Specter was one of just three remaining Republican moderates. A friend asked me if I expect the other two, Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, to follow suite. Honestly, I would have expected it from one of them before Specter, but I do predict that this is the last Senate party switch we'll see this cycle. While the national GOP has left its moderates behind and the Democratic party has grown to include them (see last year's voter switches and new registrations), the story is very different at the state level. In Pennsylvania, 200,000 moderate voters bolted the GOP for the Democrats and left the state party even more conservative than it already was - which, given the intra-party prominence of Rick Santorum and Pat Toomey, was pretty darn right-wing. Specter was going to face a second primary challenge from Toomey next year, so this is a move of survival. The Maine GOP, on the other hand, certainly has its conservative elements, but is on the whole a calmer body with high regard for both Collins and Snowe, neither of whom are up for re-election next year.
So am I happy about this move? Well, yes, which kind of surprises me. I may be a Democrat, but I'm no partisan and I'm certainly no left-wing ideologue. Though I may be quite liberal on social justice and environmentalism, I'm also a pro-life budget hawk. I voted Republican for three local offices last year and would support various Congressional Republicans if I lived in their district/state. I like balanced government, and don't think one party should ever control the whole apparatus.
But things are very different right now. Partisanship rules Washington. At the present time, balanced control wouldn't mean negotiation and accountability; it would mean gridlock. When I say I'm a fan of balanced government, I assume that both the parties in question are rational, respectable entities. That's just not the case right now, given the state of the current Republican Party. Go ahead, smash them. Hopefully the phoenix that arises from the ashes would be something with moderates like David Brooks and the moderate Maine duo on its left and respectful conservatives like Chuck Hagel, Lindsay Graham, and Mike Huckabee on its right, with the authoritarian fundamentalist right-wing stuck in a third-party lurch. This is unlikely, but there's no way I'm going to settle for giving Eric Cantor and Sarah Palin a dominant voice. Until the GOP gets its act together, bring on the Arlen Specters.
(Also, this is the 600th post at Wayward Episcopalian. Yay.)