Kurtz: Specter stiffed his constituents

Party switching has become such an accepted political game that the ethical considerations of the Arlen Specter Switcheroo, as Rick Moran calls it, didn’t get much attention.  Howard Kurtz calls himself a “contrarian” today in wondering why the media didn’t discuss how Specter betrayed his Pennsylvania constituents, who may have wanted a Republican in the seat for a reason:

The Pennsylvania senator says he will continue to follow his conscience, but he has just stiffed the voters of his state, the way every opportunistic party-switcher does. A majority of them voted for a Republican to represent them in D.C. for six years, and suddenly they’ve got a Democrat who will work with Obama’s party.

Jeffords did it in 2001. Richard Shelby did it in 1994, one day after the Republicans seized control of the Senate, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell the following year, thus giving them the added clout of being in the majority.

Phil Gramm did it the right way in 1983. He quit the Democratic Party, resigned his House seat, ran for reelection as a Republican and won. The voters ratified his choice. …

Specter says the Republican Party has moved “far to the right,” and that may be true, but the obvious motive here is that he concluded he couldn’t beat Pat Toomey in next year’s GOP primary. (He admitted as much, calling his chances “bleak.”) So Pennsylvania voters will get a belated opportunity to accept or reject his move.

First, let’s deal with the canard that the GOP has moved “far to the right”.  When exactly did that happen?  When a Republican-controlled Congress, yoked to a Republican White House, grew federal spending by 50% in six years?  Would that be the GOP that created a new entitlement program for prescription medication?  The same Republicans that expanded spending above inflation on discretionary areas like education (58%), health research and regulation (55%), community and regional development (94%) and on entitlement programs like Medicare (51%)?

If that’s moving to the right, then I’m Chairman Mao.  It’s an absurd statement on its face.  The problem with the GOP hasn’t been that they moved to the right, it’s that they became Democrats and liked the media attention they got from it.  Specter just made it official yesterday.

That brings us back to the ethics question.  When a politician runs as a member of a particular party, shouldn’t they complete their term with that party?  Joe Lieberman didn’t switch affiliations until forced to do so for his independent re-election bid, for example, even though many in his own party turned against him.  Phil Gramm resigned and put the question to his constituents.  Howard has this right, and members of both caucuses should be scolded for switching mid-term, and especially for enticing members to switch.

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