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The Specter of Political Change

For those unaffected by swine flu and the Washington Capitals first-round triumph in the Stanley Cup playoffs, there's only one story in Washington today: Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to switch to the Democratic Party and possibly give the Democrats a filibuster proof majority.

There are zillions of stories and analyses and well over 1,000 comments on the subject. We're concentrating on those who responded to E. J. Dionne's column, in which he says Specter has come full circle, and Dan Balz's analysis, where he asks, "How much can the Republicans take."

Not surprisingly a vast majority of our Readers Who Comment seem to be joyful Democrats. But there are many who note that Specter is not exactly a reliable vote for either party, and who see a certain cynicism in his switch, since it was been widely reported that he would have difficulty winning the Republican primary in Pennsylvania in 2010.

First to comments on the Dionne column:

We'll start with DixieWrecked, who wrote, "You keeping pushing them out, and we'll keep taking them in. Ideological purity only works when the majority agree with the ideology. God is dead, gays don't matter, and even liberals own rifles and pistols. The GOP ran out of ideas and now they are running ever lower on Senators and Representatives. What good has your ideological purity done for you GOP?"

But Realist20 said that, "Specter is anything but moderate as his votes over the last few years have sided with the Dems - He's 79 years old, about to lose his seat in the Senate and ran to the Dems... This is another gift for the GOP as they went from losing a senate seat in November to gaining one with Specter's move."

gitarre wrote that [Senate Majority Leader] "Harry Reid is really going to have his little hands full with yet another caterwauling primadonna and unreliable gasbag in his tent. I doubt it will be long before buyer's remorse sets in."

kcbob said, "Arlen Specter chose country over party in voting for the stimulus bill. It was critical to the nation's economic health. But for the GOP it was simply proof he doesn't hate our government enough. You can't run government and hate it at the same time... More sadly still, it means underneath all the rhetoric, they hate America."

FoolontheHill1 asked, "Assuming that the GOP continues to curl itself into 19th century Dixieland, will the Democrats continue to expand rightwards following the heels of the retreating Republicans, or will there be open space for a center-right third party?"

caroll1 wrote, "I'm not sure what Democrats will get out of this, since Specter is loudly proclaiming that his decision switch parties doesn't mean he'll vote Democratic (his upcoming vote will go against the unions). I'd rather see a 'real' Democrat get his seat in 2010. (Specter's voting record reflects a Republican bias)."

JPRS said, "...Hard to see how PA couldn't benefit from some new blood. Hopefully [Specter] faces a serious challenge from the left as he was on his right flank. At the very least it will keep him somewhat honest over the next year. After that, odds are it will be the same old Specter."

ualec1 wrote, "I think Barry Goldwater would have left GOP too, he was not the social conservative of the current Bible Thumping Government in Every Bedroom ilk."

yarbrougharts said, "Spector, as he said himself, looked at his poll numbers and knew his only shot at retaining his seat was to change parties. Most democrats well welcome him, but he probably still be a spur to progressives..."

roger47 wrote, "He did not leave the party. It left him."

dmyers412 said, "Sometimes I scratch my head about why politicians do what they do. This is one of those times....what is the payoff for Specter? I'm for term limits instead of lengthy membership in the world's greatest club."

CopyKinetics wrote, "Fine. Better to have him than not. But, despite what delusional Republicans are saying, the man is hardly a liberal. In fact, he's hardly a moderate. He is rather a decidely mixed bag... Pennsylvania primary voters should go ahead and replace him in 2010 with a real Democrat and put an end to Specter's self-serving chicanery."

All comments on the Dionne column are here.

