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May 1, 2009

What Sen. Spector's Party Switch Tells California Voters

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen ("Single-Bullet") Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party this week.  Rush Limbaugh reacted to this news by welcoming Specter's departure, and added, "take McCain with you."

Specter left because the extremist wing of the Republican Party -- the ones who listen to and agree with Rush Limbaugh and will tolerate absolutely no compromise of any kind from the most extreme conservative positions -- have taken over and are driving others out. This rightmost element, who call themselves the only "real Republicans" have a special name for people like Arlen Specter and John McCain.  They call them "RINOs."  RINO stands for "Republican In Name Only" and refers to Republicans who are not conservative enough to meet approval of the absolutists.  (What is conservative enough?  Half of Texas Republicans want Texas to secede from the United States.)

Arlen Specter is hardly a liberal.  He has a solidly conservative voting record, (after switching parties he voted against President Obama's budget), but not conservative enough for the hard core purists.  John McCain won the ire of this element for not supporting torture.

The Limbaugh branch of the party have been working to drive moderate-right members like Specter and McCain out, and are increasingly successful.  Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, another target of this element, warned that,

"being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of 'Survivor' -- you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you're no longer welcome in the tribe."
This demonstrates just how far the Republican Party has moved from its roots.  They have drifted so far away from their mission that even their last Presidential candidate is being urged to leave the party!  They have drifted so far from their mission that the "party of Lincoln" has a solid contingent supporting having their states secede from the Union!

This hard-core extremism is also being demonstrated in California, where not a single Repubilcan will vote for a budget -- any budget -- because their strategy for the state is to "let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point."  The reason that crazy-sounding line has quotation marks around it is because it is a quote.  It is also the definition of extremism.  And, combined with the 2/3 rule that lets them block budgets, it is the reason California is becoming ungovernable.

Roberts and Trounstine at Calbuzz write that, "the California Republican Party is doomed to minority status" by this extremism.  For example, California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring said of Specter's defection,
"The Republican Party didn't leave Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party some time ago," Mr. Chairman said in his statement. "Arlen Specter decided on his own - no one forced him - to violate core Republican principles by voting for the wasteful $787 billion stimulus bill while every single House Republican, including California's entire Republican delegation, voted with taxpayers in opposition instead."
In other words, it violates Republican principles to vote to help the people.  The "taxpayers" they "support" are their wealthy and corporate campaign donors.  And, they add, it doesn't make sense for Party leaders to "applaud Specter's defection, as if losing prominent party members holds the key
to growing the party and returning it to majority status."

Why they are wrong:  The hard-core conservative values these people support are "limited government, free markets and personal responsibility."  But what is this government that they want to limit?  Abraham Lincoln, another RINO, famously said that our American government is "of the people, by the people and for the people."  So today's Republicans want to limit the people's ability to make decisions (government by the people) and instead hand this ability over to "the market" (ruled by big corporations.)  They want to replace a country where we watch out for and take care of each other (government for the people) with a system where we are all left on our own at the mercy of these corporations -- which they call "personal responsibility." 

There is an alternative to the extremist right's approach.  Progressive values and policies are better for people.  Instead of limiting our government progressives believe that the people should have more power to make the decisions that affect all of us.  Instead of a one-dollar-one-vote "market" approach to decision-making, progressives believe in one-person-one-vote equality where people are on an equal footing, with an equal right to benefit from our common resources. 

Progressives believe in a community-based, democratic approach to deciding how we should run our state and country.  We're here for each other, not just for ourselves.

So let's welcome all those disenfranchised Republicans into our tent. We're big enough and tolerant enough of differing opinions, so long as the best interests of the people are at heart. I think they'll like being part of a true democracy where the people come first.

P.S. See Assemblymember Nancy Skinner's invitation to Republicans.

Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

Posted by Dave Johnson at May 1, 2009 9:08 AM


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