Republican senator switches party
US Republican Senator Arlen Specter is to switch sides and become a Democrat.
The move would give the Democrats 59 votes in the US Senate, just one short of the 60 needed to overturn Republican attempts to block legislation.
The Democrats are expected to pick up their 60th vote when the result of the still-disputed Minnesota Senate race is decided by the courts.
Mr Specter, a moderate, said that since he joined the Republicans in 1980 the party had "moved far to the right".
"I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," he said in a statement announcing the switch.
He added: "My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans."
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is reported to have called Mr Specter after he was informed of the switch to tell him that he was "thrilled" to have him in his party.
Richard Lister, BBC News, Washington This is a big prize for President Obama on the eve of his 100th day in office.
There is an element of political survival in Senator Specter's decision. He acknowledged that he could not win re-election in
Nevertheless, President Obama has given him his full support, and told him in a phone call the Democrats were delighted to have him. The Republican leadership has condemned Senator Specter's decision and vowed to defeat him when he stands for re-election.
Mr Specter, 79, had held secret talks with Mr Obama, along with other senior Democrats including Vice-President Joe Biden, ahead of his decision to leave the Republican Party, according to officials.
The BBC's Richard Lister in
The move should make it easier for Mr Obama to pursue his ambitious agenda, our correspondent adds.
Mr Specter was facing a tough challenge from conservative Pat Toomey in a primary election to decide who would run as the Republican candidate for Mr Specter's Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2010.
Polls suggested that Mr Specter's decision to vote for the president's economic stimulus package earlier this year had been unpopular with Republican activists in the state.
"I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing," Mr Specter said.
Since then, he added, "it has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable".
“ If Arlen Specter could have won as a Republican he would have stayed a Republican ”
Mr Specter may have to fight off a primary challenge from a Democrat if he wants to be the party's Senate candidate in 2010, although he will have the support of senior party officials.
If he does win the Democratic nomination, he is likely to face off against Mr Toomey for the seat.
Including Mr Specter, there will now be 57 Democrats in the Senate. Two independents also vote with the party.
The result of the 2008 Minnesota Senate race is still being fought over in the courts.
State officials and a judge's panel have both awarded victory to Democrat Al Franken, but Republican Norm Coleman has appealed against the decisions to the state's Supreme Court.
A final verdict from the court is due in June.
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The slow death of the Republican Party outside of its base in
Nothing speaks to this more forcefully than in Nelson's old stomping ground, the Northeast. At one time "Country Club" Republicans dominated the landscape. These were people of a specific political and economic class. It was a very WASPy, blueblood grouping with somewhat progressive leanings. These people followed a personal kind of Conservatism. It was a more honest and consistent type of Conservatism than what Regan offered. These Republicans were deeply invested in the status quo. They were not interested in revolution of any kind. They were open to reason and incremental change but not to radical shifts.
These blue bloods where the leadership of the Republican Party from the collapse of Herbert Hoover to the rise of Barry Goldwater. They were the survivors of the Tsunami that was FDR's New Deal. Eisenhower was the ne plus ultra of the Eastern Establishment.. Eisenhower entire eight year run can be seen as an ultimately vain attempt to preserve the New Deal as found. Ultimately the pressures of rapid economic growth, demographic shift, the Civil Rights movement and social/artistic change overwhelmed Ike. The need to get the country moving again after the stasis of Ike lead to election of JFK and uprising of the 1960's.
Slowly but surely
From Nixon forward the Republican Party slowly took over and took on the values of
During the ascendancy of the Regan revolution this was no big deal. The steady push away from classical conservatism to reaction and revolution was actually lauded. It only got worse with the collapse of the
The “victory” over “godless communism” lead to a toxic triumphalism that still poisons the political conversation today. The toxin has infused itself and concentrated itself especially into Republican Party. As this particular toxin is a neurotoxin the organ most affected is the brain. A dangerous rigidity of thought has affected the Republican Party. It is seen in the free market absolutism of the Parties economic proposals. It is seen in the Elephants insistence on further tax cuts and further deregulation. It is seen in the continued cultural regressivism of the party; in its opposition to abortion and gay marriage. It is seen in its almost gleeful defense of authoritarian ideas and methods. The support of torture and the shredding of civil rights are all of a piece. They are symptoms of the authoritarian will to power that afflicts the Republican Party. It is seen in the party’s self-destructive absorption in immigrant bashing. It is seen in the party’s clinging to discredited Neo-Con notions of empire.
In almost every instance it is that insistence on rigidity, on adhering to the myth of Regan and his principled stand on smaller government, less taxes, deregulation, culture of life and most importantly “freedom” that is slowly killing the Republicans. It is the base’s insistence on purity that is relegating the party to irrelevance. The base clings to the myth of Regan because it can not deal with the reality of George W. Bush. It was Bush Jr. that stayed faithful to the ideology of cutting taxes. It was Bush Jr. refused to negotiate with
Like many Republican moderates elsewhere, Spector finally decided that he would take the highway when the base stated “our way or the highway” He is no fool he has the same data as Nate Silver does showing the steady rise of Democratic registrants in the Keystone State. But mostly he probably tired of having to deal with the willfully ignorant troglodytes that now run the party of