Sen. Olympia Snowe complains in the New York Times about the loss of Arlen Specter from the Republican ranks. She blames this development on the Republican party.
Snowe says that “being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of ‘Survivor’ — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe.” She adds that, in a better world, Republicans would “emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only ‘litmus test’ of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.”
As I observed last night, though, Specter, having voted for the massive stimulus bill, did not pass this libmus test, and he admits that it was this vote that would have precluded him from winning the Republican primary. (Snowe failed the same test, as Veronique de Rugy notes.)
Snowe should also reflect on what happened to her colleague Joe Lieberman. Unlike Specter and Snowe, Lieberman is no moderate; he is a down-the-line liberal except on one set of issues. Yet in 2006, his party must have made him feel like a cast member of “Survivor,” as he was confronted with “multiple challenges” that surely gave him “the distinct feeling that he was no longer welcome in the tribe.”
There is an important difference between the Democratic challenge to Lieberman in 2006 and the Republican challenges to Specter in 2004 and 2010 (note that Snowe’s moderate colleague Susan Collins was renominated with no primary opposition in 2008). Lieberman was challenged in a state where his defeat would not have meant a Republican taking his seat. By contrast, Pennsylvania could easily elect a Democrat.
So the Dems may be shrewder than the Republicans, but not necessarily less “tribal” at heart.