A Hard Snowe's Gonna Fall
There are two sides to the Arlen Specter party switch. One looks at the Democrats, who are allowing Specter some cover without securing his vote on key issues like the Employee Free Choice Act, previously seen as a deal-breaker. The fact that the Democratic establishment is not only welcoming Specter without extracting certain votes, but trying to shut down any primary challenges to him by allowing Pennsylvania Democrats to decide whether they want him as their Senator, is deeply troubling. I don't like a party shielding anyone from the democratic process, much less a hack like Specter. We can only hope that his complete lack of principles now serve our side rather than Republicans. And hopefully, good Democrats like Joe Torsella will keep up their primary challenge, to force Specter in the right direction.
But there's a second side to this, one showing the complete collapse of the Republican Party, a folding into itself, into an irrelevant regional phenomenon. Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who sounds way too reasonable to stay in that party for long, gives a decent enough explanation of the state of play:
It was as though beginning with Senator Jeffords’s decision, Republicans turned a blind eye to the iceberg under the surface, failing to undertake the re-evaluation of our inclusiveness as a party that could have forestalled many of the losses we have suffered.
It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.
Senator Specter indicated that his decision was based on the political situation in Pennsylvania, where he faced a tough primary battle. In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide [...]
There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities — indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.
Sen. Snowe expanded on this today on MSNBC, saying that Republicans need to come to terms with political reality.
Today everyone's looking at the President in his first 100 days, but maybe we should take a look at the Republican Party at this milepost. They've learned no lessons about their essential unpopularity, they keep sowing the seeds of their own destruction, and they keep thinking they'll get somewhere by entirely obstructing a popular President and wearing tea bags on their hats. The Republican base simply opposes progress, and the monster created will not relent. Thus the Party is caught in what amounts to a death spiral, unable to compete nationally and killing itself slowly by inches. The hope is that they go the way of the Whigs and we can have public policy debates under the Big Tent of the Democratic Party, with everything playing out on the center left. I think even the President knows that there's no use extending a hand at this point to the right.
At the core of the misjudgment were poll-driven assumptions made by the president's senior advisers, many of them schooled in politics on Capitol Hill. Several believed that a fair number of Republican lawmakers would rally behind the nation's first African American president at a time of crisis, an assessment that proved wrong when only three GOP senators supported the stimulus measure and not a single House Republican followed suit.
But Obama and his advisers corrected course quickly. Drawing conclusions from a post-mortem analysis that Emanuel conducted of the stimulus battle, senior White House advisers returned to the successful tactics of the presidential campaign, taking the president and his message beyond the Beltway and scaling back his appeals to congressional Republicans. The approach has defined the way he has governed since.
A month after he nearly lost his stimulus bill, Obama faced another critical test in Congress, this time a vote on his $3.5 trillion budget proposal. In preparation, he traveled outside Washington, appearing at town hall meetings, in prime-time news conferences and on late-night talk shows. One senior adviser said the president did not make a single call to a lawmaker seeking support for the budget blueprint, which is expected to gain final approval from Congress today.
"It's kind of like he decided 'I'm the boss,' " said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
Don't forget it, Johnny.
...I think they really believe their own bullshit on this. They actually believe losing members of the Congress is a road to victory. They've become so convinced that the people in the heartland agree with them that they've lost all touch with reality.
...Obama is right to mock this silliness.
"When you see, you know, those of you that are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we are going to stabilize Social Security."
...only 20% of adults self-identify as Republicans. Wow.