The recent news that Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has decided to switch parties has dominated the news for the last 24 hours. As the major news story of its time ( They will be on to something else tomorrow, maybe the swine flu once again) this news is, on the surface, a boon to those who would like to see a filibuster proof Senate (Providing there is an eventual decision in the Minnesota Senate race, which is not a foregone conclusion). However if one looks a little closer at the basis for Specter’s decision we find that it is primarily political in nature, as, sadly, most legislative decisions appear to be in this day.
Specter was to be faced with a strong, right wing, primary opponent in 2010 and was advised that he could not win. In his lust to remain in a position of power he determined that his best chance of winning reelection was to run as a Democrat. It’s really that simple. Having seen the writing on the wall he took the path of least resistance.
Those who think that this change will suddenly make Specter a screaming liberal are sadly mistaken. In fact, he has changed parties once before and has always been a moderate who seems to enjoy holding up a wet finger rather than make definitive stands of principle. Anyone who feels that the Democrats will have, with the inevitable seating of Franken in Minnesota, an automatic 60 vote cushion in the Senate will have a somewhat rude awakening. Specter’s disapproval of the Employee Free Choice Act is an indication of how loosely he will toe the party line.
So don’t get your hopes up.