Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Specter Switch -- a New Dance: I was absolutely thrilled by the momentous switch of the long time Republican Arlen Specter, to the Democratic Party. It was brave, it had foresight and it showed a pragmatic insight into the political realities of our time. It was brave because it is a difficult undertaking to switch parties when one has been a member of the federal legislative branch for such a long time. It was brave, too, in that Senator Specter knew the predictable risk of being accused that it was done simply because he saw the Republican primary polls for him in the next election were, as he stated, bleak. That fact, however, gave him the chance to be pragmatic, see the changing national demographics and with savvy represent the state of Pennsylvania and our country more effectively.

There is more to it, though, than that. The Democratic Party now has within it what the Republican Party lost. The Republican Party, sadly for it, lost its big tent and the Democratic Party, effectively constructed one of their own. Within the Democratic Party there is room for debate, dialogue and flexibility. This is, in my opinion, its biggest asset and has been one of the greatest reasons for its recent legislative and presidential success.

The Republican Party took the 1964 presidential Republican nominee Barry Goldwater’s memorable convention speech phrase “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” and used it as its mantra to create over the past forty years a change in the Republican brand. Over time it served to work against itself as it eliminated a permanent Republican majority by eliminating differing views of its moderates. Clearly, extremism on either side of the political spectrum is the greatest vice and moderation the greatest virtue. The Democratic Party has developed a new dance and acquired what the Republican Party has lost and that is the ability to hear the other side, to rationally and less ideologically discuss the issues and to make more people feel their opinion counts.