Wednesday, April 29, 2009


With Arlen Specter’s defection from the Greater Evil Party, the Democrats will have a filibuster proof Senate -- once the buffoonish Norm Coleman ceases and desists from obstructionist litigation, or the judicial system runs its course, and the comedian Al Franken assumes the Senate seat he seems to have won. Or, more precisely, they’ll have a filibuster proof Senate if everyone who caucuses with the Lesser Evil Party stays on board. That’s not at all a sure thing, even in Specter’s case. The only thing that is sure is that he could honestly run on the slogan: “better than Lieberman.”

Arlen Specter has made a career of being a tiresome windbag, just “liberal” enough to do well among Pennsylvania’s less benighted voters and just bellicose enough not to be too much on the outs with the GOP leadership. Acting on principle has never been his forte. Even in comparison with other Senators, the man is a rank opportunist. But that character flaw is not such a bad thing when it comes to switching parties – as Specter has now done twice. After all, what principled reason could there be for being a Democrat or a Republican when neither wing of our semi-official duopoly has any principles at all.

Not long ago, when he still thought he could keep his Senate seat and his Republican affiliation too, Specter flip-flopped on EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act – betraying his misguided supporters in the labor movement. If he doesn’t flip flop back in short order, organized labor should do everything in its power to make his life miserable, and along with it the lives of the Democrats – Joe Biden, Ed Rendell, and even our “bipartisan” President – who engineered his defection and who have warmly welcomed him into the Democratic fold. Labor has given its all to getting Obama elected and to supporting his agenda, foolishly demanding nothing in return. Now is the time to start demanding. If Specter doesn’t come back on board, they should run a pro-labor candidate against him in the primaries or, better yet, in the general election.

With the Obama administration in Wall Street’s pocket, it could be a risky move. But it also just might unleash events, as unpredictable as was Specter’s defection, from which all would benefit. Ours is a political culture where the duopoly’s disabling hold over the state has proven all but unshakeable. But then, the strategy that has worked well elsewhere – where organized labor fields its own candidates and, in the right circumstances, launches its own political party – has never been tried, at least not in recent decades. If not now, when? And if not in Pennsylvania, where? – should the old fool miscalculate (perhaps by calculating that he should not seem as unprincipled as he is) and remain stubbornly on the bosses’ side.

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