Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter and Polarization

Today, Arlen Specter, the senior Senator from Pennsylvania defected to the Democratic Party after having been a Senator elected on Ronald Reagan's coattails in 1980. Today, April, 28, 2009 then is quite a historical day. Specter was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee when the Republicans were in control of the Senate in the 109th Congress.

If he didn't retire next year, he was going to face a conservative in a primary challenge and a strong Democratic challenger in the general election. Pennsylvania is a place where a Liberal Republican could beat a Conservative Democrat back in the day, but now it's not as likely. Thankfully, Pennsylvania seems to be turning Bluer.

Arlen Specter is probably one of the last of the moderate Republicans. Republicans were much more Liberal than the Democrats originally on many issues. But the trend of the Republicans holder more conservative views Conservative began in 1920 and has continued to this day. Eisenhower and Nixon look like crazy Liberal bleeding hearts compared to Reagan or even George Dubya.

The funny thing about Specter was that he wasn't even that Liberal. He was elected with Reagan's help. But in an era of increasing polarization where Liberal Democrats are knocking out moderate Republicans, he is part of a dying breed. Michael Bloomberg is among those left, but more on him later.

Don't think Specter is completely driven by his beliefs. He has been in power for 29 years and plans to run again next year. It's likely simply wants to stay in power. Just because a man doesn't want money doesn't mean he's not greedy. And there are plenty of better ways to make moneys nowadays than being a U.S. Senator. No one seems to blame anything on senators even when everything is falling apart in contrast to governors who can destroyed easily.

I suppose it will be good for us Democrats that's he on our side. But of course now we will have fewer Republicans to be bipartisan with. It was easy back in the day like in the 1960s to be bipartisan when you had enough Liberal Republicans and Liberal Democrats to pass a Democratic agenda and then Conservative Republicans and Conservative Democrats to pass a Republican agenda. That is no longer the case and I highly doubt we will return to that time soon. The trick, among other things, with both sides is to convince those in the middle to back the your agenda whether it’s Liberal or Conservative, when you are in power.