Friday, May 01, 2009

What Arlen Specter teaches us.

Arlen Specter, six weeks ago, March 17, on why he would never change parties:

[Democrats] are trying very hard for the 60th vote. Got to give them credit for trying. But the answer is no ... I am staying a Republican because I think I have an important role, a more important role, to play there.

The United States very desperately needs a two-party system. That's the basis of politics in America. I'm afraid we are becoming a one-party system, with Republicans becoming just a regional party with so little representation of the northeast or in the middle Atlantic.

I think as a governmental matter, it is very important to have a check and balance. That's a very important principle in the operation of our government...

I think each of the 41 Republican senators ... is a national asset, because if one was gone, you’d only have 40, the Democrats would have 60, and they would control all of the mechanisms of government ... [The Hill]
Arlen Specter, yesterday, explaining that he switched parties because his pollster told him he was going to lose his upcoming primary...

Referring to himself as a "loyal Democrat," Specter said his brief remarks to the Republican caucus Tuesday "wasn't an easy conversation"...

Specter, who has come under fire from his former allies in the GOP for switching sides in light of dismal poll numbers in his primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), acknowledged that he "does want to serve a sixth term."

"I make no bones about that," he said.... [The Hill]
What does this demonstrate for us? (Besides that thing about politicians and their moving lips.)

Why, once more, the "Universal First Rule of Politics": Every politician really, sincerely, and truly wants what is best for the nation ... as his or her second priority, after doing whatever it takes to get elected or re-elected.

(The logic is irrefutable: How can one do what is best for the nation as an elected leader if one isn't elected?)

The effects of the Universal First Rule are obvious everywhere. The Rule explains, for instance, the perpetual public hand-wringing by politicians over the ever-growing national debt, even as they vote every year to increase the unfunded liabilities of the US at present value to $45 trillion ... $50 trillion ... $53 trillion ... etc.

"Oh Lord, let me become fiscally responsible, but not until after the next election."

It explains a great deal more too, of course.

It's not that politicians are liars or deceivers, or not good persons. I truly believe that most politicians enter public service with a genuine desire to do public good ... and that every politician who publicly expresses angst and concern over the growing national debt really and truly does worry about it, when voting to increase it ... and that Senator Spector really did believe his own words when he said he had a duty on behalf of the national interest not to switch parties.

It's just that when it comes down to making hard choices about getting elected, everyone has priorities, and it is first things first.

If you are the type of politician who would actually willingly lose an election as the price of doing "the right thing", if that is how your priorities work, then the odds are high that you will be eliminated by losing from the population of elected officials sooner or later (likely sooner!). And who does that leave our population of elected officials being comprised of?