Guest Blogged by Ernest A. Canning
The New York Times just reported:
Specter's announcement reflects an estrangement from the increasingly authoritarian, hard-right ideologues who now control the shattered remnants of the Republican Party. In California, the Republican Party passed a resolution to deny funding to six Republican lawmakers who joined with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats, passing a budget to prevent this state from falling into an economic abyss. In the U.S. House of Representatives, every Republican acted as one to say “no” to a vital stimulus, offering only the very measures that led to the current economic meltdown—tax cuts for the wealthy. Three Republican Senators, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, had no sooner broke ranks in voting for a compromise version of the stimulus package before they found themselves targeted by conservative groups, with Specter facing a primary challenge from hard-right Republican Pat Toomey.
It is a testament to how far the remnants of the Republican Party have moved to the right that RNC Chairman Michael Steele suggests Specter would have been defeated by Toomey because of the former moderate Republican's "left-wing voting record."
As we pointed out previously, upon the anticipated denial of former Senator Norm Coleman's appeal by the MN Supreme Court, Senator-elect "Franken...would be in a solid position --- legally and politically --- to then lobby the Senate hard and directly for an immediate seating, even if Coleman chooses to continue his fool's errand with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court." Franken would become the 60th member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, ending the ability of the 'Party of No' to block the Democratic agenda --- unless either Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe beat him to it.
UPDATE 4/29, 5:55pm PT: In an op-ed appearing in today's New York Times Senator Snowe observed that "being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of 'Survivor' --- you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe." Whether that means that she would be prepared to follow Specter off the reservation remains to be seen.