Pop quiz! What Democratic Senator did all of the following...
If you answered Arlen Specter, then you would be correct.
- Flipped his vote on the Employee Free Choice Act this year?
- Voted against President Obama's budget?
- Compiled a voting record far worse than Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman?
- Represents a state that President Obama won by more than 10%, and that has a Democratic voting registration advantage of more than 10%?
Unless Arlen Specter's flip to the Democratic Party includes a flip in his votes on meaningful legislation, then his change doesn't help progressives at all. He is joining our party purely for personal political survival. And, as Markos notes, Specter's flip is arguably a net negative, as it hurts our chances of getting a better Democrat in the seat:
On the other hand, he was going to lose his primary and we'd easily pick up the seat against Toomey, giving us a real Democrat in that seat. Doesn't seem like a great deal.
Given all this, it is worrisome that Pennsylvania Democratic Party chair T.J. Rooney said last week that it was his goal to avoid a contested primary for the 2010 Senate campaign:
Take the year off and chill.
That's the message to Pennsylvania Democrats from state Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney, who on Monday said that, if things seem quiet, it's intentional.
"Our goal in 2010 is not to have a primary," Rooney said. "Our goal is to come together as a party and, in the meantime, let the other side beat the tar out of one another."
As I wrote on Friday, contested primaries seems to actually help Democratic chances in close Senate campaigns. Even beyond that, with Arlen Specter flipping parties but not flipping any positions, this statement needs even more serious revisiting. Why should we support someone just because they changed parties, but didn't change any of their positions on key legislation?
The next meeting of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Party is on June 5th-6th in Pittsburgh. As a member of the state committee, I will be attending that meeting. I hope to find many other members who don't want to just vote for Arlen Specter now that he has changed parties, but hasn't changed his positions on apparently anything. If Specter wants to become the Democratic nominee, then he needs to earn it through a contested primary with an actual Democrat.
More as this story develops.