Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter - Reason for Being in Politics

Yesterday (April 28, 2009) Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter announced that he is switching to the Democratic party. This was not very surprising, considering he was on the far left of the Republican party. However, his philosophy seems to change depending on what he sees as his advantage.

According to The Hill, Specter said this only about 6 weeks ago:

"I am staying a Republican because I think I have an important role, a more important role, to play there. The United States very desperately needs a two-party system. That's the basis of politics in America. I'm afraid we are becoming a one-party system, with Republicans becoming just a regional party with so little representation of the Northeast or in the middle Atlantic. I think as a governmental matter, it is very important to have a check and balance. That's a very important principle in the operation of our government. In the constitution on Separation of powers."

So what has happened in the few weeks since then? Is the country less in need of a two-party system? Is it OK for the Republican party to be only a regional party, leaving out the Northeast? Do we not care about checks and balances? Are the Constitution's precepts no longer important?

No, it was none of that (according to Specter himself). He said that he could see he was going to lose in the Republican primary, so it was in his interest to switch parties. He will not let the Republican primary voters determine his legacy.

Maybe I have seen "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" too many times, but I would like to think that our politicians are in office to follow their principles. The voters don't think they are electing someone who might switch away from their own values when the wind shifts. We don't want soldiers in a war who would defect to the enemy when the battle outcome looks bleak; and I think we feel similarly about politicians.

But that's just me, perhaps. I value loyalty to principles. I have never spoken out about politicians who switched parties because their own philosophy evolved over time or because they can honestly say the party's values have migrated away from them. But Specter came to office with President Reagan. If he was able to be part of a party that professed limited government, and if he is now switching to a party that is overseeing the largest expanse of government in most of our lifetimes, we must assume that it is more a change in Specter that drives his move. But he does not say that is why. He says it is simply because he has a better chance of staying in office by switching parties.

An interesting tidbit is that Specter was very critical of Senator Jim Jeffords when he switched parties in 2001. Read the story at the L.A. Times.

Being the dreamer I am, I would prefer people to stick with their principles as they state them to be. A few years back, Barbra Streisand was distressed at the fact that Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency. She said that goes against the Constitional balance of power. (Well, not exactly as the Constitution describes separation of powers, but...) So where is she right now? Should she not have been warning us against electing candidate Obama and also giving control of both houses of Congress to Democrats? Seems inconsistent not to speak up.

If any readers know Barbra, please ask her for a statement on this development.

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