As Democrats and the media try to dress up Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democrats as a sign of the drift of the GOP in the direction of extreme social conservatism or some such, it was really nothing more than, to quote a Democratic Party strategist, “a cowardly act of a cornered man.”
As Byron York (via Glenn) puts it, “He’s a Democrat of necessity, and everyone knows it“:
More than a few in the GOP were gobsmacked when Specter explained his defection in nakedly strategic terms. “He made perfectly clear in a private conversation with [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell that his decision was made last Friday, when his pollster came to him and said, ‘You will not win the Republican primary,'” a top Senate aide told me. “So the decision to run as a Democrat wasn’t because he wanted to leave the Republican party, or because the party was mean to him.” Specter said much the same thing in public; his decision was born of sheer desperation.
But, just for argument’s sake, let’s say he did make the move because of the GOP’s drift to the right. It’s a good sign for the GOP when we realize which issue hastened his departure from the Republican caucus.
The Republican position on abortion hasn’t changed in the past few years. So, while pro-choice, Specter stayed put in a party with a pro-life platform. Twice in the past five years, Republican legislators, with the then-Republican President’s support pushed the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which would block states from recognizing gay marriages. Specter didn’t join the Democrats who shared his pro-choice views and who, on the whole, opposed the FMA.
Only after he voted for the spendthrift “stimulus” did Specter secure an opponent in the Pennsylvania Republican primary. It was his support of excessive government spending which alienated him from the GOP.
So, if the GOP is truly moving in a rightward direction, it’s doing so on the right issue–standing up against out-of-control spending.