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Like the Failed Bush Agenda, Specter Belongs with the Democrats

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In his recent article in Slate, historian David Greenberg shows a fundamental failure to understand the current situation in the Republican Party, taking the common viewpoint of many on the left that defectors like Arlen Specter have been driven from the Republican Party because of an intolerance of liberalism in the GOP. That interpretation may appeal to Democrats who want to portray Republicans as intolerant and dominated by the religious right, or who are still afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome, but it is a simplistic dismissal of Specter's own failures which led to his loss of support within the party and displays a profound ignorance of where the GOP is now and where it is going.

Greenberg does not understand the changes which are going on inside the Republican Party that made Specter increasingly incompatible, nor does he understand that hostility to Specter had very little to do with his rather flaccid liberalism and everything to do with his failure to adhere to any of the values which any of the still-diverse constituencies within the GOP believe in. What has turned other Republicans against Specter, and led to support for a primary challenge against him, is not his support for the arts or other "liberal" causes. It is his unwillingness to stand firm on fundamental Republican principles of smaller government and protection of individual liberty.

The GOP can be tolerant of someone who is somewhat socially liberal if they remain fiscally responsible. The problem with Specter is that while he was forgivably liberal on some social issues, he was unforgivably unreliable on issues of spending and responsible government. You can be a Republican and be a little bit socially liberal, and sadly you can be a Republican and get away with a bit of excess spending, but in the post-Bush environment you absolutely cannot remain a Republican and do both.

Critics on the left, like Greenberg, are misled by their outsider's view of the situation in the GOP. They keep on attacking the GOP as if it was the party of George W. Bush, but it hasn't been his party in a long time – if it ever was. They want to transfer blame for all of Bush's bad policies to the GOP as it now exists, choosing not to understand that most of the party only went along with him reluctantly in the first place and that the Bush’s failures and the Democrat win in 2008 have empowered elements within the party which have a very different agenda.

What Greenberg and others don't understand is the level of anger with Bush within the GOP and how widespread the desire to remake the party is. Bush's failures are why Obama is in the White House and Republicans are in the minority. Do you think Republicans like being out of power? Do you think they appreciate Bush for putting them there? Do you think those who survived this long don't realize their future survival depends on them being as un-Bush as humanly possible?

Specter sees this new environment and knows it is not going to be as tolerant of those who place politics above principle. His answer is to move to the Democratic Party, which is acting more like Bush and his politics of expediency every day. More principled Republicans realize it's time to institute reforms and move back to a more principled version of the party with a clear message that emphasizes broad policy differences with the Democrats on basics like taxes, spending, and personal liberty, rather than pandering to special interests, which went on under Bush, and which the Democrats have enshrined in their agenda.

About Dave Nalle

  • Baronius

    Bliffle, you sound like a conservative: “if it works, don’t change it”. (Teasing.)

    I agree with you. The site also seems unable to remember my name, there’s the 20x+1 problem, and the comments tally next to the articles on the Politics page is always out of date. I like the idea of a comments tally, though.

  • Baronius

    My biggest complaint is that they didn’t set up a comments/complaints page before they started the transition. Ideally, there should have been one when they were designing the new site, but at a minimum there should have been a thread to report bugs.

  • Cindy

    In addition to what Bliffle said: I used to be able to use my browser’s ‘Edit/Find in page’ feature to quickly locate a comment I was familiar with and wanted to return to. Now, that is impossible.

    (Of course, I’ll write an e-mail. Rather than merely complaining here. When I get around to it.)

  • roger nowosielski

    Well, if there are enough dissatisfied contributors, there is a perfect opportunity to set up a separate forum. The Internet is here to stay and so is blogging; getting the advertisers is a cinch. So all we need is a few enterprising minds and a bit of capital. The writers could be stockholders.

    Stranger things have happened when the parent company take they eye of the ball.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    To the BC owners:

    When both the hard-right conservatives AND the hard-left liberals (like me) agree on something, you should listen…

    …because this new format is flatly terrible.

    (‘terrible’ is the best I could do after discarding all the not-so-socially-acceptable (but oh-so-accurate) descriptives from twenty years of active duty)

    Please, go back to the old format. Prettier isn’t necessarily better.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave -

    Y’know, I have yet to see ANY conservative state his support for Dubya now that he is out of office. Not one. Not a single one.

