Specter Of Things To Come

Two views of the Specter matter:

The Swine Flew!

The Purity Brigade Strikes Again & Strikes Out.

I'm reworking this post because I realized I was writing in response to a couple of things I've heard or read in print that ticked me off, but since I didn't explain what I was responding to, the resulting rant wasn't fully coherent. This is the do-over.

What's got me ticked is the talk radio, conservative & Christian blog denunciations of Specter in the most vile possible terms and --worse-- in the Catholic blogosphere, the opportunistic seizing of the opportunity to revile former Sen. Santorum for supporting Specter over Pat Toomey in the Republican primary for the 2004 election cycle. (See, Santorum, you sold your soul for a fellow who sold you out, goes the thinking.)

I get sick to my stomach when I hear a good man like Santorum denounced because of a difference in prudential judgment. Is it the purpose of the Catholic Right to scare all the actually fervent Catholics out of politics? Say he was wrong (he wasn't!), say you couldn't disagree more strongly with his decision in that instance, why is it necessary to denounce a man who fought heroically for the full complement of Catholic social teaching the entire time he was in office as a coward and a squish? No, he was a man. A good man who did his best and like other good men made calls you like and calls you didn't. Can't we leave the comment box-style denunciations to the Kossacks and speak like Christian men among ourselves?

I even have need to mount a mild defense of Sen. Specter. For heaven's sake, he's not betraying the party, he's being pushed out by the PA GOP! Which is fine --I will be delighted if we manage to pull off an upset and send Pat Toomey to the Senate-- but let's be clear about who first put an end to the longstanding gentleman's agreement between Arlen Specter & the GOP: we did!

That agreement was: although he is a liberal, in exchange for political support, Arlen Specter would organize with the GOP (he switched parties in 1965). This affected committee control & gave us defense against filibusters, and meant that while Specter was free to vote however he pleased generally, he would have the party's back whenever his vote would be decisive. Check the record. I believe you will find he never cast a deciding vote against the GOP on anything of substance (not something you can say about Orrin Hatch, eg, ahem).

This was particularly important to us on social issues, where he never cast a pro-life vote unless his vote would make the difference between victory and defeat for our side. He made a big difference on judges. In earlier days, Specter even went so far as to be Senate champion of Clarence Thomas, a particularly bitter political pill for him to swallow given his allegiance to Planned Parenthood, but he went along --he knew the rules of the game and stuck to them.

I'm not saying he's a man I admire. Anyone can see his career has been mostly about him. What I'm saying is I consider it crazy to be perpetually angry with a diehard liberal for not being Conservative rather than being at least grudgingly grateful he helped us over the top on more than a few close votes. We needed his seat desperately in the Bush years and that's why Santorum did what he did. Even Pat Toomey knew that, which is why he endorsed Specter immediately after failing to defeat him in the primary.

There's a different political reality today, so both parties now realize their little contract has run its course. It's no tragedy, although we should realize even today Specter's all that's standing between freedom for union members and the loss of the secret ballot. If Specter flips in order to stave off a union challenge in the Democratic primary, then Pat Toomey had better darn well win that seat. As JPod says at that second link:
Politics is not about casting the easy vote for the person you admire. It’s really about choosing the least bad alternative. The foes of Specter in Pennsylvania thought their least bad alternative was challenging him in a primary he would lose. Now they will really discover what the least bad alternative might have been. And so will we all.
I'm not prepared to be angry with Toomey as JPod appears to be (update: FWIW, Michael Barone thinks Toomey's chances of winning the general are worse in 2010 than they were in 2004; if that's so, I am prepared to be mad), but I have a knee-jerk need to defend people unjustly piled-upon. Santorum thought about the likely consequences of his actions and did what he had to to defend life and liberty.

The larger point is my hobby-horse, which I now mount again. I get a little tired of the messianic remnant of the GOP. It is not a good thing when a political party starts talking like a religion. Sen De Mint, exemplifying this line of thinking, says of the Specter exit:
I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.
Curse you, Kant! I am so frustrated by the politics of the Categorical Imperative, which isn't politics at all because it eschews the virtue of prudence.

Sen. DeMint's a good guy; maybe his remark is just sour grapes. But I still want to shout, parties are coalitions. The Church can be a "creative minority" to use Benedict XVI's phrase and still have purpose; not so a party. Churches are for witness and for being instruments of the mysterious workings of Providence; parties are for accomplishing things --or preventing them--through prudent action. Andrew Stuttaford is exactly right:
If it comes to a choice, I'd rather have 60 Republicans in the Senate, however squishy some of the views of some in their ranks, than 60 Democrats who are all certain of theirs. Anyone who truly believes in limited government ought to understand that voting against can be as valid as voting for. If it takes a few Specters to see off a Democratic majority, so be it.
Yes. Politics should be played strategically --to advance your cause and ultimately win. If you just want to give witness to your ideological purity, I respectfully suggest politics isn't your field.

Sorry. I'm just a little grouchy that the Dems think they've elected the Messiah, the Republicans think they're the Remnant of Israel, and it's the American people who'll be undergoing the crucifixion.