Compare Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter. Each abandoned his party in order to assure or improve his chance of winning re-election. Pragmatic? Egomaniacal? Fighting the neverending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way?
Whom do you love?
Lieberman, 67, lifted high by the Democratic party (vice presidential candidate in 2000, winner of the national popular vote with Al Gore), abandoned his party when he lost the 2006 Connecticut primary to challenger Ned Lamont, but won the election when Republicans ditched their own candidate to vote overwhelmingly for Independent Lieberman. He followed this two years later by speaking at the 2008 Republican Convention in support of John McCain. He is officially listed in Senate rolls as an “Independent Democrat” (ID-CT) and is ostensibly part of the Democratic caucus, but is no longer invited to leadership or policy-making meetings. Most had considered Lieberman one of the more “moderate” Democrats in the Senate.
Specter, 79, reading the pollsters’ tea leaves last month, concluded that crossing the aisle too many times had destroyed his chance to win re-election as Pennsylvania’s Republican senator in 2010. He is now a Democrat. Most had considered Specter one of the more “moderate” Republicans in the Senate.
Do you admire one for standing up for what he believes in, while abhorring the self-serving tactics of the other? If so, you are rooting for your team irrespective of behavior. “My party, right or wrong” is no slogan to be proud of.
I have great antipathy for the two-party system. The stability it engenders (compare our “civilized” changing of the guard to Italy’s or Israel’s multi-party chaos) is actually a demonstration of do-little calcification more than it is a platform for improvement. This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue; it is evidence of inertia and stagnation of ideas on both sides. In a previous post, I cited the strict party-line Congressional questioning into baseball pitcher Roger Clemens’ use of steroids (clearly an issue that should be non-partisan) as evidence of how the political parties control the minds of our legislators even when independent thinking would not undermine party platforms. [Note that my prediction in that post was wrong: Pres. Bush did not pardon Clemens as I thought he would.]
Although I have many deep (check that…HUGE) disagreements with the politics of both Lieberman and Specter, I wish they truly were independent and were joined by a dozen more Senators whose independence would be testament to creative and critical thinking.