Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter was called in conservative circles "Specter the defector" for his penchant to take a dive at the crucial moment on many issues.
His conversion to Democrat is portrayed by some liberals as an "act of conscience." Oh, please, he doesn't have one. He read the numbers and would've lost his own primary, which almost happened six years ago. His only motivation was personal aggrandizement. His actual loss to the GOP will probably be negligible. There was never any indication he would hang tight on anything, including filibusters. The odds of his backstabbing his new alliance are about the same.
Specter exemplifies why "moderates" ultimately do the GOP no good. From RINOS (Republicans In Name Only) like Tucson's Mayor Bob Walkup or California's Arnold, they screw up and muddy any real attempts to define and brand the party and build a coalition around a set of principles. The GOP has an unfortunate history at many levels of being dominated by its mushmouths who profess nebulous agendas about "managing better" and being "pragmatic." They claim to want a "big tent." They don't and never have.
The history of the GOP is filled with elitist drones who spent most of their time in abject fear of any Republican who actually had an idea about anything. They despised Teddy Roosevelt's Progressivism as heartily as they later feared Barry Goldwater. Throughout the 20th Century, their entire political strategy was to hold the line and wait for Democrats to screw up. That methodology is based on political sand. It doesn't build a coalition or keep you in power, and ultimately erodes what you had. Richard Nixon exemplified it.
The conservative movement generally operates politically within the GOP. Contrary to ignorant liberals and lazy media, conservatism is not a monolith but contains a variety of strains best defined as the "center right." On a vast array of issues, it is closer to the American people than the opposition coalition of the center left, who generally operate as Democrats. The Democrat ideological coalition is much firmer (and narrower) but possesses better self-awareness about who and what it is.
The Democratic Party is currently based on ideas. Forget for a moment that most of them suck. Functionally, they recognize their prime coalition members are groups like trial lawyers, unions, gays, enviros, and immigrants. This was an easy adaptation as some constituencies simply replaced many older ethnic ones. Please note there are no genuine conservative Democrats left by any rational measurement. Zell Miller was the last one. Today's conservative Democrat is defined as any House member with a close district leadership allows to shave a few unneeded votes. Interesting that no one thinks Democrats need a "bigger tent."
"Big Tent" moderate Republicans have historically been the first to bail out when someone to the right of them wins a nomination. From Barry Goldwater to Randy Graf, they have put a self-justifying shiv in the back of innumerable conservatives and then claimed "he was too conservative to win." Two modern Republicans destroyed that myth and actually led the party to substantive victories based on conservative ideas — Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. While both believed in a tent big enough to contain moderate elements, they expected them to play by the rules and quit being the dog-wagging tail.
Advice to Republicans from anti-Republicans about how the GOP needs to re-brand should be rejected. Republicans lost elections not because their core values were wrong but because they deviated from them. The nation needs open debate and intelligent alternatives to the statist policies in which the Democrats have become enmeshed. Republicans will ultimately regain majorities by supplying it.
Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. on KVOI 690AM.