While conservative talkers and RNC Chairman Michael Steele are essentially saying “good riddance” to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter — and it could be argued continuing to send out a message that moderates, independents and non-talk show political culture Republicans are not welcome in the modern, incredibly shrinking Republican party — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have now officially welcomed Specter into the Democratic fold.
While Rush Limbaugh (whose comments often later turn out to be echoed by many conservatives and embraced by the Republican party’s Congressional elite) is now suggesting that Specter should take Arizona Senator John McCain and Meghan McCain with him out of the Republican tent, Obama and Biden are visibly and warmly inviting Specter into the Democratic tent. And, by implication, these invitations to exit or enter each party’s respective tents are being fully understood by those sympathetic to Specter and the two McCains.
Biden — who is credited with trying to get his longtime friend and train-commuting companion for five years to jump ship — pointedly noted that anyone who thinks Specter is going to be a rubber stamp for the Democratic leadership is deluding him or herself. (Already there are numerous calls from some on the left to challenge Specter in the primaries, but the effort to purge him in the same way GOPers have sought to purge him probably won’t succeed with the White House and state Democratic party machinery behind him).
Specter underscores the fact that he wants a sixth term. But his underlying argument yesterday is one that the conservative talkers, and conservative old and new media pundits are glossing over: he believes the Republican party has moved away from him and moderates and become a party of litmus tests where those who aren’t conservative enough aren’t considered “real” Republicans. And, indeed, it is widely believed that the growing ranks of independent voters are partly comprised of defecting Republicans (some called “RINOS” by those who are truly pure.)
Obama also notes that he doesn’t expect Specter to go along with him every time, but that he respects his advice, especially when Specter disagrees. Note Obama’s underlying theme that his administration (and by implication the Democratic party) is a big tent open to many ideas in contrast to (you fill in the blank… and the problem for the GOP is that independent voters will likely easily fill in the blank, too):
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.