Unexpected Analogy

Senator Arlen Specter has been around a long time. When he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat last week, he referenced his early public service on the Warren Commission. Mobbed by enthusiasts, he said, “I don’t think Lee Harvey Oswald had this big a crowd trailing him.”

That wasn’t a parting shot — Specter aims to stay in office. He only switched after polls showed that challenger Pat Toomey — about whose candidacy I reported the week before — would best him in the Republican primary.

Yup. Arlen Specter wants to stay in office so badly that he’s willing to carry on even after he has been effectively repudiated by his party of over 40 years.

Most of the commentary has been about how small a tent the GOP has become. Most pundits say this is bad for Republicans.

I’m not so sure. If the Democrats fail to usher in Nirvana in the next two years — if things, say, get even worse — a narrowed oppositional GOP could turn the electoral climate around pretty fast.

What most interests me, now, is that Specter’s affiliation-change shows how difficult it is to change currents in government. The old guard can flip, stay in power, and the power brokers switch chairs from friend to foe and vice versa.

If senators served under term limits, this whole issue — and the problem it reveals — would not even come up.

With term limits, a metaphorical Jack Ruby isn’t even necessary.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

11 Comments so far ↓

  1. May
    4
    10:31
    AM
    MHA

    Couldn’t agree more; 2 for the senate, 6 for the house and it would be retroactive. Also, number of years of ‘service’ would be the number of years barred from aiding and/or abetting lobbyists. Unfunded mandates would be abolished. In this computer age, why not send them all back to their home states and let them vote via the internet; turn the capitol building into a museum and move all of the poor people in D.C. into those Georgetown mansions. When congress needs to be in D.C. for a sanctioned federal event, they would stay in public housing developments. Lastly, their salary should equal the median income for the country and they should be in the social security system; how about converting their existing pensions into the SS system.

  2. May
    4
    11:39
    AM
    E Buerger

    If the President can be selectively term-limited, why not Senators as well?

  3. May
    4
    11:52
    AM
    Paul Gross

    Dead on. If the republican party moves to the left; what will separate them from the Democrat party that always moves right during elections. I understand that move is illusory. The republicans have moved to the left over the past 8 years and you can see the results in the last two election cycles. there are plenty of issues that the majority of the county support that will separate us from the Democrats, if our leaders will find their voice. Abortion on demand, school choice, gun control, war on terror, etc. Oh and how about fiscal policy!!!!!!

  4. May
    4
    1:28
    PM
    Bob Giacomazza

    The problem is professional politicians. Get Out Of Our House
    (GOOOH.com) proposes a new non-partisan system for electing member of the House of Representatives who really represent their constituents not special interests. They would serve for one or, at most, two terms only. No lawyers or professional politicians allowed. Check it out.

  5. May
    4
    3:13
    PM
    Ken Howe

    I do not want term limits for the senate. I want a repeal of the 17th amendment which would certainly end the political careering in the senate. If states were represented in Washington like the people are and like foreign countries are the whole thing would be much closer to sane.Very few of the big government issues would survive and that is the way the constitution was written and the way it should be. With states sending senators rather than the people from the states sending the senators, Supreme Court nominees would fit better too.

  6. May
    4
    5:50
    PM
    Werner

    Term limits for legislators are a dangerous thing. Beware the law of unintended consequences. Imagine the damage people like Feinstein could do in their last term knowing they are no longer answerable to the voters. The disaster of the CA budget is a direct result of the legislators’ realizing they have a free hand in steering billions of tax dollars towards their NEXT employer.

    Term limits for the executive branch does make sense, however. In the executive there would be only one person who, with enough longevity, can ossify an entire branch of the gov’t. (Case in point: FDR)

  7. May
    4
    5:55
    PM
    Paul

    We don’t need “term limits” as in statutory limits. WE THE PEOPLE already possess the ability to limit terms. Participate in the primaries and don’t put any incumbants on the ticket.

  8. May
    4
    6:47
    PM
    Rocky

    Term Limits is a wonderful idea and it should have been included in the Constitution but it will never come into common practice today because as one voter from Massachussetts said of Ted Kennedy, “Yeah, he’s a crook, but he’s our crook. That pretty well explains our Federal Government.

