Switching Sides: Arlen Spector Says Republicans Have Moved Too Far To The Right

Updated, 12:00pm PST

It certainly seems that, for as hard as President Obama is working these days, there are some waters being parted. Senator Arlen Spector (PA) announced today that he’ll be jumping the Republican ship and running for re-election in 2010 as a Democrat. The National Review Online, however, is planning for his demise before any real impact can be made. 

Spector’s switch could mean a 60 vote majority for the Democrats, giving Obama’s (and the Democrats’) agenda a potentially filibuster-free journey towards passage. But Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight.com calls this more of an insult to the Republican party than actual injury:

But this is not necessarily an unmitigated win for the Democrats. Unlike Jim Jeffords’ switch in 2001, this does not affect who controls the Senate Chamber. Rather, it merely nudges the filibuster math, which has always been somewhat fuzzy. While the Democrats will have a nominal total of 60 votes once Al Franken is seated, the Senate’s fortunes will still be determined by a group of about a dozen moderate senators from both parties (including Specter), just as it was before.

And Chris Bowers writing at Open Left shares that Spector was promised a run for re-election with no Democratic opposition in the primary.  

In a statement given this morning, Spector diplomatically called out his original party for moving towards extreme conservatism over the years:

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

According to the New York Times, Spector was one of only three Republicans who supported Obama’s economic recovery package. Sen. Spector noted, in his statement, that the stimulus vote "caused a schism" which "made our differences irreconcilable."

Medical research has been and continues to be critically important to Spector who named continued and expanded NIH funding. In addition, Spector has voted for embryonic stem cell research. 

For women’s rights and health advocacy organizations, Spector has been both trouble and a supporter. Spector aggressively grilled Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings back in 1992 when Hill accused Thomas of sexual harasment. Women’s rights groups were angered by Spector’s interviews of Hill and unsuccessfully ran a candidate against him for a third term. 

Spector’s reproductive rights record is a mixed bag. He has sometimes been a strong reproductive rights supporter, despite the opposition in his own party. Citing the overwhelming religious influences in the Republican party and the lack of support for reproductive rights, Spector ran for President of the United States in 1995/96. 

Spector’s positions on reproductive rights and health access for women fueled his vote against allowing making fetuses eligible for SCHIP (state health insurance programs); against prohibiting the taking of minors across state lines for abortion access if they cannot access services in their home states; but also voted for a ban on the non-existent medical procedure politically named, "Partial Birth Abortion"; and against funding to reduce teen pregnancy through contraceptive access and education. 

It is clear that Spector plays by his own rules. Ultimately, on issues of reproductive rights and health in Obama’s and the Democrats’ agenda, his presence as a Democrat may make more of an impact than if he were to remain a Republican. 

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  • invalid-0

    He is all ready a Democrat. It doesn’t matter what he calls himself. He votes like a Democrat it does not matter what party name he chooses to use.

    • invalid-0

      Sure it matters what party he belongs to. His switching to the Democratic party means that if Minnesota seats a Democrat, they will have 60 in the Senate, enough to push any agenda they wish through Congress. Your loss is our gain.

    • invalid-0

      Already a democrat. Alright all ready?

  • invalid-0

    Now if we could get that other famous Mustang (mule / rino) to correctly identify himself, we’ll be much more able to field a clean image.

  • invalid-0

    Arlen Spector gets props for not walking party lines in the past from me, but switching parties (again) is doing exactly that! Democrats all over PA have seen 2010 as the year to take this seat back officially. If republicans switch parties to vote him in under the dems then we have (R) Toomey vs. (R)Spector, Oh and as for Spector being a Dem already it’s just not true no Democrat would fund raise for R. Santorum and if he were a dem ( the kind we have a real chance for in 2010 )we would have 60 votes on EFCA. I guess he’s not a Christian fundamentalist if that’s what you mean.

    • invalid-0

      Toomey is pretty damn scary. I used to live in Pennsylvania, and deliberately registered Republican so I could vote against him in the last Republican primary.

