For decades lefties like me were told by our liberal friends that we should “work inside” the Democratic party rather than start third parties that can’t win but only “spoil” Dem chances for electoral success.
The part they always forgot to mention is that the Dems, faithful servants of business as usual, maintain a highly effective internal system for weeding out lefties, reformers and other such troublemakers seeking to stir their stasis. Accordingly, you don’t see the Dems giving anything more than lip service to progressive policies. And you certainly don’t get any budding Herbert Lehmans, Bill Moyers or Ralph Naders on Dem tickets. No, the Dems are far more comfortable with tired old tories like Arlen Specter, who, facing ouster by the yahoos who took over the Reps in Pennsylvania, jumped the fading GOP and joined the flourishing Dems
While the numerically determinist among the Dems cheered because they had presumably gained a veto-proof 60 vote Senate, Specter himself warned his new party not to count on it. He said he’d be his own man as he was with the Reps, where he artfully combined black-hearted reaction with yellow-bellied moderation.
At his press conference that night, Obama said the same thing. He didn’t expect a rubber stamp congress, he offered, because independent thinkers like Specter must be free to go their own way. The Reps, along with thousands of other parliamentarians from Ottawa to Oslo must have fallen off their well-polished seats.
The whole idea of party politics, as invented and refined by the Brits four hundred years ago, was to whip members into line to get the party’s program passed. This is exactly how the Reps, under the ruthless Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, ran congress in the Bush years.
Obama said that because the Dems have no actual need for such discipline. That’s because they don’t really have a program to pass. As I never get tired of noting, the Reps stand for business and the Dems for as usual.
Take a close gander and you’ll see that Obama’s domestic initiatives, with the exception of his gift to Wall Street that keeps on giving, are, in the words of the immortal Billy Dannreuther in Beat the Devil, more pomp than circumstance. And even these proposed “changes,” as we are constantly reminded, are subject to Obama’s exquisitely pragmatic sensibilities (Google pragmatism and Obama and you’ll get a half million results).
So the sere Specter should fit in just fine with the Dems. And if Obama ever needs a shamelessly implausible alibi, excuse or cover story, recall that Specter authored the preposturous “magic bullet” theory in the JFK killing.