Specter switched parties because of the serious primary challenge he faced from conservative Pat Toomey. As recently as six weeks ago, Specter told The Hill newspaper that he would not become a Democrat because the country needs a vibrant two-party system. What happened? In a news conference, Specter acknowledged that poll data showed he would lose the primary to Toomey. He also said he was promised financial help by Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Ed Rendell should he convert.
The Republican Party is better off without Specter who, along with other "moderates," has weakened the party. These RINOs (Republicans in name only) have kept the party from renewing its conservative roots and contrasting itself with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Liberals do not win elections for Republicans. Conservatives win elections. Whenever conservatives try to placate liberals and show how sensitive and caring and in touch with the feelings and concerns of the other party they are, they lose. But when Republicans stand on principles and demonstrate conviction and give evidence that their ideas work, they win.
Yes, Arlen Specter kept his word not to let his pro-abortion views get in the way of the confirmations of Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. In return for that promise he was allowed to remain chairman of the Judiciary Committee. That was a triumph, not of Specter's conviction, but of pragmatism. If Specter were a pro-life Democrat, the liberal wing of the party he is now entering would have stripped him of his chairmanship. Can anyone say John Dingell? The "moderate" Michigan Democrat was removed as chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and replaced by the ultra-liberal, Rep. Henry Waxman of California.
Democrats play for keeps. Too often, Republicans play for good reviews from those who hate them and wish to defeat their policies. Good riddance to Specter. The Republican challenge now should be to focus on what works, not ideology, though ideology should drive successful policies. Republicans can beat Democrats on that line, but they will continue losing elections if they stress only ideological purity instead of demonstrating that their principles are superior to those of welfare state Democrats.
Specter's self-serving switch ought to make it easier for the GOP, but will it?
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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