  • invalid-0

    Spector reminds me of all those Old Washed Up Professional Boxers that will do anything to keep getting paid. It also reminds me of Old Washed up movie actors trying to make One More Movie to get paid. People will do anything to hold onto that income. Why can’t he just get a job at Walmart or HomeDepot instead of looking like a Egotistical Whore and selling his soul in a public auction.

  • invalid-0

    Bon Voyage Spector!!!

    GOP is better off with out you. So thanks for doing us the favor!

  • invalid-0

    i’m an independent who most of the time votes with the democratic party. i think senator spector showed a lot of courage by leaving the GOP that has become a nazi party.

    Bravo senator and good luck!

  • invalid-0

    Listen up America, whoever is Spector’s Opponent, lets back him or her to the “Hilt”. I can’t wait to send campaign $$$ to his opponent. “Mad as hell” and can’t wait until the Election of 2010.

    A Florida Republican

  • invalid-0

    you think the GOP is the Nazi party…LOL ,…just wait for a democratic majority and in a few years even you’ll be amazazed. Then you’ll really see who the Nazi’s are.

  • invalid-0

    So disappointed but as with most career politicians….they forget the people and think only of themselves….I could not be any more disappointed….just another example of the lack of honor and integrity in our government

  • invalid-0

    There comes a point in every person’s life when they stop and take a good look at the company they are keeping and say,”What in the name of heaven am I doing?” That day arrived for Arlen Spector. He looked around him and found himself among fair weather friends and decided the long time friendship of Joe Biden regardless of their political differences meant something. The democrats can thank Joe Biden for this one and they owe him big. The republicans need to decide if they want to remain a viable party or if they want to let the Christian Fundamentalist just have the party. Personally I think the religious right and the ultra-liberal left need to form their own separate parties and allow all the moderates to have their two parties back. Then we need to open up a true multiparty political arena and let the ultra liberals and the religious right see exactly where they stand as far as how “mainstream America” views their agendas. Perhaps if we did that they would all take a hint that “mainstream America” is moderate on most things and that feeding our children and having quality health care for them is not a totally radical concept akin to handing the keys to the White House to Lennin or Stalin. As a registered independent I have the luxury of actually knowing what a candidate stands for before I vote for them. It is not an expensive luxury but it does require me to use my brains rather than keeping my nose in the “boob tube” and getting all my information from 30 second soundbites. I am proud of Arlen Spector for maintaining his integrity in the midst of the severe decline in his political party. I am proud of him for realizing the needs of the people of his state. I am proud of him for maintaining his personal integrity and not allowing all the years of service to this country to be marred by the hard right turn the Republican Party has taken. There are many of us moderates that respect him and his decision to stand with the true majority of Americans rather than falling prey to the extreme right wing that has taken control of the Republican party. We wish him well in his future and urge the people of Pennsylvania that have always supported him to continue to do so regardless of his party affiliation. Arlen Spector is a good man and a true American and the people of Pennsylvania are better served by him being their Senator than they would be by anyone else. America is better served by him than by any radical right wing or radical left wing senator that either party might present for that seat.

  • invalid-0

    Dream on. Arlen Spector, regardless of his affiliation is getting re-elected in 2010, and any other year til he decides to retire. Just look at results of any of his prior elections.

  • invalid-0

    Ms. Newman notes Spector “voted for a ban on the non-existent medical procedure politically named, ‘Partial Birth Abortion,” which immediately tips me off to several aspects of her reporting.
    She has no personal experience with partial birth abortion, and, if she did, would find out that even the pro-choice women I know who’ve had them would heartily disagree that it’s just “politics” when you name a procedure such. Nonetheless, given that even a pro-choice liberal like Daniel Moynihan saw it as akin to infanticide, I agree it might be time to change the procedure’s name to something more accurately describing it. How about “incredibly repulsive procedure that plunges women who’ve had them into depression once its reality is fully explained?”
    She also exposes herself as one of the reasons the Democrats have so alienated pro-life people over the years. There’s literally not a shred of acknowledgment that abortion is an anguishing issue in this strikingly cold column. Why, gee whiz, Spector doesn’t want to insure fetuses! Whew, glad he voted our way on that one!
    Yeah, I guess if I saw the unborn poor as the kind of burdens most liberals tend to see them as, I’d be excited,too.
    Really, Ms. Newman, is there a heart beating in you at all? Not that it’s my place to know. Why seeking humanity is others is the very thing that makes pro-choicers go ballistic. I realize trying to find a heartbeat in anyone, let alone an unborn child, is antithetical to the “choice” movement, which has opposed encouraging women to even have ultrasounds during a mandated waiting period that might, just might, lead them to conclude pro-choicers are actually denying the cruelty of the “right” they so eagerly protect.

