What Sen. Spector’s Party Switch Tells California Voters

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen (“Single-Bullet“) Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party this week.  Rush Limbaugh reacted to this news by welcoming Specter’s departure, and added,
“take McCain with you.”

Specter left because the extremist wing of the Republican Party — the ones who listen to and agree with Rush Limbaugh and will tolerate absolutely no compromise of any kind from the most extreme conservative positions — have taken over and are driving others out.  This rightmost element, who call themselves the only “real Republicans” have a special name for people like Arlen Specter and John McCain.  They call them “RINOs.”  RINO stands for “Republican In Name Only” and refers to Republicans who are not conservative enough to meet approval of the absolutists.  (What is conservative enough?  Half of Texas Republicans want Texas to secede from the United States.)

Arlen Specter is hardly a liberal.  He has a solidly conservative voting record, (after switching parties he voted against President Obama’s budget), but not conservative enough for the hard core purists.  John McCain won the ire of this element for not supporting torture.

The Limbaugh branch of the party have been working to drive moderate-right members like Specter and McCain out, and are increasingly successful.  Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, another target of this element, warned 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.”

This demonstrates just how far the Republican Party has moved from its roots.  They have drifted so far away from their mission that even their last Presidential candidate is being urged to leave the party!  They have drifted so far from their mission that the “party of Lincoln” has a solid contingent supporting having their states secede from the Union!

This hard-core extremism is also being demonstrated in California, where not a single Repubilcan will vote for a budget — any budget — because their strategy for the state is to “let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point.”  The reason that crazy-sounding line has quotation marks around it is because it is a quote.  It is also the definition of extremism.  And, combined with the 2/3 rule that lets them block budgets, it is the reason California is becoming ungovernable.

Roberts and Trounstine at Calbuzz write that,
“the California Republican Party is doomed to minority status” by this
extremism.  For example, California Republican Party chairman Ron
Nehring said of Specter’s defection,

“The Republican Party didn’t leave Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter left the
Republican Party some time ago,” Mr. Chairman said in his statement. “Arlen
Specter decided on his own – no one forced him – to violate core Republican
principles by voting for the wasteful $787 billion stimulus bill while every
single House Republican, including California’s entire Republican delegation,
voted with taxpayers in opposition instead.”

other words, it violates Republican principles to vote to help the
people.  The “taxpayers” they “support” are their wealthy and corporate
campaign donors.  And, they add, it doesn’t make sense for Party
leaders to “applaud Specter’s defection, as if losing prominent party
members holds the key to growing the party and returning it to majority

Why they are wrong: 
The hard-core conservative values these people support are “limited
government, free markets and personal responsibility.”  But what is
this government that they want to limit?  Abraham Lincoln, another
RINO, famously said that our American government is “of the people, by
the people and for the people.”  So today’s Republicans want to limit
the people’s ability to make decisions (government by the people) and
instead hand this ability over to “the market” (ruled by big
corporations.)  They want to replace a country where we watch out for
and take care of each other (government for the people) with a system
where we are all left on our own at the mercy of these corporations —
which they call “personal responsibility.” 

There is an alternative to the extremist right’s approach.  Progressive values and policies are better for people.  Instead of limiting our government progressives believe that the people should have more
power to make the decisions that affect all of us.  Instead of a
one-dollar-one-vote “market” approach to decision-making, progressives
believe in one-person-one-vote equality where people are on an equal
footing, with an equal right to benefit from our common resources. 

believe in a community-based, democratic approach to deciding how we
should run our state and country.  We’re here for each other, not just
for ourselves.

So let’s welcome all those disenfranchised Republicans into our tent.
We’re big enough and tolerant enough of differing opinions, so long as
the best interests of the people are at heart. I think they’ll like
being part of a true democracy where the people come first.

P.S. See Assemblymember Nancy Skinner’s invitation to Republicans.