Arlen Spector’s departure from the Republican party is a delicious irony. For the past two decades, conservatives in the party have been told that they need to abandon their principles in order to protect “northeast Republicans” like Arlen Spector, Lowell Weicker, Susan Collins, James Jeffords and Olympia Snow.
In 2004, the national GOP refused to support a true conservative and instead backed Spector. President George Bush and the Republican establishment strongly supported Spector on the grounds that the Republicans could ill afford to lose the seat. They poured thousands of dollars and countless manhours into Spector’s campaign. Five years later, Spector returns the favour by walking away only three weeks after assuring the national electorate that the loss of a single Republican seat would be a disaster for the Republic.
Truth be told, this is deja vu all over again. Republicans have been down this road before. Remember Vermont’s Jim Jeffords? In the November 2000 elections, the party threw its support behind the liberal Jeffords only to watch him walk away six months later and hand control of the Senate to the Democrats.
Both Spector and Jeffords were quite happy to take the party’s money and support, only to be stunned and surprised that the people who had supported them so generously were (gasp!) advancing conservative principles. In both cases, the cynicism of the party in supporting pseudo-Republicans like Jeffords and Spector is matched only by the venality of the distinguished gentlemen themselves.
Perhaps this time, Republicans will realise that sacrificing their principles for the so-called moderates is a losing cause. Propping up the “Rinos” not only compromises the brand; as Jeffords and Spector have demonstrated, it also winds up being a waste of valuable resources.
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