Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s announcement Tuesday that he is abandoning the Republican Party is the latest sign of a shift in the political wind. GOP spokesmen have been hard at work painting Specter as a political opportunist, switching to the Democratic Party in order to avoid losing the coming Republican Primary to a well funded, more “conservative” opponent, Pat Toomey, head of the Club for Growth. I would call it self defense.
The Club for Growth is, or has, a PAC, which supports Republican candidates for Congress. Here is a quote from the Club for Growth website “The primary tactic of the separate Club for Growth PAC is to provide financial support from Club members to viable pro-growth candidates to Congress, particularly in Republican primaries.” The most important part of that statement is “particularly in Republican primaries.” In fact what the Club for Growth does is to target Republicans in Congress that do not follow their hard line anti tax, anti regulation, leave the driving to us, pro big business posture. The Club for Growth is helping to destroy the Republican Party by driving out moderates.
Often, after a Club for Growth candidate wins a primary, the Democrat wins the general election. Case in point, my own Congressman, Wayne Gilchrest. After seventeen terms in office, as a very popular Congressman, he was beaten in the primary by a Club for Growth supported opponent, State Senator Andy Harris. My new Congressman is Democrat, Frank Kratovil. Andy Harris remains in the Maryland State Senate. It is fairly easy for a well funded candidate to torpedo a popular moderate Republican, when only Republican voters are involved, but much harder to sell a right wing agenda to the general public, which is not in tune with the Club for Growth’s extreme pro business political philosophy.
Removing moderate Republicans from office and replacing them with Democrats causes the Republican Party to become more narrow in it’s focus and obviously smaller. In the next couple of years I predict we will see more self defense defections like Specter’s. Maine’s Olympia Snow could well be next.