Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Will the Last One To Leave Please Shut Out the Lights

The defection of Senator Arlen Specter from the GOP to the Democratic Party is just a sign of the further marginalization of the national Republican Party. This is just the latest in a series of events which are beginning to look like the recreation of a national Republican Party into a regional party based in the Old South. So much for Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority."

Specter said. "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."

Specter explained that his vote on the stimulus bill irked a lot of the GOP faithful. "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."

Local Republican reaction was mixed. A local well known conservative Republican was all smiles. He was elated that Specter became a Democrat, because it helped pave the way for Pat Toomey in the Republican 2010 Senate primary.

Another Luzerne County GOP big wig and longtime Specter said she was saddened with the loss of Specter to the Dems. She reminisced about her support of Specter all the way back to his first Senate run in 1980.

A longtime Luzerne County GOP elected official said he would have "preferred Specter to end his career in the Senate as a statesman, not as a weasel."

The national (or should I say Regionally Significant GOP) reaction was also mixed. Senate "permanent" minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued the following statement:

“Well, obviously we are not happy that Senator Specter has decided to become a Democrat. He visited with me in my office late yesterday afternoon and told me quite candidly that he’d been informed by his pollster that it would be impossible for him to be re-elected in Pennsylvania as a Republican because he could not win the primary. And he was also informed by his pollster that he could not get elected as an Independent and indicated that he had decided to become a Democrat.”

Here's some more national reaction, Democratic and Republicans:

"Ultimately, we're heading to having the smallest political tent in history, the way events have been unfolding. If the Republican Party fully intends to become a majority party in the future, it must move from the far right back toward the middle." — Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

"Arlen Specter gives our side of the aisle not only a numerical boost, but also an intellectual shot in the arm." — Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.V.

"Sen. Specter's decision today represents the height of political self-preservation." — Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"Republicans look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don't do it first." — Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"I welcome Sen. Specter and his moderate voice to our diverse caucus, and to continuing our open and honest debate about the best way to make life better for the American people." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"Sen. Specter has confirmed what we already knew — he's a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts and less economic freedom." — Chris Chocola, president of Club for Growth.

Specter's change of parties is just the latest in a trend of Northeast Republicans being cast out by an ever more conservative Republican party. The moderate or dare we say liberal Republican has been laid to rest or at least thrown out of the GOP big tent.

OVC looked back at the party breakdown of four Congresses {the 89th (1965-67), the 99th (1985-87), 104th (1995-1997), and 111th (2009-2011)}. We at the breakdown of the entire Congress and the breakdown of 9 Northeast states (ME, VT, NH, CT, MA, RI, NY, PA, NJ). The numbers show a dramatic shift of Senate and House seats in the Northeast from the Republican side of the aisle to the Democratic side of the aisle.

Over the past 45 years, until recently, the GOP controlled about half of the 18 Senatorial seats in our Northeast region, even at a time when Democrats held 68 out of a hundred Senate seats in 1964. During that time we had a number of prominent leaders in the Republican Party hail from one of the nine Northeast states, leaders like Hugh Scott (PA), John Heinz (PA), Jacob Javitz (NY), Lowell Wicker (CT), Margaret Chase Smith (ME), Edward Brooke (MA), and Clifford Case (NJ). Now, after Specter's defection, the GOP controls only 3 out of 18 seats.

In the House, Democratic percentage of Northeast House seats was generally within a few points of the Democratic percentage of nationwide House seats held. This was true until the virtual collapse of the Northeast GOP delegation. 89th (68% D nationwide, 63.8 D Northeast), 94th (64% to 58%), 99th (47% to 52%), 111th (59% to 82%).

It is true that if we analyze the Old South, we would see just the opposite -- a complete change over from Democratic control of both the House and Senate in that region to almost complete control of the GOP.

In the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s, the national Democratic party had an albatross around its neck. That albatross was the intolerant and racist members of their party who were continually elected from safe Democratic districts in the South. The Democrats were able to break that stranglehold, but it cost them numerous seats in the South. It also helped in the election of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Southern Democrats, dissatisfied with their party, began voting Republican at first on the national level, and then on the state and local level.

OVC looks at Specter's decision as a wise one. Specter would have been defeated in the 2010 GOP primary, probably by Pat Toomey. Toomey would have gone on to defeat in the 2010 general election. By leveling the playing field, Specter will now fight Toomey on a turf where he will be favored. The only difference for Toomey is the fact that the Democrat who defeats him now will be Arlen Specter.

Specter didn't sell out his principles. They have not really changed. If anything, now Specter can become more principled.

Former Senator Rick Santorum gave an interview to FOX News last night. He told of how as GOP Whip in the Senate during his last term, "Arlen" was his "responsibility" to make him tow the party line. Santorum said, there were a number of times when Specter voted against his principles and in line with the GOP leadership. Without that "R" next to his name, Santorum believes Specter would have voted the other way.

The only surprise here at OVC is "What took you so long, Arlen?" Your views haven't changed over the years, but the views of the party you once called home, have.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the GOP may go the wayof the Whigs.