Talk about a “surprise” that everyone and their cats saw coming.
It turns out that newly minted “Democrat,” Arlen Specter, isn’t acting all that Democratic. As Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly puts it:
It’s quite a start for Specter’s career in Democratic politics, isn’t it? In the four whole days he’s been a Democrat, Specter has voted against the Democratic budget, rejected a Democratic measure to help prevent mortgage foreclosures and preserve home values, announced his opposition to the president’s OLC nominee, and this morning rejected a key centerpiece of the Democratic health care plan.
Yup, just what we needed, another Democrat who loves voting like a Republican. The Democratic leadership, of course, continues to insist that getting Specter to switch was a sweet deal. He’ll support the Democratic agenda on many issues, they insist. Color me skeptical.
But even assuming they’re right, isn’t this a sucker’s bet? We’re talking about a senator from Pennsylvania here, not from Alabama. Sure, when it comes to Democrats elected from Republican states, people like Ben Nelson from Nebraska, one can only expect so much. But few states have been trending more clearly Democratic in recent years than Pennsylvania.
Isn’t settling for Arlen Specter in such a state one hell of a waste? I’ll be honest: I’ve never really liked Specter, so maybe that’s coloring my viewpoint. But watching him using the Democratic Party to secure his own political salvation has done little to improve my view of him.
There is, however, one thing that might make me sit still for it — if Specter would actually do what so many talking heads said he would do, and enable the Democratic Party to break GOP filibusters in the Senate. If he’ll do that for the next critical year-and-a-half, he can have his six extra years in the Senate, as annoying and Republicanish as he’ll be. Given everything that’s on the line, helping Obama enact his agenda is worth it.
He doesn’t have to vote with the Democrats down the line. Most of the time, they won’t need his support on final passage. So let him vote with the GOP: but, if he wants to be a Democrat, he needs to be there for us on the all important cloture votes. He needs to help break the filibusters. If not, he’s useless and the Democratic rank and file in Pennsylvania should take him out in the primary, Ed Rendell and the Democratic leadership be damned.
Arlen Specter cares profoundly about one and only one thing — Arlen Specter. If he feels safe, he’ll continue to rub his new party’s face in it for the sheer joy of showing off his “independence” to the Beltway crowd. But put the fear of God in him, as by recruiting a viable Democratic primary opponent, and watch how quickly he finds religion.
So get to work Pennsylvania Democrats. It’s time to scare the hell out of the bastard.