This past week was a great one for cynics, particularly those who disdain politics and regard politicians as a lower order of humanity than petty thieves, pickpockets, grave robbers, and vandals. The turncoat defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic Caucus in the U.S. Senate is a display of crass opportunism and total lack of principle that will stand as an example through the years for those who use the term “politician” as a term of disgust and derision.
There are few true conservatives who would trust the Republican party with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, such as Specter has almost surely given the Democrats. Allowed to run amok for at least two years, the latter are plenty clever enough to do the Republic lasting damage.
There is a huge caution in this example for citizens and voters of every stripe. Specter has betrayed the Pennsylvanians who voted for him without giving a thought to anything other than his own political survival. (He is running well behind a conservative primary challenger.) His disregard for the concerns and interests of his constituents is massive, glacial; his utter lack of concern for the appearance he makes or what they are to think of him is astonishing.
His tenure in Washington D.C. and the U.S. Senate is not just more important to him than his duty to the citizens and voters, it is the only thing of importance to him. Any difference in political philosophy between the left and the right, or the interests of one set of constituents vs. another is thin air to Specter and those like him. The only thing of real importance is reelection; the overall or long-term good of the U.S.A. and its citizens is a null category.
And there are many more just like him. They get elected to serve the voters back home, go to the Capitol, and quickly get caught up in a culture of privilege and power which serves only itself, politicians and government in general. A Ted Kennedy will inevitably have more of interest and concern in common with a John McCain, and vice versa, than they ever will with anyone back home, and how many politicians come to mind who rise above that sorry example? These people are inevitably tightening their grip on all power and wealth in this country, not to mention our traditional freedoms.
Of course, Specter is just a scabby chicken coming home to roost for Republicans who threw out principle four years ago, particularly George Bush and Karl Rove, when they rushed into the fray with money and support in Pennsylvania and saved his scrawny neck from defeat by a principled conservative, Rick Santorum. The calculation was that Specter had a tiny advantage over Santorum in the general election. I wonder how Bush will treat that episode when he writes his memoirs.