Arlen Specter Comes Out of the Closet

The world changed today. Senator Specter became a Democrat. Like gays coming out of the closet, Senator Specter came out of his. The Democrats are now within striking distance of getting the magical 60 votes that are necessary for them to get "cloture". Cloture under the Senate rules means that a bill can't get to the floor unless 60 Senators vote for it. With a Al Franken victory in Minnesota they will reach the magic number.

There are several ways to look at what this means. First, why did Senator Specter made this decision? The overall basic reason is that he could not win the upcoming primary in his own party. He was being challenged from the right of the Republican Party. Pat Toomey, a former member of Congress was going to be tough candidate to beat because although Pennsylvania is turning a lovely shade of blue, the base of the GOP party is quite red. When pro-choice Specter decided to run again, the "God, Guns and Gays" base decided to put a lot of effort into defeating him and putting an end to his long Senate career. -- And remember, Specter was first elected into the U.S. Senate in 1980.

Richard Nixon

Senator Specter gave the better part of his life to the Republican Party but in the end they abandoned him. The primary challenge for Senator Specter could not have been done without a wink and nod from the party's citizen leaders. This will not bode well for the party. It means that it is far from the big tent philosophy and is a party of the right. The Democrats took note several years ago realizing that the left of the party had nowhere to go so they cut them off and moved towards the middle.

The right wingers have no where to go either and the sooner the Republican party realizes it and stops catering to them the sooner they will begin winning national elections. The Democrats put Teddy Kennedy out during the convention and then had candidate Obama make the "reach out to the middle" speech. Instead, the Republicans went with Sarah Palin and it turned off the voter in the middle. And that's precisely the voter that swings elections.

Another way to look at this change is when Al Franken is declared the winner in the Minnesota Senate race, and is seated, there will be no stopping the Democrats from legislating their agenda. It means their agenda on taxes, the economy and social programs better work. If it doesn't work then the Democrats will be the party that begins to lose elections. It means be careful what you wish for, you might get it. Arlen Specter gave the Democrats what they wished for. I hope they rise to the challenge.