Tuesday, April 28, 2009

With Specter Switch, It's Official: Modern Conservative Movement All But Dead

By Manifesto Joe

I was born, but it wasn't yesterday. Arlen Specter's decision to switch parties from Republican to Democrat has almost everything to do with political expediency and almost nothing to do with any change in the Pennsylvania senator's thinking.

Remember, this is the guy who, as a young lawyer, sold the Warren Commission on the single-bullet theory of the JFK assassination. That ought to speak volumes about his intellectual honesty. But in politics, you take it where you can get it. President Barack Obama, a relatively inexperienced but precocious politician, quickly welcomed Specter to the Democratic Party.

Perhaps most significant is what this signals for the modern conservative movement. Not that Specter was ever a conservative -- his voting record has been consistently independent and centrist.

But it wasn't that long ago (1995) that Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, whose voting record was similar to Specter's, switched from Democrat to Republican.

In a nutshell, the conservative movement is now officially all but dead. And, if the Republican Party doesn't change soon, it may again become a minority party for 40 years.

Specter cited the movement of the GOP to the far right, and the number of Pennsylvanians who are registering as Democrats. Republicans, moving to the far right? Ya think? Specter was first elected in 1980 as part of the "Reagan Revolution," so it's hard to see how he could have missed that over the years.

What has changed is that a lot of Americans, especially younger ones, now see the very real and calamitous consequences of what passed for "conservative" governance for most of the past 28 years.

There's a revived awareness that the public interest matters more than self-interest, and that is a great antidote to the poisonous ideas that have often been at the core of modern conservatism. There is some diversity among Republicans -- their ranks range from Ayn Rand atheists to the Religious Right. But the nexus that held them together for 28 years was the idea that an economy can prosper through the unintended consequences of everybody rapaciously pursuing their own pot of gold.

Who needs planning? Who needs regulation? Who needs to pay taxes, for that matter?

We do. America does. And our rich friends in the gated communities are going to have to ante up as well. The old "tax and spend" and "class warfare" mantras of conservatives have become cliches that twentysomething Americans grew up hearing but don't buy anymore.

Specter, again, is no conservative. But his switch signals that centrists no longer believe that they have a place in the Republican Party. Our economy's future looks less like the Adam Smith model and more like that of John Maynard Keynes.

America has seen two distinct philosophies battling for hearts and minds for over a century. The Specter switch is, I think, one more big indicator of which side is ultimately going to win.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


SJ said...

@Manifesto Joe,
Exactly. When Lincoln Chaffee and Chuck Hagel were starting to be seen as herectical elements within their own party and not Republicans speaking their conscience, the end was beginning. Reagan-era "Let the chips fall where they may" politics are being seen for what the are: ineffectual, corrupt, short-sighted.


Jack Jodell said...

Great and accurate analyzation, Manifesto Joe. The conservative Republicans have dug themselves a hole so deep I don't see any way they'll ever climb out by holding onto their current model. In answer to Reagan's quote about government not being the solution but rather the problem, I counter with "Republican misgoverning is the problem, and good government is the solution." Today's reactionary GOP needs to, and will, die.

Anonymous said...

We Republicans believe in Capitalism, less taxes, less gov't, and hard-working Christian values (the same values that built this great nation). These values will NEVER die.
The Democrat Party seems to be enjoying a brief period of glory. But it won't last, mark my words. America is a Conservative nation and once the people understand what a sham Obama is, they will gladly vote for a GOP candidate in 2012.
Obama is a liar and in that, he is following in the great tradition of Democrat Party liars, such as Bill Clinton (who, let's not forget, lied UNDER OATH).

Jack Jodell said...

Sorry, pal, but there is no such thing as the "Democrat Party." It's the DEMOCRATIC Party, so quit referring to it like some kind of uneducated backwoods 4 year old would. Unlike the current Republicans, it believes in a decent quality of life for ALL citizens, not just the wealthy and corporate America. You Republicans, who can't even pronounce your opposition party's name correctly, say you believe in capitalism, but THAT'S a sham. You only believe in capitalism when it means huge profit for the rich. You're perfectly happy to accept unneeded subsidies for hugely profitable corporations, but you don't want a penny of aid to go to the poor. What you really believe in is a plutocracy, where business can do whatever it wants whenever it wants unopposed, and the wealthy control not only government and business, but the justice system, media, and culture as well. Your belief in laissez-faire capitalism has tremendously and unjustifiably widened the gap between the rich and poor, has sent millions of good-paying American jobs overseas to cheap slave labor markets (replacing them with shit-paying jobs here), and frozen wages for everybody else. It has also given pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and the health "care" industry in general a green light to raise prices at will and royally screw working people and the poor. Meanwhile, the filthy rich continue getting richer and you Republicans want to give them even bigger tax breaks than the huge ones they've already gotten while they and their corporations shift the burden of taxation onto the middle and working classes! That, pal, is hardly a record to stand on or be proud of, and will guarantee you will not regain national power until you crawl out of the far, far right ditch your party is in that no one else wants to be in with you. And as far as outright liars go, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld are individually far bigger liars than even LBJ and Nixon were combined! That's why today's GOP will most definitely die. The rest of the country no longer shares your false, misguided "values". We've had our fill of them. Period.