Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Specter Defection

There has been a lot of commentary in the media over Senator Arlen Specters move from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. Many are portraying this as a wakeup call in some form or another. One of the best pieces I have read on Specter's move is by Noemie Emery of the Weekly Standard. Mrs. Emery uses Specter's defection as a call for more of a big tent in the Republican Party. I think she is right.

Mrs. Emery points out a fact that many voters on the right and the left forget: Conservatism is a movement and not a Party, while the Republican Party is not a movement. The goal of a movement is to advance a set of ideals. The goal of a political party is to get more people elected and to implement a political platform. Republicans need Conservatives to win national elections. Conservatives need Republicans (even the not so conservative version) in order to get their ideals acted on. As good as Mrs. Emery's article is, there are two points she and most commentators seem to be missing.

First, many elected Republicans have pushed the parties platform aside. Elected Republicans have forgotten the Contract with America, and have become as big government as their Democratic counterparts. Many voters who traditionally vote Republican are upset with that. To make matters worse, since the 2006 elections, the Republican party has had trouble convincing voters that they want to get back to the Party of the 90's, let alone Regan's big tent party of the 80's. Many Republicans talk about attacking new voters. But they phrase this in how they wish to change the party. Republicans should be looking at ways they can phrase their message or better communicate it to traditionally Democratic voters.

The other point that seems to get lost is why Specter changed parties. Mrs. Emery touches on it, but then forgets it. Arlen Specter was most likely going to lose his primary battle. He looked at the numbers, and in order to stay in the Senate, switched parties. He is very likely to get reelected as a Democrat. In my opinion, this speaks to a larger problem. Specter has been in politics since the 60's. He started his career as a Democrat, and switched to the Republican party after his first election. He has been in the Senate since 1981. He is approaching 30 years in the Senate. Mrs. Emery and other Republicans seem to think it is tragic that he would loose his primary. I think it would have been a good thing. Do we really need Senators in office for 30 years? One of our problems in the Congress is that these older Senators are more concerned with winning another term than they are with fulfilling their role as the outlined by the Constitution.

Specter's defection should be a wake up call for the Republican Party. I think Republicans needed to be doing some soul searching right now for a number of reasons. However, I believe Specters defection should call us all to examine a different issue: Term Limits in Congress and the Senate. Specter switched parties to stay in office. Do we really need any Representative or Senator in office for thirty years? I don't think so. If a President is term limited to two terms, why should a Senator (or Representative) be able to make a full career of sitting in the Senate or the House?


Senior Lady said...


I haven't given it a lot of thought, but I tend to agree with you on term limits for Senators and Representatives. A debate on this would be interesting to me.

I disagree with you on the first sentence of the 4th paragraph. Specter made no secret of (nor has the media overlooked) the fact that he switiched parties to get reelected.

Andy D said...

I didn't mean that the media wasn't discussing it. I meant that people seem to be forgetting it. In the rush to paint this as a wake up call, we (main stream media and new media) are white washing Specters first reason: How to get reelected.

The more I read about politics the more I am convinced we need term limits in Congress.

Andy D said...

My wife told me to go look up Senator Jim DeMint's article in the Wall Street Journal from yesterday. It is really good and talks about creating a "big tent" Republican Party.

saint said...

I think term limits would be a great idea, and this comes from a state that until recently had two senators that had been in DC for decades, and I'm not talking just a few either.

Brandon said...

I completely agree with you Andy that the GOP needs to get back to their big tent philosophy. If the conservative movement that insists on ideological purity over electability prevail, then the Republican party will quickly fall into a death spiral. The Democrats could have the same problem with their own ideological purists, but the problem is critical for the GOP.

Don't assume that Specter will be reelected as a Democrat, if Joe Sestak challenges him in a primary, then Specter's career could ironically end in a primary, just not the one he was expecting.

On term limits, my thoughts are mixed. One the one hand, I think term limits are a good idea. On the other hand, I can't help but think that we would lose a small majority of quality long-term legislators such as Senator Dick Lugar. The man is one of the top members of Congress and should have won a Nobel Peace Prize by now, but if term limits were introduced, he would be unable to continue his Senate career.

Andy D said...

Brandon, I think you have some valid concerns.

I don't think the Republican Party should have any sort of ideological test. However, I think Republicans need to do a better job of supporting the existing platform, and communicating to people (all people) why that platform is good for everyone. I don't support everything the Republican party does, but I support enough of it that I typically vote Republican.

On term limits, I understand your point. Right or wrong, I don't think any term limit legislation could get passed unless it grandfathered the sitting representatives at the time it was passed.