And there was much rejoicing.
Independent minded Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter announced yesterday that he was leaving the Republican party and would run in the Democratic primary.
Specter was the deciding vote in passing President Obama's Economic Stimulus package, and has been out of step with his own party for quite some time. It's worth noting, though, that he is well in line with his State. Pennsylvania was once considered a bellweather state, alternating between electing Republicans and Democrats. In fact, until recently the other Senator for Pennsylvania was the uber-right wing and anti-gay Rick Santorum.
But as the Republican party has moved further to the right, this state has been shifting in the opposite direction - Obama won it by 10 points, and Kerry won by a comfortable margin in 2004. Not to mention, of course, that Santorum was defeated by Democrat (and early Obama endorser) Bob Casey in the last election cycle. Specter's party switch completes the shift to a fully Democratic Senate delegation for the state.
Specter's statement is here.
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the state, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
But don't take Arlen's word for it - as usual, my new BEST FRIEND FOREVER, RNC Chairman Michael Steele has e-mailed me to let me know how things really stand.
I hope Arlen Specter's party change outrages you. It should for two reasons:
First--Specter claimed it was philosophical--and pointed his finger of blame at Republicans all over America for his defection to the Democrats. He told us all to go jump in the lake today.
I'm sorry, but I don't believe a word he said.
Arlen Specter committed a purely political and self-serving act today. He simply believes he has a better chance of saving his political hide and his job as a Democrat. He loves the title of Senator more than he loves the party--and the principles--that elected him and nurtured him.
Second--and more importantly--Arlen Specter handed Barack Obama and his band of radical leftists nearly absolute power in the United States Senate. In leaving the Republican Party--and joining the Democrats--he absolutely undercut Republicans' efforts to slow down Obama's radical agenda through the threat of filibuster.
My favorite bit, though, was this final part in the PS:
P.S. Karin, we need to respond to Senator Specter's decision to join President Obama's efforts to change America into a European Welfare State.
Ummm... Michael? I live in Europe. So not quaking in my boots at making the USA slightly more like the more egalitarian society I live in where losing your job does not equate to losing your health insurance.
Anyway, welcome to the fold Arlen. I know that you won't be with us on every vote - and I fully expect that you'll continue to be the contrarian, fiscally cautious, thoughtful and occassionally infuriating Senator you've always been. But I hope you'll wear that D after your name with pride.