The Vagrant Principles of Arlen Specter
By: Jim Byrd
One day shy of the 100-day anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama, Republican Senator Arlen Specter realigned, again, his allegiance with the Democratic Party, and declared that he would run as a Democrat in the 2010 election. This surprise announcement came 41 days after Specter emphatically stated, “To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican, and I am running for reelection in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket.” His apostasy caused surprise, dismay, and confusion within the ranks of his longtime supporters. He gave a politician’s promise, after all. Specter had a one-on-one meeting with Obama shortly before the votes were cast in the Senate regarding the $787 billion stimulus package, for which the Democrats needed three Republican defectors to pass. It would be amazingly naive to believe that Specter did not commit to switching parties either during that meeting or shortly thereafter. Amalgamate the possible promise of support from Obama and Harry Reid to bolster and give sustainability to his rapidly deteriorating political career, the ever-increasing probability of his being eliminated in the 2010 Republican primaries, and a historical penchant for jumping ship from sinking political parties, and you have described the quintessential character of Arlen Specter.
Specter’s disjointed odyssey of self-serving political affiliations began in 1965 when he ran for the position of District Attorney in Philadelphia. At the time, Specter worked under Democrat Jim Crumlish, and was a registered Democrat. After being relegated to the sidelines, and adjourned to political limbo waiting for Crumlish to move on, Specter ran for District Attorney as a Democrat on the Republican ticket. Specter subsequently changed his party affiliation to Republican after winning the election. After his second term in office, Specter ran for the Senate in 1976, but was defeated in the primary. Specter, who has a law degree from Yale, settled into private practice for four years before making a successful bid for a Senate seat as a Republican in 1980.
There are a number of interesting parallels between Specter’s two changes of political affiliation. For example, in 1964 Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected president in a landslide victory. The wave of the Democratic Party was high, and Specter was rode the crest. Johnson promised us the “Great Society”: he was going to eliminate poverty–with taxpayer money– and classify poverty as an artifact of an outdated Republican Party. To be affiliated with the Democratic Party was to be a political magnate, with no end in sight to the glory days of liberalism. However, the year 1966 brought with it the painful realization that payment was due for the fanatical spending programs of every Democratic president since FDR, including, but not limited to, Johnson’s “Great Society”, and feverish, pathological spending by Congress. The recompense for the “Great Society,” and other forms of wealth redistribution, amounted to higher taxes and greater inflation rates. In 1966, according to the IRS, only 19% of tax returns paid no taxes; in 2004, that number was 32.4%; and under the Obama scheme, it will likely approach 50%. Consider 2009 vis-a-vis 1966: a significantly larger percentage of the population paid into the income tax system in the earlier time period. This caused a grassroots revolt that was manifested in the 1966 mid-term elections after it became tortuously clear who was going to pay for the Democrats’ grandiose spending programs. The 1966 mid-term elections produced 47 House seats for the Republicans, eight new Republican governors, and 557 Republican seats in state legislatures. Specter, an archetypal politician with nomadic principles, packed his hastily reincarnated principles, and jumped ship at the height of this political metamorphosis to the party of majority.
44 years later, Specter has switched parties again, and coincidently he finds himself a member of the party that has so recently gained a commanding majority. In spite of his vindicating bleats of self-acquittal, and unconvincing attempts at transferring the onus of his actions to the Republican Party, history and ignorance of the facts are Specter’s nemesis. Specter’s primary grievance with the GOP is that the party has moved too far to the right, thus making his ideas more compatible with the Democratic Party’s current ideology. He stated that his defection should serve as a “wake-up call” for the GOP. But Specter’s deprecating babble regarding the state of the GOP and his abandonment, says far more about Specter himself, as a man and a politician, than it does about the GOP. In actuality, the current GOP operates significantly more to the left of center than the GOP about which Specter reminisces so fondly about. Conversely, beginning with Obama’s inauguration, the Democratic Party has shifted hard left, moving so far beyond Socialism that it is now fast-tracking a Fascist economic and social agenda, and demonstrating a Fascist affinity for quelling opposition. With this in mind, it is obvious that Specter’s accusation that the GOP is moving to the right is deficient in logic, common sense, and evidence. It is for more likely that Specter cut a Faustian deal with the Democrats before voting for the stimulus package in order to align himself with the party in power and preserve his Senate career. This is especially likely when one considers that in his last primary election, Specter won by the narrowest of margins against Pat Toomey, while Obama won the state of Pennsylvania handily.
Arlen Specter would have you believe, and perhaps he believes that he is a Republican cut from a moderate cloth: however, unfortunately for Specter, Jack Kemp has set the standard for the moderate Republican. In contrast to Specter, Jack Kemp, whose recent death Specter blamed on the Republican Party, had a static set of standards and principles-Specter, not so much.
As if to further validate the axiom that, “there is no honor among thieves,” less than a week after his defection, Specter has been relegated to the bottom rung of seniority in the five committees in which he serves, despite Harry Reid’s promise that Specter would retain his seniority status. This twisted turn of events negates any alchemic fantasy Specter may have harbored of regaining any semblance of significance in the wake of his self-serving defection.
As when Mephistopheles lets the recently blinded Faust believe that his life’s work is in the final stages of completion, while actually preparing his grave, perhaps a similar fate awaits Specter. Perhaps Specter has always been a radical leftist and, as with the Democrats’ systematic suicidal spending of the mid 1960′s, when the time comes again for American taxpayers to pay for the recent wave of unprecedented Democrat spending, perhaps Specter’s political grave will have been dug while he is blinded by political greed.
Jim Byrd's website is A Skewed View.