A Real Pennsylvanian Maverick

Senator Arlen Specter’s switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party has been hailed as a victory for the Democrats. I’m inclined to agree but with a caveat.

Senator Specter has always been categorized as a moderate Republican though my Republican friends called him a RINO – Republican-In-Name-Only. He was brought in to the Republican fold as part of Ronald Reagan’s “big tent”, which purported to welcome a range of political philosophies. Specter broke with traditional Republican orthodoxy in supporting embryonic stem cell research and a woman’s right to choose (to have an abortion). He recently voted for the $787 billion stimulus plan, to the chagrin of the party faithful.

Arlen Specter

However, Specter isn’t really the RINO he’s been made out to be. Both NARAL and NRLC rated him lowly, which make it a wash. He’s voted against partial birth and late-term abortion. His record on gay rights is also mixed. He opposes gay marriage but has changed his mind on adding sexual orientation to hate crimes laws (most recently voting against) and has generally supposed anti-discrimination laws. And he’s solidly anti-gun control. Here’s the sourcing.

The over-arching point – be careful what you wish for. Specter is his own man and I fully take him at his word that he won’t be an automatic 60th vote. Specter was a moderate Republican. Now he’ll likely be a conservative Democrat.

Photo Credit: Jahi Chikwendiu (Washington Post)

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