The Republican party today moved another step closer to becoming just the regional party of the South by losing one of its most respected members, Senator Arlen Specter (PA). Citing the Republicans’ notable swing to the right in recent years, Specter announced earlier that he would be switching parties to join the Democrats. His switch will give the Democrats a filibuster-proof 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, assuming the courts uphold Al Franken’s victory in the Minnesota Senate race.
Without a doubt, this is a positive development. Fears that the Democrats will have “too much power” are overblown, as Specter will certainly continue to be an independent voice in the Democratic Party as he was in the Republican Party. More importantly, since Obama’s inauguration, the GOP has done little else besides engage in obstructionist tactics, while offering few if any solutions of their own. This move, then, should at the very least help make Congress more productive.
You can read Specter’s full remarks here, but here’s a taste:
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.,p>
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.