Monday, June 08, 2009

Specter Caught in the Crossfire Flipflopping

If Senator Arlen Specter loses in the primary he will regret his flip-flops on EFCA. He once supported the measure, which would allow employees at any given facility to vote to replace the secret ballot used to form a union with the check card. Pennsylvania's senior senator once supported EFCA even when he was caucusing with the Republicans but he flip-flopped this year to help him survive a tough primary fight in the Republican primary.

Now, as a Democrat, he faces a tough primary opponent from U.S. Representative Joe Sestak and he now has to back his way out of the flip-flop with another quasi-if-not-full flip-flop. This looks bad. I feel sorry for him. He really wanted to be a Republican and looked for ways to give his Republican constituents and party officials at the national level a reason to support him but he was being forced out of a party that no longer values its moderate faction.

Now he's a Democrat and facing a challenge from the Democrats and as a Democrat is seeking ways to get the Democrats to believe he'll be a team player and so the senator who sold his soul to conservative-leaning Republican primary voters now has to resell it to liberal Democratic primary voters.

Politicians can get away with one flip-flop in one direction in one primary campaign season without looking too bad. They can justify their change in vote to a genuine change in opinion even if it isn't ideologically-based but when they change their vote on a whole number of issues one year before a primary election (like Mitt Romney) or if, as in this case, the politician moves to the right or the left to appeal to his party's base and then flip-flops as soon as he or she switches parties, the voters will think, for good reason, that he or she lacks principle.

Senator Specter had three options: (a) stand his ground on EFCA and let the Republicans reject him, (b) switch on EFCA to peel off potential conservative primary voters from the more conservative nominee, or (c) stand his ground on EFCA and switch parties. He did neither. Specter couldn't decide whether he was going to run as a Republican or as a Democrat and he may now pay the price. Note this line posted on Talking Points Memo:

"I understand your job's on the line," Senator Specter told the crowd which shouted back, your job's on the line!"

So out of touch. His job is on the line. We know the Republican base don't want him. Soon we'll know if the Democrats will have him.

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