I'm with Arlen Specter

Apr 28 2009 Published by under Politics, Rant

Or rather, he's with me, since I ditched the Republican Party something like 6-7 years ago.  He's been a Republican in the Senate forever... and now he's a Democrat.  What's more, the article has this choice quote from Olympia Snow:

But Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a fellow moderate, didn't seem surprised. On the national level, she says, "you haven't certainly heard warm encouraging words of how [the GOP] views moderates. Either you are with us or against us."

As I observed back when Bush took off his "compassionate conservative moderate" mask shortly after the 2000 election, the Republican Party has increasingly become the party of homophobia and creationism.  (And, yes, also of rationalizing incompetence and of torture.  We knew in 2004 that Bush was the Torture President, and yet somehow we re-eledcted him.)  There are a lot of Republicans-- you know, people like Olympia Snow and Arlen Specter-- who have evidently been rationalizing that their party hasn't been taken over by certain extreme cultural elements.  I know people who remained Republicans even though they are fully rational, because they aren't comfortable with a lot of what the Democrats are doing-- but they had to justify, somehow, that their party was more than the face that it has been presenting to the country and the world for the last decade.  That facade may be falling apart.  Anecdotally I know of Republicans who've fled the party because it has gone from being the fiscally conservative party to being the socially oppressive and scientifically ignorant party.  And now we see at least one, and perhaps more to follow, senators who don't want to toe their party's line leaving the party.

It's very sad to me, because by and large people who aren't creationists or who don't hate homosexuals are left with effectively a one-party system.  I don't by any means agree with everything that the Democratic party does.  But the Republican party has too strongly celebrated and mainstreamed parts of it that I simply can't agree with.  It will be interesting to see if Arlen Specter's switch is a wake-up call-- or if Snow will be next, and the Republican party will become increasingly marginalized as a result of having let itself be taken over by its religious extremists.  But we do need more than one rational party in this country; if the Republicans aren't it, I would hope that, somehow, all rational people won't end up at the mercy of the power structure of the Democratic party.

10 responses so far

  • Mary says:

    I've defended the two party system before (to Europeans) by insisting that it necessarily kept a kind of balance of power. If one party starts to get too popular, the other will eventually move its positions to be closer to that of the powerful party in order to get more votes. The dividing line between the two parties moves so that that it always remains in the political "center". (And if it doesn't move fast enough, third parties will spring up to put more vote pressure on it.) I like to think it's another layer of checks and balances on the government -- nothing written into the constitution is going to be as a effective in practice as a strong opposition party at checking government excess. The two party system is supposed to ensure that the opposition is always almost as strong as the government (which would be rare in a coalition system.)

    That's the theory, anyway. What I hope is that this is a sign of that process in progress -- the balance dynamically adjusting, a little more pressure on the Republican party to move back toward the political center.

  • Specter's primary reason for switching parties is that his pollsters told him he can't get elected as a Republican or a Democrat. So, Senator Snowe is unlikely to join him unless she runs into a similar problem.

    That said, Specter obviously has the same ideological issues with the GOP you mentioned above so this doesn't seem to be entirely driven by the desire to be re-elected. Interestingly, Specter will be afforded the same level of seniority on committees as if he had been a Democrat all along.

  • Oops.

    Change that to "his pollsters told him he couldn't get re-elected as a Republican or an Independent".

    Not enough coffee, yet.

  • Sam Wise says:

    I have to disagree with this one line:

    "There are a lot of Republicans– you know, people like Olympia Snow and Arlen Specter– who have evidently been rationalizing that their party hasn’t been taken over by certain extreme cultural elements."

    I don't think it's an issue of rationalization -- more, that moderates aren't willing to abandon the Republican party to the extremists just yet. There are two ways to respond to a takeover -- to stand and fight, or to run away. The Olympia Snows just haven't given up the fight yet (although to date, they've been badly beaten).

  • rknop says:

    Sam -- that may well be true for Snow and so forth. And for a lot of Republican voters.

    However, I have observed first hand people who deliberately don't see what the Republican party has become. I knew people who voted for Bush in 2004, even though Bush was anathema to many of their core values, because they rationalized that the Republican party hadn't become the party of creationism and homophobia and torture. (Of course, some of these people lived in Berkeley... being a Republican in Berkeley is a very different thing. There, it's *extremely* easy to believe that we're on the verge of being a one-part (Democrat) system, with perhaps things further left being the only possible alternatives, and thus to not want to abandon the Republican party to its extremists. What's more, it's extremely easy to see the nutty extreme of the Democratic party, since, well, that's what Berkeley is all about.)

  • rknop says:

    And, yeah, I'm with Mary. I'm hoping that the Republican party will realize that it's gone off track, marginalize it's religious extremists, and try to become the party of individual freedom and fiscal responsibility that it used to advertise itself as.

  • rknop says:

    ...or I could invoke the Godwin's Law of Grammar and make fun of myself for writing "it's" when I meant "its".

  • Michael Cohen says:

    Rob - you can hope that the moderates can drag the republican party back to the center, but don't hold your breath. Recent events have shown that the de-facto leader of the Republican party is Rush Limbaugh. (Briefly, mutliple times since the election various Republican elected officials have bad-mouthed Rush, and then have had to come back, hat in hand, offering deep apologies, because the base loves Rush.) I suspect it is more likely that the Republicans will split into the Evangelical anti-science pro-creationism pro-torture know-norhing party and a relatively (relatively!) sane Libertarian type party.

  • rknop says:

    It's been a looooong time since a new party became relevant (i.e. one of the major two parties) in this country. I suspect that it's harder nowadays than it was before, because the parties are so entrenched and have so much power -- from my point of view, the Republican Party has already gone pretty extreme, and yet while it lost a lot in the last election, it's still in effectively an unassailable position. Part of this is psychology, too -- people have loyalty to a party, not to their ideals. But I think the entrenched power structure is the main reason.

    I could be wrong. Who would have thought that Pan-Am could become irrelevant to the aircraft industry? But, still, I'm not optimistic that anything short of a tremendous crisis could dislodge either the Republicans or the Democrats as "the big two". (Even the Great Depression in the 1930s didn't do that.)

    I would think it was awesome if the Republican party split into the anti-science known-nothing party and a libertarian party. I know you think they're only relatively sane, but I'd probably pretty align with them pretty well on a lot of things. I'm complicated, though. I've come to think that we need some kind of socialized medicine (although I'm afraid of it, but the system we have right now is the worst possible combination of capitalized and socialized medicine), but I'm also in favor of gun rights... there's no party out there that really fits my particular combination of views. The Republicans made it very easy for me to reject them with their know-nothing creationist homophobic torture-rationalizing attitudes. There are things I don't like about the Democrats either, though....

  • Ace says:

    It is very difficult to justify being partisan to me. Partisanship requires compromise of ones' principals. You propose 'rationality' as the test of the ideal mind, which sounds reasonable until you factor in integrity. In fact it is perfectly rational to be completely selfish and Machiavellian.

    As far as Republicans being homophobes and creationists I must say that is a very limited perception. I know two gay men who have been together for ~20yrs and they defy those stereotypes. One is Republican and was raised Catholic, but is now agnostic. The other is Democrat and has been on his church's vestry for over a decade.

    The fact is no intelligent person's entire set of beliefs and ideas of what should be done about societal problems could possibly be housed under the tent of one political party. That is due to the nature of parties. It will always be that way because human nature is such. Thus, the only rational partisan is the politician using the political machinery to obtain more power, and I just don't like politicians.