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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Sen. Arlen Specter Leaves GOP, Becomes a Democrat [Updated – the professional response of the RNC]

Politico Announced today that Senator Arlen Specter has had enough of the GOP – as have many we all know including your intrepid diarist – and is throwing his towel in with the Democratic Party.

President Obama was informed of Sen. Arlen Specter’s decison to switch parties at 10:25 this morning while receiving his daily economic briefing in the Oval Office, according to a White House official.

Obama was handed a note by an aide that read: “Specter is announcing he is changing parties.”

Sen. Specter has been a Republican since 1966 but says that the party has moved “too far right”, noting that 200,000 of his fellow Pennsylvanians have switched party affiliation from GOP to Dem last year.

For many who have been ardent Republicans or, for Independents like myself who have often sided with some Republican views enough to vote for Republican politicians, the GOP of today is representing a smaller and smaller pool that does not include them anymore.  As often happens in politics and physics, reductions of solutions increasingly concentrate the toxins and chemicals, turning once verdant landscapes of physical or intellectual terrain into ever more hostile territory.  With the loss of so many great minds and good people, the Republican Party is more and more becoming home to the rare extremophiles capable of surviving in the acidic waters.

I think many can resonate with Sen. Specter’s decision.

The full text of Sen. Specter’s statement is below:

Statement by Sen. Arlen Specter:

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far too 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.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

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.

I have decided to run for reelection in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for reelection determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for reelection because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch, which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (card check) will not change.

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.

Welcome, Senator.

[Update: RNC Chairman Michael Steele finds more use for the word “radical”]

The letter below is the RNC’s reasoned and controlled response to Sen. Specter’s “Benedict Arnold” “defection” to the “radical leftist” “Democrat Party”…

(slightly off topic: you’d think the sophomoric tactic of trying to get a rise by mis-spelling the opposition party’s name would wear thin after a while)


  1. I guess I was behind the curve on this one. I’ve been busy dealing with a web server problem and doing backups of a bunch of client sites most of the day. I took a break to read some news while I ate lunch and came across this. I immediately came running to the Moose to post something about it and saw that you had already posted something an hour ago.

    Now to get Franken seated and then we need to start putting pressure on Nelson and the other Blue Dog senators.

    Even with this move, it isn’t going to be easy to push some issues through the Senate. Specter isn’t exactly Paul Wellstone. Neither are some of the other Dem senators, but it’s better than having 60 Publicans.

  2. HappyinVT

    I like the way he was honest about feeling felt behind as the Republican Party moved to the right.  But I’m not happy with his continued stance on EFCA; seems like the Dem leaders should have gotten at least a promise to vote for cloture should the need arise in return for primary support.  (Maybe they did but it hasn’t been reported.)

    The message that this should send to the Republican leadership, though, is almost worth any potential vote against EFCA.

  3. Jjc2008

    area of PA, where Arlen Spectre started his political career.  It was in Montgomery County, PA, once the third richest county in the country.  It includes the Main Line of Philadelphia, the place where “old money” built it’s mansions (those of you familiar with the movie “The Philadelphia Story” may know what I am talking about)…..places like Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Haverford, et al.   My little town was the “Steel Town” right across the river from the Main Line.  Many of the ethnics lived and worked in the many factories in my town/area (Italians, Irish and Polish who were first generation Americans, and African Americans).  On our north side were large Jewish Neighborhoods.  In the 1950s and 1960s, if you had or wanted a job with the county, you registered republican.  My one Aunt (out of six) and one uncle (out of five) ended up working for the republicans.   She worked in the Court House, and he worked on road crews……and both advanced because of their work for the republicans and Spectre.  

    Memories flooded back upon hearing Arlen switched.  Both my Aunt and Uncle are long gone but I remember my Aunt in particular getting angry with me and so many of my cousins hell bent on protesting the war, working for civil rights and refusing to register as republicans.  

    My Aunt used to call Spectre “the Jew”……she had a streak of racism that appalled my cousins and I.  Wonder how she would feel these days about him…..

    I am happy he switched.  Montgomery count went strongly for Obama…a pleasant surprise to me.  Maybe times really are, (finally) “a’changin'” for my old neighborhood.

    Hope it’s freaking out faux progressive, sexist Chris Matthews.

  4. spacemanspiff

    As often happens in politics and physics, reductions of solutions increasingly concentrate the toxins and chemicals, turning once verdant landscapes of physical or intellectual terrain into ever more hostile territory.  With the loss of so many great minds and good people, the Republican Party is more and more becoming home to the rare extremophiles capable of surviving in the acidic waters.

    This line was genius.

    I’m sure Specter would love the Moose.

  5. vcalzone

    Unless Specter becomes a loyal soldier for the left, which still might happen, he did the Republican party a favor. He was well on his way to losing that Republican primary in Pennsylvania, and now he’s not. Had he stayed Republican, the Democratic candidate would surely had won and we’d have another strong progressive Senator. But now, we don’t.

  6. anna shane

    it not only means that the pugs are way out in right field, it also means the dem’s are not in the left field. It’s good news for sure, but it says as much about the workers party as it does about the party of the elite.  David fears the pugs will be obsolete cause Barack stole their issues.  They used to be considered calm and competent, they used to want the market regulated so that it functioned. Now even businesses want health care, to make them competitive with Europe.  Businesses back Barack, and Mr. Brooks’s fears prove well founded.  

  7. louisprandtl

    the party of far right conservatives and fundamentalist Christians. There are not much left beyond that…A core 30-35% of the electorate would continue to vote for them ardently, clutching to the ways of the last Century, fervently “praying” for a conservative messiah like Reagan to appear and save them from complete irrelevance…but the rest of the nation is moving on…all that vast swath of Red lands which blotted out the Blue in the 90s are now turning purple or blue….so long and good bye Limbaugh fans…

  8. rfahey22

    It’s more symbolic than anything – I’m sure he’ll continue to cause trouble for us.  I don’t think there’s any principle involved here.  His voters now self-identify as Democrats, and to win reelection, he is going to have to be one, too (again).

  9. mme truffle

    But it was a really exciting day watching the Republicans trying to spin this for their team; It’s almost magical the way that everything seems to work in their favor.  

    One of the eternal optimists, Bill Kristol, said that the Republicans are actually glad that we will now have 60 votes.  They are so happy to actually have an excuse for being ineffective. They’re almost taking credit for Specter’s defection.  It’s yet another of their incomprehensible plans, like the budget.

  10. i cannot believe steele’s letter – did he really say:

    “who aim to remake america with their leftist plan???????”

    my god – no wonder they are finished.

  11. GMFORD

    I do kind of respect Specter as an oldtime political armwrestler.  And sometimes I felt he was forced to vote with his party when his heart wasn’t in it.  At least we’ve got a little time to see if he will be a good fit before we have to mount a primary candidate against him.

    If he ends up voting for cardcheck (after some minor semantic change or something to save face) then he’ll be off to a good start.

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