As a life-long and active Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter’s (D-Penn.) switch to the Democratic Party did not come as much of a surprise. He has always been somewhat of an ideological anomaly, never really able to reconcile his liberal tendencies with the Republican mainstream. Take a look at how he switched, high political kabuki theatre. He stabbed in the heart the party that gave him his rise to power, and did so in the camp of the political enemy.
Specter never felt at home in the Republican Party. I suspect he will never be at home at the Democratic Party for the very same reason. Rather than anchor his ideology, he changes it according to whatever the political oracles divine. This is the story of most self-proclaimed Republican moderates. And that is why most have been defeated at the ballot box or eventually register with the other party.
The Republican Party is not under the control of any one interest group or, as Specter characterizes it, “too right wing” for him. What does that mean, too right wing? The American Left has been spreading that political poison since the Nixon years. During the Clinton years they called it a “vast right wing conspiracy.” Today’s moniker is that the Republicans are “out of touch.”
Democrats won in 2008 because they sounded like Republicans, but they are today leading like liberal Democrats. What is so difficult calling them on this?
If you are for bigger government, you’re a Democrat. If you think taxes are good and patriotic, you’re a Democrat. If you believe in the balkanization of American politics and support things such as multiculturalism, affirmative action, and hyphenated-Americans , you’re a Democrat. If you believe that “peace through strength” means negotiating with state sponsors of terrorism, you’re a Democrat. If you believe terrorists should be treated the same due process rights as an American solider, you’re a Democrat. If you think guns, not people, kill, you’re a Democrat.
If Republican moderates, again, whatever that means, were to take a closer look, today’s Republican Party is anything but “right wing”. Quite the opposite. Republicans are supposed to be the center-right party. Yet, in practice, it is barely that when it comes to governance in Washington during the past few years.
While Republican leadership has managed to hold the center by staying mostly true to national security, defense, and taxes, most of the establishment leadership is center. As a result, Republicans have lost elections and will continue to lose elections. Party leaders can implement as many image make over specials as they like, but image is not the problem.
A majority of non-Beltway Republican and independent voters do not like that Republicans have allowed for increased federal spending and budget deficits, growing the size of the federal government to record levels, opening the door for socialized medicine, supporting amnesty for illegal aliens, to name a few areas. The Republican Party used to be the party of ideas, of principles. It has devolved into a mish mash of Specter-like common sense conservatism, again, whatever that means; more interested in seeking the approval of the glitterati than being right.
A conservative Republican, by definition, cannot be extreme in political views. Quite the opposite. Republicans look to the family and individual first to resolve issue, not to the nearest form of government, be it local, state or federal. We are the party of freedom, enterprise, and believe you reap what you sow; but you also help the less fortunate help themselves. As for the federal government, focus on the fundamentals – foreign policy, defense, etc. – and let the states and free markets function freely.
Republican leaders, at all levels of government, do best when they shun the politics of pretension. Focus on core Republican ideas and be not afraid to lead like a conservative. If Ron Paul can muster millions with a libertarian message – from a very diverse demographic pool – then Republicans can do the same, or better. Republicans that try to out-Democrat a Democrat will always lose. It is best that they pack it up and retire the GOP or, as Specter did, join the party more in line with his thinking.