Now to comments on the Balz analysis:

angryinmaine said, "I'm delighted to hear Rush Limbaugh invite moderate republicans to leave the about it Collins and Snowe? come-on over - we welcome you. How thin can the ranks for the party of "no" get. I'd be interested in witnessing the answer."

ronjaboy wrote, "The Dems have copped all the feel-good, the government'll give it to you but get somebody else to pay, whatever feels good do it positions so what can the GOP do? We'll just have to wait for the full economic cost of defeating global warming and the rampant inflation that will come from The Policies of The One to take hold to mount a comeback."

gasmonkey said, "...Already Specter is receiving the "GOP treatment." Character assassination, name-calling, shouts of "good riddance." The entire focus of the present GOP is "party purity." They'd rather be a cult of "Tokyo Rush" than be a viable political party."

marctrain1 wrote, "I think it a mistake to want to see the Republican party "stamped" out. Its good to have a mix of ideas on Capitol. I have greater admiration for those who don't vote the straight party line...Personally I hope with it's current popularity my own party, the Democratics don't shoot themselves in the foot as we have often done."

DwightCollins said, "this article makes no sense, Republicans have lost some elections, but they are still here and they will rebound... if I were you I would shift to the dems who now have no one to put the blame on when their policies go south..."

All comments on the Balz column are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  April 29, 2009; 6:34 AM ET
 | Tags: Democrats, Republicans, Senate, Specter  
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There's a line in John Steinbeck's novel, "The Moon is Down." A frustrated, drunk German officer stuck in the middle of Norway cries out "The flies have conquered the fly paper."

The Republican party has conquered itself.

Posted by: DBCarren | April 29, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

It is incredulous to me that no one has pointed out the fact that other than enviroterrorists, all domestic terrorist acts since the '70's have been done by right wing extremists. Unibomber, Ruby Ridge, Waco, abortion clinic bombings,two Tenn. men plotting to shoot blacks on their way to DC to assasinate Obama, and never forget Oklahoma City. McCain/Palin rallies with cries of "KILL HIM", the angry white people holding socialist signs, etc... at the tea party's. All of this anger and rage. Back in 2003, with the sentence "We're ashamed the President is from our home state", the Dixie Chicks became the target of a campaign of professional ostarsism, hateful attacks by fellow performers like Toby Keith and of course, death threats. How much more obvious does it have to get; the Republican Party does not publicly condone violence, but they sure don't do anything to discourage it when it's pointed at political rivals. This is the pro-life party? The Christian Party? The Big Tent Party? The We-don't-torture Party? The keep-US-safe-while-selling-control-of-US-ports-to-Dubai-based-company- Party? The-Heckuva-job Party? The-apologize-to-the-entertainer-for-calling-him-an-entertainer- Party? The CD-Barack-the-Magic-Negro Party? The Impeach-Clinton-for-BJ-while having affair-Newt Party? Not that Dems haven't had their share of debacles, but the hypocritical anger on the right is frightenening and should be taken seriously. Look at the history of RIGHT WING violence, just in the last 30 years.

Posted by: katem1 | April 29, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Doug's really interesting.

He never chooses any of the most dedicated readers that post.

Oh, well, what should we expect?

This isn't your father's Washington Post.

Posted by: PoliticalCommentator | April 29, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

So we have Arlen Judas Specter replacing that other one, Joe Judas Lieberman.

Posted by: alzach | April 29, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

"How will the Republican Party respond?"

Well, I don't know, how has Rush directed the cult to respond???

Posted by: Impeachbush99 | April 29, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

So Rush's logic is that this is a "cleansing" of the Republican party of the dirty liberal not "real" conservatives! Hahahahahahaha, so Rush believes the Republican party better off when full of bat shat crazy extremest numbskulls like Michele Bachmann!?????

Good luck with that! :)

Posted by: Impeachbush99 | April 29, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, "how will republicans respond?"...this isn't very difficult. My guess is they will wish for Specter to fail (along with everything and anyone else who isn't 'one of them'), call for more tax cuts for the filthy rich and possibly push to start an unnecessary war in some oil producing country? You know, SOP for the stuck in the mud GOP.

Posted by: Impeachbush99 | April 29, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Another shining example of why we need term limits. A typical pol desperately attempting to hang on to power, regardless of principles....

Posted by: Phil6 | April 29, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

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