Arlen Specter

The case of Senator Specter’s defection from the Republican to the Democratic party is not really all that surprising. He had voted more with Democrats than with Republicans on a number of issues for quite some time.

Inasmuch as he says it is all about his beliefs and how the party has left him rather than the reverse, it is interesting to note that he was perfectly content to remain “Republican” so long as the Republicans were in charge of the House and Senate; but now that the Democrats aren’t even bothering to consult with Capitol Hill Republicans, he finds it a convenient time to switch.

This, while demonstrating a bit of hypocrisy and mendaciousness in the Senator, is not unexpected. If you remember the post “What Killed The GOP?”, I predicted that the Republican party would go through the polarization that the Democrats have. Senator Specter is a perfect example of Lieberman in reverse. On some level, he probably is right when he says that the party has shifted away from him, since both party cores are polarizing at the moment.

What is interesting is that a third group are developing on Capitol Hill; the opportunists and holdouts of the “personality” era of politics. People like Senators Lieberman and Specter are left without any party; anachronisms of an earlier age of Washington politics when ideology was not important. This group’s ranks are swelled by the opportunist Democrats; the people who would have been Republican or possibly even independent had they run in another cycle, but were elected from very “red” districts in 2006 and 2008.

These neo “blue dogs” are simply opportunists who cater to whatever party is in power. They can flexibly twist between a “Conservative leaning” Democrats, or a “Liberal” Republican, depending on who is in power this cycle. They do not particularly care if they are a pro-2nd Amendment, “deficit hawk” Democrat, or a pro-abortion Republican, just so long as they follow the national tide and get their own bills and pork into the budget.

This phenomenon does add a wrinkle to my theory about idea politics, but really, opportunist politicians have been rife in Washington for decades. In fact, it could be argued that there are fewer politicians without any really clear ideology on Capitol Hill now than at any time in the 20th century. The main difference between these opportunists and those of say, President Taft’s day is that in the internet age, they are almost instantly identifiable as what they are. Once again, politicians really have nowhere to hide.

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~ by Jubal Biggs on May 1, 2009.

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