    But what Bush policies, exactly, do you oppose?

    Was it his opposition to stem-cell research?

    What about his opposition to abortion?

    What about his opposition to enforcing the EPA?

    How about his hands-off approach to enforcement by the IRS?

    And then there’s his administration’s lassaiz-faire attitude towards the economy…

    …and his refusal to allow states to enact their own banking rules to get the lending industry under control…

    Perhaps y’all were against his huge increases in the military budget?

    Or his desire to drastically cut taxes?

    Were you against Bush’s refusal to engage in diplomacy with ‘terrorist’ nations?

    Were you against Bush’s invasion of Iraq?

    Were you against Bush’s use of ‘enhanced interrogation’ a.k.a. ‘torture’?

    Sure, Bush made some really dumb mistakes (like Katrina), but which of his POLICIES did you really disagree with?

    And if you agreed with almost all of his policies…then you got PRECISELY what your Republican party voted into office…AND reelected, to boot.

    In other words, be careful what you wish for – ’cause you might get it.

  • Baronius

    Glenn, I generally approved of Bush’s policies. I oppose abortion and fetal stem-cell research. I favored the Iraq War and believe that its success speaks for itself. I wish he’d had a lassaiz-faire approach to the economy.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius -

    Bush DID have a lassaiz-faire approach to the economy. That’s why he refused to enforce economic regulations, and that’s why – when states wanted to enact their own regulatory laws to get the lending industry under control, he used a Civil-War era law to prevent the states from passing any such laws…and to negate any such laws EVER passed by those states.

    If that’s not ‘lassaiz-faire’, then I can only wonder what your definition of it is….

  • Clavos


    Y’know, I have yet to see ANY conservative state his support for Dubya now that he is out of office.

    After he began spending like a drunken liberal, very few fiscal conservatives supported him while he was in office.

  • Baronius

    Glenn, I’m not going to argue with you. I’m only saying that if you purged the name Paulson and all of his actions, Moses-style, from the Bush administration, I’d sign off on it in a heartbeat. You’ve met someone who would say that.

  • Baronius

    To phrase that better – Ignoring Paulson’s actions, for which Bush is responsible, I would acknowledge the Bush administration as a success.

  • Bliffle

    A lot of reps are having Buyers Remorse over Bush, so why submit to being fooled again and submit to the falsehood that Obama is a leftist?

    Clearly, Obama is a Corporate Statist, like most of his recent predecessors. That’s why he immediately aped the bank bailout initiated by the previous Corp Statist, GWB, even hiring a Paulson/Bush operative, Geithner as SecTreas.

    Obama even resurrected L Summers from the dead. Will Bob Rubin be joining soon?

    At the same time he has done little for trad liberal constituencies, even allowing the congress to squelch the puny little homeowner bailout that so offended the Corp statists for it’s “moral hazard” (I guess they want to reserve all the moral hazard opportunites for the financial industry, where they really know how to cash in on Moral Hazard!). They want to stand by and shake their fingers sanctimoniously at those vicious homeowners and credit card users and scornfully denounce THEIR modest little excesses.

    More of the same, as we surrender the USA and it’s promise to an ever more feudalist state devoted to preserving the power and privileges of the few.

    I suppose that leftists are hopeful that some scraps of bread fall off the table as the US government feeds luxurious meals to the financial establishment. Like the much discussed little favor to the unions in the Chrysler deal which gives them a piece of the action without involving any REAL money. The REAL money, of course, goes to coppering the bets and gambles of the financiers.

  • roger nowosielski

    Then why is it, bliffle, that the right-wingers don’t see it that way? Because if they did, they should be delighted that the good old Military & Industrial complex will be alive and well – if not now, then very very soon.

  • rED gREEN

    If you voted for President Obama then you voted for Liberal Collectivism via the Fabian Socislist model advanced via the tactics of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”. Community Organizers is a cover term for “Active Social Revolutionary Cadres” President Obama deserves to be shown all respect due the office of the president. It does not mean we should not do everything we legally can to impeach him and remove him from office, or defeat him in the 2012 elections. He has done some good things so far, but the bad will outweigh this. Pray for Mr. Obama as that has to be the toughest job any human being can have on earth!