arlen specter: democracy at work

File:Arlen Specter, official Senate photo portrait.jpg

As I’m sure you all know, Senator Arlen Specter recently announced his withdrawal from the Republican Party, in favor of having one of those stylish little “D“s next to his name.  Specter makes no bone about the reason for his change:  he can no longer get elected as a Republican.  Certainly he makes a good talk about how the party is changing, moving away from his values, etc., but the crux is, he can’t win a Republican primary in the current environment.  He even goes so far as to say:

I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

(Specter’s full statement)

 

It’s easy to characterize Specter’s decision as an act of pure self-interest (and boy, people are happy to do so), but his move is actually (or additionally) a shining example of representative democracy at work. One of the points of having elected officials is that they are answerable to their constituency, and will to an extent modify their behavior to please that constituency.  Self-interest is one of the things the Founders counted on to maintain accountability.  The Senator sees not only that the party is moving away from him, but also that the state of Pennsylvania is moving away from the party, in droves (I believe there are numbers that support this, but I can’t for the life of me get a hold of them).  Whether he means to or not, Specter is not just saving his own hide–he’s bowing to the will of his constituency.  It’s political evolution at work.

Here he is:

P.S.  Hey, Arlen:  next time, if you don’t want to sound like such an opportunistic ass, try something like:

“My job is to represent the people of the State of Pennsylvania.  However, the Republican Party is no longer interested in supporting the kind of moderate voices which the State clearly wants in office.  As such, I am regretfully leaving the Republican Party, in favor of a party which is more in line with my values, and the values of the voters of my state.”

See that?  I just made that up.  Three minutes.

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One Response

  1. […] Specter: Red, White, and Blue, at the Elephant, AlterNet, Mark Joseph, Economist, MacLeansCa, Huff Post, American Reality, Real Clear Politics, […]

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