  9. May
    5
    2:54
    AM
    Rubicon

    It is true a vindictive or purchased legislator could do serious damage if they knew beforehand they could not come back after two or three terms. That last term could be a real damaging two or six year term. However, it is definitely true the voters have the ultimate term limit capability & if they vote em out, they are gone in sixty days. That 60 day period between elections & the new session limits the damage a politician can do. We also could make legislators who have lost not report after their loss, so they could do not more damage. After all, its just sixty days or so & there are numerous holidays at that time of year anyway, so there’s no really big loss. Also, lets face it, when Congress is not in session, we are all probably safer!!
    Specter’s decision to jump ship was based on personal opportunism. He knew he lost his party when he & two others abandoned their party for their own pork projects, thereby limiting the ability of the Republican party to negotiate a more balanced or bi-partisan stimulus deal w/ Democrats. A deal that would have truly signaled to all Americans that there would be a bi-partisan approach to legislation. An approach that would have enabled Obama to live up to one of his big campaign promises. Once Specter, Snowe, & Collins sold out, Democrats (Pelosi & Reid wanted nothing to do with bi-partisanship since their radical supporters like MoveOn.org & Soros wanted only to shove it to the Republicans), knew they did not have to establish or work in a bi-partisan fashion. That also allowed Obama to portray himself as having tried a bi-partisan approach, but he could speciously insist Republicans rejected it. However, in fact only three Republicans made a deal, & actually only made deals for their own pork projects, while other Republicans were excluded from the deal process. House Republicans & especially the leaders did not know Specter, Snowe, & Collins were reaching backroom deals until they were done & publicly announced. Those three votes were sought by Pelosi & Reid so they could destroy any bi-partisan effort that Republicans tried to establish. Those three votes allowed devious Democrats to portray themselves as reasonable, while they all along had gotten the absolute power they wanted. The Democrats knew they could always work on these three & fracture any Republican effort. And Republicans knew these three had probably ruined any possible future bi-partisan effort on their part. The real facts are, the Republicans actually had some good Stimulus ideas (no, not just tax cuts), that would have proved to make this economic issue move toward solution much faster & would not have been as costly as that which we got. What we got might work. I sure hope so. But, the costs for it will be enormous in inflationary costs, debt payments, & interest payments, which will actually trigger even more recessionary responses from the economy &/or cause this recession to simply continue on for months, if not years. Those gigantic costs will have to be paid for by someone & taxing the rich alone will only pay for a small fraction of the costs. Average folks will pay, big time, directly or indirectly, whether they realize it or not & their standard of living is going to take a “very, very serious” hit. Add the new “Cap & Trade” tax (energy taxes), & Americans now face a bleak future w/ debt & additional costs that which if Republicans had been able to bargain, may not have been necessary.
    Specter effectively killed that possibility for this entire Congressional session, for his own personal pork project & because he wanted to demand all Republicans follow him & adapt “his” personal political positions. Specter actually had visions of becoming the parties leader, spokesperson, & ultimate power broker.
    When Republicans did not follow his positions, he made his own pork deal & then when he realized many were angry w/ how he screwed up their chances at real bi-partisanship & real economic reforms & recovery, he knew he was toast! So to make sure “he” could go on, he decided to jump ship.
    Arlen has shown he could care less able Pennsylvanians. I say, being a Democrat will NOT save him. Too many PA voters, even Democrats in PA, realize Arlen’s vote cost them far too much & was personal, not for them.
    Specters lack of loyalty to his party will also cost him. But he will also pay for his exhibition of personal loyalty to “himself,” & not to… PA voters! That is what they will NOT forgive.
    I say, its time Arlen retired or was retired by the voters as he has spoken out against those who stood by him, far too often & left PA citizens in far too many lurches over issues they cared about. Even PA Democrats have some conservative issues that are important to them. He either did not know that or failed to respect it! I suggest the latter!
    So, goodbye Arlen, its time ye went!

  10. May
    5
    7:26
    AM
    charlie klein

    T.E.A. PARTY OF 9/12/09 should be about demands from the people.

    “We the People” demand immediate term limits of 6 years for both Congress and the Senate. No retirement for any elected official except in the Social Security plan.

    We demand the Fair Tax or a combination 8% sales tax with a flexible flat tax to make sure America is financially strong.

    We demand an audit of all elected officials and their families to find out why our so called Servants get rich.

    Now add your demands and lets take them to Washington.

  11. May
    5
    8:20
    PM
    Henry Bilke

    When Sen. Phil Graham switched parties and became a Republican, he asked for, and got, a special election to ensure that the people of Texas [my home ] wanted him to continue to represent them. He won the election.

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