No Joe

The Bipartisan Rules blog, relying — not surprisingly on this point — on support from David Frum, writes as follows:

The Republican Party should be a political vehicle, not an ideological movement, but its opinion makers have it completely backward.

Its policies have become secondary to this ideal that we must keep alive the flame of Reagan, years after the Gipper has passed on, and that any elected official with an (R) behind his name who dares step out of line has committed heresy. There is no room for ideological deviation.

Sen. Specter is a guy who has voted with the Republican Party a little less than half the time over his career. To be sure, he is no conservative. But he is a moderate, and he counted himself a member of the senatorial Republican caucus.

Republicans in 2009 have adopted the same attitude that Democrats took in 2006 when Joe Lieberman was up for re-election. . . .

While Lieberman still caucuses with the Democrats, the Democrats effectively lost a seat, burned virtually all goodwill with one of the most senior and influential members of the Senate, and whatever control over Lieberman they might have had is now lost. It was a collective huge error in judgment.

Furthermore, the Lieberman/Lamont fiasco was an enormous black eye for the party, as it branded them a party whose policies were dictated by the extremists on the far left.

But that’s exactly the path the Republican Party was on with respect to Arlen Specter.

I understand this point. And I have written repeatedly about what I regard as an unhappy tendency toward, not ideological extremism — which I am not so inclined to call, how you say?, a vice — but a very regrettable coarsening of the tone of discussion and activism. It’s not pretty, and there are plenty of reasons to worry about it.

But I think these thoughts about Specter are wrong, wrong, wrong. Here’s the key wrong paragraph:

Sen. Specter is a guy who has voted with the Republican Party a little less than half the time over his career. To be sure, he is no conservative. But he is a moderate, and he counted himself a member of the senatorial Republican caucus.

Voting Republican “less than half the time” is not enough. This is not a matter of ideological purity: He has been a net loss for the GOP measured by votes alone.

And we do not measure by votes alone. Specter siphoned off Republican fundraising to a career spent voting with the Democrats “a little more than” half the time. He retarded the development of a bona fide conservative Republican base and cadre of potential leaders in Pennsylvania. And by virtue of “count[ing] himself a member of the senatorial Republican caucus” he was a source of embarrassment while voting as a member of the Democratic caucus, how could it be argued that he benefitted the former?

The comparison to Lieberman is not apt, because Lieberman was and is, in fact, a completely dependable knee-jerk liberal except as to one issue: His support of the Iraq war. Indeed the left-wing campaign to punish him for departing from this orthodoxy was self-destructive, but utterly unavoidable, for liberals do not accept divergence from the only true moral position on issues, as we know.

In contrast, Specter is not only more likely to vote with Democrats than Republicans, he has, as demonstrated above, had an overall negative impact on the Republican future in Pennsylvania. In short, he has harmed the Republican Party as “a political vehicle.”

And here is the kicker.

Joe Lieberman risked his reelection by standing on principle — for he would have ridden to easy victory had he merely followed the prevailing political winds and, like all the other Democrats in Congress who voted for the war, now “confessed” his foolish past ways, like a good Stalinist should, and joined the inquisition. Read more…

Ron Coleman, who knows narcissism when he sees it, blogs in true bipartisan fashion at Likelihood of Success and his intellectual property blog, LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION.

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