Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If Your Lawmakers Don't Care About Loyalty, Why Should You?

I don't care much for party politics ... Actually, that's an understatement. I loathe party politics, and yesterday's defection of Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) from the GOP to the Democratic party is a perfect example of why.

Specter crossed the aisle after weeks of heavy lobbying by Democratic leaders, who promised him all kinds of committee appointment perks, as well as their backing in his re-election bid, in exchange for switching parties. Now with Specter in the fold, the Democrats are close to sealing up the elusive filibuster-proof majority they have been seeking. That kind of single-party power itself bad for the nation, but I'll save discussion of that for another time.

This is not the first time Specter has been a Democrat. He flipped to the GOP 46 years ago, and has spent 29 years in the Senate as a Republican. And he's been honest about why he's switching parties now. As a Republican, he was trailing his GOP primary challenger by double digits, and he figured correctly that if he stayed in the GOP, he'd lose his job in the Senate. Now, with the Democrats backing him in Pennsylvania, Specter can probably expect to be re-elected.

How would you like to be a longtime Republican in Pennsylvania? Someone who perhaps has written a check or two in the past to help Specter get re-elected, or perhaps gave some of your time for him? Do you feel like a chump now that he's abandoned your party in order to save his own ass?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. In the down and dirty world of politics, neither party has a moral high ground to retreat to. Both parties are willing to cut deals to build their bases of power, and in a battle between loyalty and power, power will win each and every time. For proof of that, just look at Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman, the Connecticut Senator who was Al Gore's running mate for President in 2000, lost the Democratic party primary for re-election in 2006, then ran and won the general election as an independent. He and the Democrats kissed and made up afterwards, because the party wanted to keep Lieberman's vote in the "D" column. Then, in 2008, Lieberman supported Republican John McCain for President, a move that outraged some Democratic leaders. But guess what? After the election, the Democrats kissed and made up with Lieberman again, and he continues to caucus as a Democrat. It's all about numbers.

It is unfortunate, but decent politicians usually have to play the party game in order to get elected and stay elected in this country (Lieberman is obviously a noted exception). They need the party base in order to shore up votes, because unfortunately, too many voters are too ignorant or too lazy to look beyond party affiliation when they go into the voting booth.

I have several friends on Facebook who posted notes after Specter made the switch yesterday, welcoming him over "from the dark side", or making similar remarks, assuming that Specter's switch is a sign that he has somehow "seen the light". These kinds of comments upset me, because they indicate that people will continue to look at the party instead of the person when they head in to the voting booth.