LIFE'S LITTLE PLEASURES. Now is a good to remind ourselves that things can go horribly wrong. I've seen good times, I've seen bad, and the latter tend to be more prevalent and more lasting. So I suggest we savor every drop of the Arlen Specter thing. It's true, as The Poor Man and Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, that Specter isn't much of a get, and will likely take a 2010 nomination that should go to a more progressive candidate.
Well, Obama isn't much of a progressive, either. I don't care. In these few years I have left, I just want to capture some enjoyable memories of wingnut anguish that may bring some comfort to my charity hospital bed.
Recall, if you will, the days when conservatives told anyone who would listen that Democratic liberals were only hurting themselves by giving the wetter members of their coalition a hard time.
"They have now morphed into Taliban Democrats," said Cal Thomas in 2006, "because they are willing to 'kill' one of their own, if he does not conform to the narrow and rigid agenda of the party's kook fringe... Taliban Democrats have effectively issued a political 'fatwah' that warns all Democrats not to deviate from their narrow line, or else face the end of their careers through a political jihad." James Pinkerton talked about liberals' long heritage of finding "heretics" and "infidels," and of resorting to "ideological cleansing."
Thus also sprach many putative liberals, like our old warblogger friend Armed Liberal, who complained in 2004 that an authentic liberal like Jeff Jarvis (!) "gets piled on for being 'inadequately liberal'. And that's a pisser. First, and foremost, it once again wraps up the smug 'I know better than you' that the Democratic Party has become associated with -- and which lots of people, including me, find amazingly offensive." He predicted that the Taliban Democrats "are going to lose a lot of political power."
Those seem like distant times, but Joel Kotkin was talking about the impending "Democratic Party civil war" last month. The Taliban Democrats theme was not a finding based on observation, but one of the magic charms conservatives and bullshit liberals rubbed in their pockets to remind themselves that their opposition was hopelessly divided.
Conservatives have hated Specter forever, but in victory contented themselves with loud grumbling. This year, in their defeat and disarray, they plumped a challenge by Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, who decried Specter's "betrayal" on the stimulus bill. Suddenly, far fewer of them were talking about "ideological cleansing" as a bad thing.
"Specter must be sent out to pasture," cried Conservative Wahoo. "We can finally be rid of the two-faced, backstabbing, ear-marking political opportunist who shamelessly clings to power," said Mike Netherland. "Specter has been a cancer that has continuously sold out the Republican Party countless times," said the ever-classy B.S. Report.
When the NRSC chairman John Coryn spoke up for Specter, the American Spectator warned, "the Republican base has gotten smaller and the remaining conservatives may have had their fill of Specter." Their commenters rose to prove it: "GOP still backing Specter -- sounds about right. Things humming along without interruption while Hussein Obama is busting America," "This is the kind of thinking that got the GOP thrown out in '06," etc.
The Bear Creek Ledger roared, "No wonder no Republican wants to donate to the NRSC! What a bunch of tools." My favorite bit of outrage came from Matt Lewis, who said at TownHall that Coryn's pronouncement "clearly demonstrates the NRSC is not in the business of electing conservatives, but rather, Republicans."
In this Jacobin environment, Specter did what he had to do. For me, the great legacy of this moment comes not from the shock of the Republican operatives who were caught flat-footed, but from the joy of the wingnut dead-enders who think this is great news for their movement ("Only by ridding itself of the lowly likes of Specter will Republicans reemerge as the party that can rebuild the country by upholding the principles that made it great"). Like I said, Specter's not my favorite, but I'll always be grateful to him for what he accomplished today.