It seems like the respective political parties have their opinions about Arlen Specter totally backwards.
The Republicans are saying Specter left for his own self-interest in winning the primary in 2010. The Democrats are saying Specter left because the party has shifted too much to the right.
They're both right, of course, but they are both emphasizing the wrong thing: it helps the Republican Party to point out that Specter left because the party is shifting to the right.
In 2004, Pew says that 30 percent Americans self-identified with the GOP, while 33 with the Democrats. In 2008, the Democrats were up to 36 percent, and the Republicans down to 25 percent. So far in 2009, it's 35 and 23: the Republicans have lost 7 percent, while the Democrats have gained two percent.
Of course, it's only a poll. But it is in line what I see every day: far more conservatives who refuse to identify as Republicans, than liberals who refuse to identify as Democrats. And these conservatives refuse to so identify themselves almost entirely because they see the GOP as too far to the left, mostly on issues of spending and federal power (hence, the Tea Parties).
The problem the Republicans have is not that the country is shifting to the left, but that the party itself is perceived to have shifted to the left. The way to regain that is to move back to the right on spending, on personal liberty, on personal responsiblity, on property rights, and so on.
The Democrats don't seem to understand this, because they case they are making for Specter is only helping the Republican Party. Most non-Republicans on the right hear Specter say the Republican Party is too far to the right for him, and it only makes the GOP more appealing.
In 2010, these non-Republicans are going to vote for the candidate who supports the aims of the Tea Parties -- which are essentially Republican platform planks, that the GOP has disregarded in recent years -- and many of these candidates will win, in no small part thanks to Specter and the Democrats who think it hurts the Republicans to push the party to the right in the collective mind of the public.
Cross-posted on <pudge/*>.