Arlen Specter has been his own man for many years. A few years ago, in 2004, fresh from winning his election, Specter was in line for the Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee at a time when it was clear that Rehnquist was going to be replaced. He made the mistake of announcing publicly that he would not permit passage of a nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Republicans would have none of it. The leaders of the party let him know in no uncertain terms that even if his seniority indicated that he should be appointed the next Committee Chairman, they were not bound to this custom and if the potential Chairman was out of line, then there were other Republicans who could be placed there instead; loyal and true Republicans.

Specter stood down. After a lifetime, he was hungry for the Chairmanship and with some lobbying and kow-towing to the right groups and party leaders, he was indeed given the plum role. I have always assumed that he was humiliated after being humbled by his party bosses.

Specter recently raised the ire of Republicans again by voting for Obama’s Stimulus pacakge, one of only three Republicans to cross the aisle and do so. That got a lot of people talking and it gave an opening to a fellow Republican politician who was running against Specter in their Pennsylvania Republican primary election. A few serious attack ads, some door to door canvassing and all of a sudden for the first time in a long career, Specter found himself facing the loss of his seat. What must have stung, again, was that he was being attacked by a fellow party-members despite his many years of distinguished service in the Senate. Apparently his views just weren’t far enough to the right.

Perhaps recalling the humiliation of 2004 at the hands of his colleagues and facing yet another humiliation but this time one that would expel him from the Senate, Arlen Specter listened carefully to the lobbying on their joint travels back to Pennsylvania of the current VP, his old friend Joseph Biden, who suggested as he had for a number of years that perhaps Specter’s values are no longer in line with the Republican party’s and are in line with the Democrats.

My guess is that a mix of pragmatism and political savvy probably drove Specter to make the decision to switch parties. It’s ironic in many ways because he began his political career as a Democrat and left for the Republican party about 43 years ago. This is his return and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Democrats. Facing ongoing threats of filibusters by the hypocritical Republicans who were opposed to such maneuverings by the minority Dems when they were in power, the current Democrats in the Senate now have at least a 59th and, if as expected Al Franken wins his election’s legal battles, probably a 60th and filibuster-breaking new addition to their party. The other winners here, along with the Democratic Senators and President Obama are Pennsylvanians. My guess is they’ll be getting a bunch of goodies over the next couple of years because of this party-affiliation switch by the their formerly-Republican representative.

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  • As a Democrat from Maryland who goes to college in Pennsylvania, I have always said that Arlen Specter is the only Republican I’ll vote for. Funny how things turn out.

  • Pathetic hypocrite and a perfect reason for term limits. At least American Jews can be proud of their diversity of thought. 🙂

  • If by pragmatism you mean a desire to save his ass politically, then his move was highly pragmatic.

    Has Anita Hill sent her congratulations?

  • That’s precisely what I mean. This is all about saving his kosher bacon. The thing is, I have to agree that he’s been with the wrong party for a while. It’s like that Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

  • Alex, Specter is no different than the Republicans. Before the Stimulus vote, they liked Specter a lot. Now that he’s no longer a team player, the little daggers are coming out. We saw the same thing happen over and over during the Bush years. So let’s turn the tables: for 4 decades Specter was good enough for the Republicans but suddenly he’s public enemy #1?

  • TM, Actually, Specter, like a handful of others has been known as a RINO for years. In fact, the Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. For the last 6 years, unlike Specter’s BS about them going right, they’ve been acting like Democrats so it’s no wonder 1 in 4 Americans calls themselves a Republican. They have no direction, no ideas, and no plan or strategy for saving this country from the deranged Socialists that are driving us into the abyss. AFAIC, they’re just as pathetic and weasely as the Democrats. One big party, full of Statists and corrupt beaurocrats. Screw them all.

    As for Specter, he acted no different than a flee jumping off a dog headed for a bath. He’s an opportunist, saving his own career which should have ended years ago. Just a few weeks ago he bandied on about the need for balance and a two party system. Hypocrisy like this isn’t random, it’s nurtured and par for the course, especially for Democrats. Good riddance and I hope they enjoy him. The last time this happened was during Carter’s first two years and only a fool would believe that was a great time in American history. So now it’s all in the Statists’ hands. Let them own the ball and fail drastically. I’m looking forward to it. In fact, I’ve never been more certain in my life, since 9/12/01, that we’re going to get hit so hard it may take all out nuclear war to salvage what is left of this country that my parents escaped to. For those of us that escaped Communism, we used to worry and laugh nervously. Now it’s an outright smirk we carry around. Boy, I’m sure looking forward to dear leader’s face on TV every day. Hmm, where have we seen that before? Now its just a matter of time that we have to escape from here. Very sad indeed. But don’t take my word for it. I’m an Optimist!

  • What kind of spam filter do you guys use? Only 1 of my posts out of 5 get through. Thank g-d I always save my text. Dude..

  • Republicans have had issues with Spector for years, almost depriving him of his old chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. While the party has lots of problems, I’m not sure Spector’s defection exemplifies them. If Snowe or Collins defect, I think it’ll amount to a much bigger story about the party’s demise.

  • The Middle did bring up the old chairmanship story.

    Alex, it’s a good thing you’re an optimist and can find hope in the most difficult circumstances.

  • I see Arlen defied his (new) party on the budget vote today.

  • Sashka, problem is that the porn spammers use a lot of popular names – such as “Alex”, so our filters keep fishing you out.