Political Musings: Arlen Specter’s Switch to the Democratic Party

Any politician in Washington (in America?) has one of several competing goals when making a political decision:
• do what’s good for the country
• do what’s good for local constituencies
• do what’s good for his political party
• do what’s necessary to get elected

This often presents a politican with a problem. Because what’s good for the country is not necessarily what’s good for his constituents, which is not necessarily good for his political party, which is not necessarily good for getting elected.

Which brings us to the case of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. Specter shook up Washington by announcing he was switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic party.

Specter is a moderate/conservative politician who, he believes, is not conservative enough to win the Republican Senatorial primary next year. But he does believe that he’ll win in the general election, when voters of all (or no) parties get to cast a ballot.

What got Specter into such trouble with Republicans in his state? Specter voted for the multi-billion dollar 2009 stimulus package. He felt the stimulus was good for the country. But Republicans in Congress voted overwhelmingly against the stimulus, and Specter was seen as a traitor for not joining with them.

So we see the conundrum of modern politics. People say they want independent lawmakers who will put partisanship aside, and just do the right thing. But the fact is, when principle is voted over party, there is often a political price to pay. Specter’s price was becoming a political outcast among the membrs of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

So now Specter is a member of the Democratic Party. And already questioned are being asked about his loyalty to that Party.

So it seems like Specter is damned if he do, and damned if he don’t. And that pretty much describes the current state of American politics: just plain damned.

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