Rich Galen

Senator Arlen Specter (R D-Pa) announced he was switching from being a Republican to being a Democrat thus helping to produce the magic 60-seat majority which Democratic leader Harry Reid has been maneuvering for since last November's elections.

There is almost nothing to like about Arlen Specter. Even when he was a Republican he had the reputation of being ill-tempered, difficult to get along with, and hard on his staff. None of that makes him stand out in the U.S. Senate, but he seemed to take those traits to levels that others avoided.

As much as one hates to hold Specter up as a good example of anything, he is a good example of what has happened to the GOP over the past four-or-so years.

As of this morning the two senators from Maine and one Senator from New Hampshire are all that remain of the once Republican stronghold in the Northeast. Three GOP Senators from Maine all the way to North Carolina including Virginia.

Specter wasn't the only bad news for the GOP in the past few days. There was a special election in upstate New York to fill the Congressional vacancy created when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat after Clinton was named Secretary of State.

This was the first serious election in which (a) Barack Obama was not at the top of the ticket and (b) George W. Bush was not in the White House. It is a Republican-leaning district and professional pols were watching to see if GOP voters would come home and put the seat back into their hands.

Nope. Democrat won. First of all the Republican Party hacks in New York chose a candidate who didn't actually live in the district. Second, the campaign clanged with jarring negativity. Third, the Democrats had a better absentee ballot program than the GOP. Unheard of.

Back to Pennsylvania. So many Republicans in Pennsylvania changed parties to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary, that it was likely Specter would lose in the Senatorial primary to former Rep. Pat Toomey. Toomey will be the Republican nominee unless former Governor Tom Ridge returns to Pennsylvania to run. Assuming that doesn't happen Toomey has as much chance of being elected to the United States Senate as I do.

So, the net result of the former head of the Club for Growth's self-serving entry into the Senate race is to force Specter to caucus with the Democrats, allowing Reid to have a filibuster-proof Senate. Specter will probably win as a Democrat and the Republican seat is lost for the foreseeable future.

The Purity of the Party is improved, but at what cost - to the Republican Party and to the Country as a whole? If this keeps up the GOP will not be the minority party, but a minor party.

Perhaps it is time to form a real, no kidding around, third party. Third parties in the U.S. have been a cult of an individual -from Teddy Roosevelt to Ross Perot to Ralph Nader. When the individual leaves the scene the party withers and dies.

A real third party would allow the Democrats to be the Liberals; the Republicans to be the Conservatives; and the Moderates - the MODs - to be everyone who does not believe that ideological perfection - on the left or right - is a prerequisite to holding public office.

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution which speaks to a two-party system. As long as we are all about "Change" maybe we should add a third choice so that Republicans and Democrats - whoever is in control at any given time - would have to negotiate with the MODs who might well hold the balance of power.

In fact, I am surprised that no one has ever challenged the use of public funds to run elections so the Democrats and Republicans can choose their nominees. Why should the tax dollars of independents, who very often cannot vote in party primaries, be used for this most partisan of activities?

Democrats and Republicans want to hold a primary? They can pay for it.

An issues and values-based MOD party with, say, 45 seats in the House and ten seast in the Senate might be just the thing America needs to stop the partisan squabbling between Republicans and Democrats.

Then Arlen Specter could switch back and forth all he wanted and no one would care.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.