Allow Me to Make A Pre-Emptive Strike

The talk of the nation yesterday was, of course, Arlen Specter’s switch from Republican to Democrat in the U.S. Senate, effectively delivering a filibuster-proof majority to the Demcorats upon the seating of Al Franken.  Specter’s move was precipitated by a poll showing Specter trailing Club for Feudalism Growth candidate Pat Toomey by over 20 points.  

Most of the commentary since has correctly focused since on the rightward shift of the Republican Party as a whole, and the regressive Neanderthal nature of its base, which drags the party backward and away from the mainstream even as the progressive base pulls the Democratic Party forward, mostly into positions supported by a majority of the electorate.

But there’s a danger in interpreting the Specter decision as simply a function of extremists vs. moderates, playing into a Broderite concern for a loss of “bipartisanship”.  Let us ignore for a moment the argument that “moderate” should be defined on a national rather than individual Party scale, as those supporting the majority of American opinion: national healthcare, an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq, etc.  That would be too easy.  

No, the problem is that I can already hear the mewling of Democratic consultants in California, tying any moves toward accountability by progressives, including but not limited to primaries against the likes of Jane Harman or Dianne Feinstein, to the shortsighted actions of Pat Toomey and his merry band of fools.

There’s a big difference–so, in the spirit of Jane Harman, allow me to make a pre-emptive strike in an effort to nip any such whining in the bud.  The difference isn’t whether to take action against squishes and “moderates” in one’s party, but where to do so.

The fact is that Pennsylvania’s Republicans are a bunch of morans.  There’s a simple decision function that decides whether to primary a so-called “moderate” within one’s own party.  It goes something like this:

If your “moderate” is in hostile territory, defend them.  If your “moderate” is in friendly territory, primary them and get a “purer” candidate.

That’s a pretty simple equation.  In Pennsylvania, where Democrats hold a voter registration edge of over 1 million votes and where Obama racked up a huge margin of victory, a Republican challenge to their own incumbent is political suicide.  Whether Specter had switched or fallen in the Primary is irrelevant: derailing him is the functional equivalent of handing the Senate seat over to the Democratic Party.  In fact, given Pat Toomey inevitable spanking at the polls in 2010, Specter’s switch is about as good an outcome as Republicans could possibly hope for.

On the other hand, had Arlen Specter been from, say, Oklahoma, it would be a very different picture.  In that case, the republican Party would be smart to punish Specter for his many betrayals of their fundamentalist “principles”.  Of course, the GOP’s problem is that they’ve pretty much already purged every moderate in solidly conservative districts–and many like Specter and Chafee in liberal areas.

Ultimately, what this shows is the disparity not only in moral clarity but more importantly in political acumen between the progressive and the conservative base:  the progressive base isn’t stupid enough to primary, say, Ben Nelson in Nebraska or Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.  We know that we’ll take what we can get there.

But there’s no reason we should have to put up with the shenanigans of Dianne Feinstein and Jane Harman here in deep blue California and Venice Beach.  No reason at all.

And any Broderite who even starts to equate moves in California (or elsewhere in blue areas across the nation) to hold our squishes accountable, to the efforts of the Club for Growth in Pennsylvania, will only display a profound lack of political acumen.  But then, that’s entirely expected.  Hence the pre-emptive strike.

7 thoughts on “Allow Me to Make A Pre-Emptive Strike”

  1. that when Democrats have been primarying from the left, it’s been in seats that were in very liberal territory, like Connecticut.

  2. to take a more local example: if up here in the 3rd AD we somehow managed to elect a conservadem who would vote with the Democrats 50 or 60% of the time, we’d be thrilled.  But putting up with a squishy “moderate” Dem in a safe Dem district is just stupid.  And Feinstein needs to go, in my book.

  3. Registration stats(heads up, PDF)  are really lopsided; there’s absolutely no fear that a Republican could win here:

    Democrats: 155K registered (45.5% of total registrations)

    Repubcans:  96K registered (28.2% of total registrations)

    Obama won(PDF) the district by 64% to 33%.

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