Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter

For my first "substantive" post, I will comment on the Arlen Specter issue. Of course, by now, those who follow political news will be aware of Arlen Specter's decision to cross over to the Democrats: http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/yb/129179359. While the pundits will, no doubt, beat this issue to death over the next few days, one of his reasons for crossing is that the Republicans have shifted too far to the right.

This raises the curious question - was the Republican party really closer to the centre in the days of Joseph McCarthy, Robert Taft, William McKinley, and (early) Barry Goldwater (even "progressive" Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and William Borah would be pretty conservative by today's standards)? Or was the period in the 1970's where moderates like Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller led the Party more of an abberation? I have never read anything from a reputable historian which described Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, or Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. as "moderates" or "centrists," which leads me to think that the Ford/Rockefeller era was an attempt to broaden the GOP's electoral appeal in otherwise liberal States, which faded during the Reagan era and fizzled out with the Newt Gingrich "contract with America."

The fact is, the Republican Party has more or less always been the conservative party in the United States, which can be traced back to its Whig and Federalist predecessors (even opposition to slavery can be fairly classified as a socially conservative position, as the early Republicans rejected the "right" of the plantation owners to "choose" to own other human beings whom the Democrats denied were "persons." Compare Dred Scott v. Sandford with Roe v. Wade). Were many Republicans beginning to become fed-up with Specter? Sure. Would Specter have faced a tough primary challenge from Toomey? Quite possibly. Given Pennsylvania's support of Democrat candidates for President in the last few elections, would a Democrat have an easier chance of getting elected in that State? Very plausible. But, at least, be honest - don't tell us that the GOP has made an unprecedented shift to the Right, when, in fact, it has always been the party of the Right.

In sum, Specter's change will not matter much vote-wise, nor will it shift the balance of power in the Senate. Specter has simply realized that, being a liberal, in a conservative party, in a left-leaning State, is a tough row to hoe. From a political standpoint, it was a pragmatic decision, though, as a Republican, I cannot help but feel somewhat betrayed.

No comments:

Post a Comment