It's not like you haven't heard this, unless you live under a rock, but Arlen Specter switched political parties yesterday and thus will be running as a Democrat in the 2010 senate race. The reason this is such a big deal is that the Democrats, who already have a majority in the Senate, now have one more. One more, you say. So what? And why did he do that anyway?
Arlen Spector has been the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania for almost 30 years. He, for the most part, has been a good Senator for the state and the nation. But, he's something of a loose cannon, our Arlen. He commits atrocities the Republicans condemn outright--he votes his conscience. He did that when he and the two senators from Maine (Susan Collins and the divinely-named Olympia Snowe) voted for the stimulus package back in February. The die-hard Republicans were frothing-mad.
Arlen didn't win points from the ultra-conservative side of the party for this move, and mostly the only people left in the Republican party are ultra-conservatives. Lots of moderate Republicans switched parties during the last election and that just left the dregs. So, who will vote for Arlen come the next primary election? In Pennsylvania, you can only vote for the candidate in your declared party, and another conservative Republican, Pat Toomey, has come forward to run against Arlen. Pat Toomey probably can't win the general election (because Pennsylvania is too moderate to allow that), but he would happily act as spoiler to Arlen's chances of winning.
So Arlen decided to take matters into his own hands. With a wave of the magic wand, presto, chango, he declared himself a Democrat and Pat Toomey can go pound sand. Arlen will still vote his conscience and that won't necessarily guarantee the Democrats his vote on every issue. But, in the long run, wouldn't you really have a true maverick than another yes-man in the Senate?
I say, go for it, Arlen.
He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day