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.
[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)