Thursday, April 30, 2009

Arlen Specter Resurrected

The political reaction was immediate as the news flashed over Twitter on Tuesday: “Dems have 60…Dems have 60!”

Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator Arlen Specter switched political parties, from Republican to Democrat. The storyline focused on the filibuster-proof 60-vote majority now held by Senate Democrats. Some claim it is a seismic change for the American political landscape. Is it, really?

Most of the political chatter I saw and heard on TV and radio focused on the impact Specter’s switch will have on the Republican Party. The storyline was the Republican Party needs to regroup and reinvent itself to stay relevant on the national political stage. Ok, but in my book the real story was about the Democratic Party. Specifically, the Democratic Party’s strong push to the right which was made more pronounced during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

I was thinking about Arlen Specter lately, believe it or not. As I followed political news along the way, I was variously bemused and concerned that the corporate media, mostly, was consistently describing Specter as a “moderate” Republican. Arlen Specter, a moderate? The hard-core law-and-order Republican Arlen Specter who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980 at the beginning of the Reagan conservative “revolution”? No thanks.

Has anyone noticed how Democrats and Republicans are so easily interchangeable? Republican Specter becomes a Democrat in a blink. Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman campaigned last fall for the Republican presidential ticket (and could switch parties tomorrow). Along that same vein, Hillary Clinton supporters, upon their candidate finishing second for the party nomination, very publicly announced their defection to the John McCain presidential campaign. How can politicos support Hillary Clinton one day, then John McCain the next, with no qualms?

Now with the current Congress, you hear about “Blue Dog Democrats” acting as the voice and protectorate of the conservative viewpoint from within the majority Democratic Party. Dems control Congress, yes, but the Blue Dogs are there to make sure the “liberal” agenda doesn’t get out of control. Who invited them to the party?

The political flip-flop changes above are just a few examples. Look about our fine peninsula here in Michigan and you can find a similar interchange. For Earth Day this year, three former Michigan Governors came out in favor of an expanded nuclear power infrastructure for Michigan. The former Governors supporting this concept were William Milliken, James Blanchard, and John Engler. What’s wrong with this picture? I’m just surprised that Blanchard had a mind-meld with Engler, on nuclear power of all things. And Milliken’s pro-environment reputation took a negative hit on this one, too. Only the nuclear power industry scored a victory with the help of 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat, or 2 Democrats and 1 Republican, depending on how you categorize Milliken.

Our political discourse in this country needs to include, up front, the topic of America’s political duopoly and its impact on public policy. This blog will most likely return to this topic throughout 2009. Certainly, there won't be any shortage of material.

-- Rico Thomas Rico

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