When I was writing my “What the hell is wrong with the MNGOP?” series, a conundrum appeared.
A party – especially a party built around multiple principles, rather than getting swag for constituents – needs to embrace many different variations on the same message.
That same party needs to have a coherent message.
My position: the party needs, on the one hand, to find the things that everyone agrees on. And by “everyone”, I mean of course the overwhelming majority. I suggested (at a Minnesota state party level) Security, Education and Prosperity; I can’t imagine a Republican who wouldn’t support these. The idea would be that everyone – tax hawks, pro-lifers, even moderates – could bury their differences publicly for the greater good of the party. Make no mistake – there is value to having more “R” votes than “D”, even if not all of them are purists for whatever ones’ pet cause is. If you’re a pro-lifer, having a mushy-“choice” Republican is better than having a Dem in the Senate when it’s time to confirm Supreme Court justices, for example. There is a time for being a purist; one of the things, problem or blessing depending on your point of view, with the two-party system is that purism is less important than numbers, even from the purist’s view.
If we lived in a parliamentary system – where everyone can strike out and start a party if they don’t feel their current party reflects their beliefs – it’d be different. Sort of. With enough votes in an area, almost anyone get a seat in a Parliament. Of course, if you have one seat in Parliament, you have to join with other parties to actually affect policy, which means exactly the same compromises that one makes within one of the two major parties we have today.
The complement to “vast majority” is the “infinitesimal minority”. And while I’m the kind of person who’d much rather win that minority over to the majority – especially when the message is something this state and nation need – at some point there will inevitably be some people who realize the party’s not for them.
Arlen Specter was a “60% Republican”. He may have been part of the “infinitesimal minority”, but he was certainly a drag on the party as a whole. And given the immense power his seniority gave him, his many “40%” moments over the years hurt the GOP badly. He was a “Sturdevant Republican” of the lowest order; the only kind of Republican the mainstream media “like”, the one that votes like a Democrat. I’d like to say that Specter is being intellectually honest with his switch…
…but of course it’s not true. It’s naked careerism; the Pennsylvania GOP is moving to the right (moderates defected to Obama during the past election), and his prospects in the primary were bad enough even before that, having barely beaten Toomey in the ’04 primary. Pennsylvania law won’t allow him to run as an Indy like Joe Lieberman did in Connecticut. And so he bailed – to keep himself in office.
I’m not going to say “good riddance” to Specter; Republicans have to get better at finessing, rather than bashing, differences within the party, if we’re going to recover from this past two elections.
But it’s probably a good thing in the long run. In the next four years, Obama is going to take a lot of the luster off the Democrat brand. Of course, we’ll need the GOP to come around with a message to have the vacuum filled when the opportunity presents itself.
And it’s fairly clear that that message is going to have to be pushed up in the party.
Good. That’s what we’re here for.
Adios, Specter. I wont’ say “good riddance” – but you won’t be missed.