicians as a class are greasy and prone to pandering. Finding the good ones is devilishly hard.
Mr. Morrissey has it right. Specter is not a loss. As a matter of fact, Republicans had the choice some time ago to cut their losses with Specter but did not have the stones to do it. C’est dommage!

thegreatbeast on April 29, 2009 at 12:39 PM

His expression looks like he just had a meeting with Barney Frank.

Star20 on April 29, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Yet one more step in the GOP’s long march to irrelevance.

maleman on April 29, 2009 at 7:05 PM

There are no Democrats and there are no Republicans anymore, JUST greedy selfish bastards. I got my pitchfork and I say fork’em, fork’em all. Even throw out the good ones, if you could find a good one! Not even smelly northwest hippy anarchist could do what these traitors have just done to us.

Pole-Cat on April 29, 2009 at 11:13 PM

Is it wrong to hope that Specter soon suffers a horrifically painful death and spends an eternity in hell?

DrZin on April 30, 2009 at 2:05 AM

All this talk about how the left won’t be able to blame Republicans now – come on, if there was one Republican left in the world, the MSM would still blame them for everything.

Merovign on April 30, 2009 at 10:27 AM

interesting is chris dodd now thinking of becoming a republican

oldorch on April 30, 2009 at 10:40 AM

Frum writes as if Specter was in the GOP because he wanted to follow his dream and short sighted punks forced him out

Specter got into the GOP because they gave him a better deal

The GOP, i.e. the Bush amnesty RINOs rescued Specter in the last election so he could be in place to move amnesty through against the wishes of the base. It almost worked

Now, Specter has the same primary challege he had the last time, but Obama has needs, so Specter made his usual move towards the biggest plate of stew, and traded his vote to the Dems to keep up the life support

Lost in all this slime are the needs of the GOP base which is conservative, not liberal. The base is becoming more conservative as the DEM majority pushes the envelope

Specter is an expensive little rodent, good for one or two concession while he destroys the rest of the infrastructure

entagor on April 30, 2009 at 12:25 PM

Yet one more step in the GOP’s long march to irrelevance.

maleman on April 29, 2009 at 7:05 PM

One more step into the Dems’ having no more excuses for why they can’t govern their way out of a paper bag.

evergreen on April 30, 2009 at 3:13 PM