By Bob Sommer
You do have to wonder what the Democrats have really gained with the defection of Senator Arlen Specter today. A 59th vote? Maybe. (Don’t count it yet.) A politician whose options were running out as he faced a tough primary challenge in his home state of Pennsylvania. For sure.
Does Specter increase the strength of the Senate Democrats, or dilute it? He’s a heavy-weight, even as a newbie Democrat. In sports-trade-speak, he comes with items to be named later.
The central question raised by his defection is how far to the center (center right ?) the Democratic Party now leans.
Specter has voted with the Republicans over 65% of the time.
- He voted for Bush’s domestic spying program.
- He supported making it harder for people to declare bankruptcy.
- He voted to cut nearly $40 billion from welfare, child support and student loan programs.
- He voted against placing a timetable on ending the occupation of Iraq.
- He voted with the Republicans to ban flag desecration (a really critical item in June 2006—when no one was burning flags but the crazy base had to be rallied for an election that didn’t turn out well for many Republican congressmen).
And while he supported President Obama’s stimulus package, he didn’t do so without first joining the mob of Republicans who criticized Obama for spending too much.
President Obama—and the Democrats—came to office in November with a resounding mandate for change and a wholesale rejection of the Bush administration and everything it stood for.
Without doubt, the Republicans have become a party of reactionaries who float on Rush Limbaugh’s tide, but is, as Howard Dean might put it, "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" now threatened by dilution? Specter isn't likely to become more than another "RepubliDem," as the Democrats save him from annihilation by his own party.