Arlen’s Plight

I’ve always liked Arlen Specter. He can articulate a nuanced position, and sticks to his personal principles and beliefs above partisan politics. But yesterday, in explaining why he was jumping to the Democratic party, he showed himself to be consumed with self-preservation. He changed parties so he wouldn’t be voted out of office. He made no bones about it. It was about pride, ego, legacy. Very dissappointing. 

However, Specter’s decision points out a huge problem in the Republican party. Moderates are no longer welcome. In fact, if you listen to the right-wing media, there are no Republican moderates, only conservatives and liberals. If you hold moderate views, you’re not a true Republican. You’re a liberal, a Republican in name only. 

I’ve heard various Republican leaders talk about increasing the size of the tent, but they seem to get shouted down. Instead, the tent is getting smaller, while the Democratic tent continually increases in size. Remember how Rush Limbaugh lambasted John McCain during the primary? He didn’t consider McCain a proper Republican; his voting credentials were insufficiently ideological.

I’ve been a Republican most of my life, but it’s hard for me to find room in that tent. Likewise for the growing number of what are being called “progressive evangelicals,” people like me whose biblical convictions about the role of government extend far beyond the Big Three of the Religious Right–abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. 

I oppose the death penalty, favor reasonable gun control, care deeply about economic injustice (favoring the rich, screwing the poor and the middle class), believe climate change and energy independence must be dealt with, think that in a modern civilized country, everyone should have access to health care. But Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, our media-age gurus, would tear me apart. Their Republican party has no room for my kind; we’re ideologically impure and cannot be tolerated. We are to be demonized and ridiculed, labeled as traitors. We are not what they consider conservatives.

The Democratic party isn’t attractive to me, with their nutty left-wing. and yet, they are making room for progressive evangelicals. It’s probably the reason Obama was elected.

Interestingly, the senators I admire most are all Republicans–John McCain, Dick Lugar, John Warner, Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham…and Arlen Specter. Most, if not all, of them are political moderates. But if the loudmouth right-wing media continues its stranglehold on the political conversation, excoriating Republicans like me, the day will come when a Lindsey Graham or a John McCain–not just an Arlen Specter–cannot find a home in the Republican Party. And that will be sad.

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