And Then There Was One: Specter's Democratic Party Conversion

By Rebecca Dube

Published April 28, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Sen. Arlen Specter, one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, has converted — to the Democratic Party.

The longtime Pennsylvania senator’s surprise move will give Democrats 60 votes in the Senate, assuming that Al Franken wins his ongoing court case in Minnesota and is seated, which would give Senate Democrats the power to stop filibusters.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Specter, who said he plans to run in 2010 as a Democrat, wrote:

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

…I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.

Specter was one of three Republicans who voted for President Obama’s economic recovery package. The president reportedly welcomed Specter to the Democratic Party in a phone call Tuesday morning. In March, the Forward ran a profile of Specter and Eric Cantor, a Virginia congressman who will now be the lone Jewish Republican in Congress. J.J. Goldberg’s story summed up Specter thusly: “Elected to the Senate in 1980, he is a strong defender of abortion rights and church-state separation. He has been independent on Jewish issues, too, and conducted his own personal diplomacy with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and later with the Assads in Syria, impervious to protests from Jewish activists and the Bush White House.”

Republicans were apparently taken by surprise by Specter’s switch, while Democrats are predictably jubilant.

“It helps on everything,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, told The New York Times. “This is a substantial change.”

As he was never a lock-step member of the Republican caucus, Specter cautioned that he would not become an automatic Democratic vote in the Senate, either:

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.






Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.