Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Spectre of Specter
A Lesson Worth Noting
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's online publication, "Opinion Journal," is always a fun read. Yesterday, he noted this rather ironic comparison between former Republican Senator Bob Dole and Senator Arlen Specter, now a Democrat as of yesterday:
In 1988, when Dole was making his second unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination, the New York Times recounted this famous anecdote about how Dole, a disabled World War II veteran, was persuaded to seek a career in politics:
Mr. Dole drew laughs the next night when he recalled that the Democratic leader in his hometown, Russell, Kan., had once urged him to run for county attorney. "He said to me, 'You got shot, and I think we can get you elected,' " Mr. Dole recalled. The local Republican leader also made a pitch for the young war veteran, saying Republicans outnumbered Democrats 2 to 1 in Russell.
"So I made a great philosophical decision," said Mr. Dole. "I became a Republican."
We were reminded of this by a statement Specter issued today:
I have been a Republican since 1966. . . . Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans. . . .
I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
That's a great story, and very illustrative of something conservatives ought to plant deep in their skulls for the future. These "establishment" types really have no principles other than their own careers. They'll lie down with any dog that will hunt with them. Dole wasn't a reliable conservative vote and Specter is worse. Dole was the perfect picture of the "moderate" Republican for which we hear such longing by the party hacks and insiders. Dole lost.
More recently, John McCain -- another unreliable "moderate" Republican, was elevated as the standard bearer. We didn't learn from the Dole disaster. McCain lost. And if we make the same mistake in four years -- provided that there's another election -- we'll lose again.
Another lesson that needs learning. In the long run, Specter's leaving the party is a good thing. This keening about "the big tent" really irritates me. People like Specter, John and Lincoln Chaffee, Jim Jeffords, Lowell Weicker, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are chief reasons why genuine conservative reform has never taken place in this country. In the past, whenever we're been on the cusp of really doing something that counts, you could always count on the fact that you couldn't count on these RINOs. They'll side with the Democrats every time in such a vote. And the country suffers for it as we keep lurching farther and farther to the left.
Oh, we might make a fitful pitch to starboard from time to time, but never in seriousness, and never in enough numbers to make a real difference in Congress. Until we manage to get real conservatives who are principled and vote their convictions in those kind of numbers, real conservative reform will never get off the ground.
We ought to learn.