The return of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party (he flipped in 1965 from "Kennedy Democrat" to Republican) is something that should be celebrated by Republicans, at least those who are proud to call themselves conservatives. Specter is a career politician whose first priority is himself.
Specter, whose predictable lament that the GOP is not the "big tent" he had been led to believe it was, now embraces a Democratic Party that is an even smaller tent. How many pro-life Democrats exercise any influence in that party? How many opponents to same-sex marriage are in the Democratic leadership? Smaller government? Lower taxes? No leading Democrat, inside or outside Congress, subscribes to such things. And yet the big media and many pundits continue the fiction that Republicans are in electoral trouble because they do not tolerate liberal ideas.
The day Democrats embrace those holding conservative ideas and implement at least some of them will be the day Republicans can be told to water down their principles. In fact, Republicans in recent years have behaved more like Democrats than Republicans and have paid the electoral price for doing so. Republicans under George W. Bush added to the size and cost of government. Republicans created new spending programs and increased the reach of the federal government in education and other areas. The major difference between Republicans and Democrats these days is this: Democrats know how to use power when they get it; Republicans, when they gain power, spend most of their political capital trying to prove they are not mean, uncaring, racist, sexist and homophobic. Republicans masquerade as Democrats and want to be liked. Democrats live to rule.
The Republican Party, much to the consternation of conservatives, saved Specter's bacon in the 2004 election. Part of Karl Rove's strategy was to re-elect Republicans, no matter how liberal. Specter won that election thanks to the efforts of the Bush White House and gobs of Republican National Committee money that was poured into his race. How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless politician.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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