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Radical Right Drives Specter Out Of The Republican Party from Think Progress

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/04/28/radical-right-drives-out-specter/

specterprotesters.gifToday, Sen. Arlen Specter announced that he is switching parties to become a Democrat. In a statement released to the press, Specter explained that the GOP has left moderates behind and "has moved far to the right." (Indeed, today's Progress Report discusses how radical elements of the conservative movement are in the ascendancy within the Republican Party.)

Republican leaders have been swift in their condemnation of Specter's move, dismissing it as an act of "political survival." But Specter's departure from the Republican Party was motivated more by the actions of radical leaders from within the right-wing establishment than by party registration numbers in Pennsylvania. RNC Chairman Michael Steele had called for punishing Specter for straying from strict party discipline, and a chorus of hard-right conservatives have been viciously trashing the Senator for months:

-- RUSH LIMBAUGH: "Snowe, Collins, Specter [...] you're going to have a number of RINO Republicans. I said earlier today it's great to flush them out, get them out of there. Let it be known that they are not Republicans." [CNN, 2/13/09]

-- At an anti-Obama "tea party" protest in Scanton, the "loudest boos" were "reserved for Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, while the event emcee discussed the Pennsylvania senator's support for the federal stimulus." [Scranton Times, 4/15/09]

-- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) told a conservative blogger Specter "cut our knees from under us." He added that conservatives in the Senate need to aggressively "go after" Specter and other GOP moderates Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). [The Hill, 2/27/09]

-- Fox News' Dick Morris: "Specter, Collins and Snowe are Benedict Arnolds." [Townhall, 2/11/09]

-- Radio show host Melanie Morgan, along with writers from the right-wing website FreeRepublic.com, "stormed" Specter's office and "yelled" at his staff in order to "embarrass" the Senator over his "pro-stimulus vote." [Washington Times, 2/11/09]

Specter's opponent in the primary -- free market-fundamentalist Pat Toomey -- announced his candidacy on the day of the anti-Obama, anti-tax tea party protests. Despite the the fact that tea parties have been distinguished by calls for violence, bigotry, and reflexive attacks on Obama, Toomey's harnessing of the movement came at a time when Republican leaders like Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) embraced the protests as the future of the party.

Will conservatives continue to march down the path of radicalism, obstruction, and reflexive opposition to the President, or will the movement change course and reject the rightwing agenda to prevent more defections of GOP moderates?


Pat Toomey comments at Redstate.com

The news that Arlen Specter has become a Democrat only makes official what has been true for many years. Senator Specter began his career as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party out of electoral convenience, and is now switching back for the same reason. Throughout that time, his liberal voting record always indicated that he was more at home with the Democrats.

In recent weeks, Specter has made numerous statements about how important it is to deny Democrats the 60th seat in the US Senate, and how he categorically intended to remain a Republican to prevent one-party dominance in Washington. What Pennsylvanians have to ask themselves now is whether Specter is in fact devoted to any principle other than his own reelection.

For our campaign, not much changes. Instead of having Arlen Specter as an opponent in the Republican primary, we will face him in the general election, that is, assuming Pennsylvania Democrats decide they can trust him enough to give him their nomination. Whichever the case, our message remains the same. America is at a crossroads. In one direction lies massive Washington spending increases and more debt for our children, one after another taxpayer bailout of failed corporations, and the higher taxes that are inevitably required to pay for this unprecedented lurch to the left. In the other direction lies the traditional American principles of free enterprise, limited government, and personal responsibility. Those are the principles that our campaign will fight for, and those are the principles I will take with me, and keep with me, in the U.S. Senate. Please join our team at www.ToomeyforSenate.com.