The Tighter You Clench Your Fist, The Less Sand You Can Hold

Upon hearing this afternoon of Senator Arlen Specter’s decision to switch parties and run for re-election as a Democrat, my very first reaction was, “Well, who can blame him?” The Republican Party has little to offer Specter. The party offered little support for his political efforts and conservatives within the party made it clear that they did not like his refusal to adhere to party discipline.

And what was his incentive to do so? Avoiding a primary challenge? Not getting stabbed in the back by his Republican colleagues in the Senate? Demographics don’t favor Republicans in Pennsylvania and aren’t going to again, at least not for the foreseeable future. I’m a little surprised that Specter didn’t switch affiliations to become an independent, but then again I suppose that in a state the size of Pennsylvania it’s extremely difficult to overcome the power of party affiliation.

A guy can only take so much abuse. Simply put, Specter was made to feel unwelcome in the GOP and now, he’ll have to find a comfort zone in the other party. The tent just got a little bit smaller, and the Republicans are now politically weaker — substantially weaker — because of it. Assuming that Al Franken is certified as Minnesota’s newest Senator, Specter will now be the 60th U.S. Senator caucusing with the Democrats, rendering the majority in the Senate (theoretically) filibuster-proof.

Such are the rewards of insisting on ideological purity instead of building broad governing coalitions: moderates bail out and go to the other party. The lesson to the GOP here is in the title to this post.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. Oh, come on. Go the full Star Wars: “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

  2. You know, I thought about doing exactly that, but then I found the picture with a girl a bikini and I decided to go that way instead.

  3. Isn’t this a whole lot of nothing? Specter voted with democrats when he had an R after his name. Does this really sway things?

  4. Ok, so somebody beat me to the Star Wars line. Given that the Republicans are the party of Darth Vader (oops, I mean Dick Cheney), it seems appropriate.I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the speaker of that line once wore a bikini…

  5. Oh, there’s the bikini girl. She’s letting the sand roll through her fingers.

  6. TL – you wrote ”Such are the rewards of insisting on ideological purity”Please elaborate, are you including just social issues here ,ie. abortion, gay-rights, etc? Because sure there is no such ideological purity within the GOP when it comes to limited government, they are nearly as irresponsible as the other party.

  7. LCR — quite so. Specter was taken to task by social conservatives to a degree substantially greater than he was by budget hawks, defense mavens, and libertarians. Michael Reynolds memorably suggested that the GOP has three wings: Jesus! Bombs! and Money!, and if that analysis is right, I am referring to Jesus! Republicans here, the same type who today are celebrating Specter’s departure from the party for the tonic effect it will have on the party’s ideological purity — while some claim it’s about low taxes and liberty, it doesn’t take much to see it reall means they are pleased that it meanssocial conservatives will continue to dominate the party’s agenda without having to tolerate dissent.

Comments are closed.