    • invalid-0

      oh come on. Partial-birth abortion is not a medical term. This is a fact. That is what the author is referring to.

      “How about “incredibly repulsive procedure that plunges women who’ve had them into depression once its reality is fully explained?””

      It’s pretty clear you missed the day in third grade where we learned what is fact and what is not. because this statement, my friend, is not fact at all.

      Also, you keep spelling Specter’s name wrong.

  • http://www.politicaloverload.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Arlen Spector left the Republican party because he would have lost the primary and he knew if he went to the Democrats he would have a better chance of winning with the help of democrats. The democrats have been in charge for more than two years and things have gone from bad to worse. I think it will be tough for democrats to get elected in 2010. Although because Arlen is a moderate he may have a better chance of winning than his liberal friends. Don’t be surprised though if a Democrat challenges him in the primary. I think some Democrats will see this as a Republican running against a Republican which may motivate someone else to jump in the race. I also think you will see a ton of money being spent to defeat him.

  • invalid-0

    But now that he is a Democrat, I will be sending some money Spector’s way, honey, and so will the rest of the Democrats! We are suddenly flush with cash, because everyone wants to be us, and hardly anyone wants to be you! YOU LOSE, no matter what!

  • http://www.impostoderenda.org invalid-0

    I think like you. I believe that Arlen Spector moved to Democrats to increase his chances o winning. And he did the right thing. Thats the way.

  • http://www.newminilaptop.com/ invalid-0

    Usually Left and Right only confuse issues. The Republican base consisting of fractions wanting less government spending, less regulations, less taxes, more firearms, stronger defense, tougher foreign policy, and a more “religious” government (with religion being framed as the government controlling marriage, reproduction).

    On many of these issues the Republicans are worse than the Democrats: Bush created a biggest deficit in our history, he spoke tough on foreign policy but didn’t accomplish very much and his State Department was no better than those before his term, and under his term more Americans ended up spending far more on de facto health insurance taxes that went to giant health corps which we can’t control. Bush also gave a free check to banks and demonstrated that the less regulations approach has serious problems. Finally on a more so-called religious government, the Republican suppression of stem cell research has hurt or killed countless Americans. Given such a situation, it is hard to understand why anyone would support this party.

    When it comes to the bedroom and religion, it’s funny that the self-proclaimed party of less government wants government to control who and how people can get married and when and how they have kids. In promoting so-called abstinence-only “education” they actually encourage abortions by increasing ignorance on sex and making it harder for young adults to get access to preventive measures. Again we have contradictions with their own principals.

    It’s hard to believe there are so many places out there that vote Republican. It’s really hard to understand why. Spector switched not because his old party moved too far to the “right”, but because they’ve moved to far to the wrong.

  • invalid-0

    It is absolutely amazing that, beginning with Amie Newman and continuing with fifteen other commentators, only one person would know that the Senator from Pennsylvania spells his last name S-P-E-C-T-E-R … not Spector!

  • http://www.florida-scubadiving.com invalid-0

    Seems to me that someone was sitting on the fence and fell the wrong side.

  • trybpo

    I do agree that the Republicans have moved too far to the right. It seems they’re alienating most main-stream Americans and appealing to a small minority base and I really don’t get it. The democrats seem much more reasonable at this point and I sincerely hope they stick with a more centrist philosophy…if they start pushing to the left I’ll be frustrated. I do hope, though, that we take away some of our protectionist ideals…why should our small outsourcing company take a hit because we’re scared of losing jobs?