Editor’s Note: Sen. Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic Party has been welcomed by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders as giving them another edge in thwarting Republican obstruction of Obama’s agenda.

But some Democratic activists are concerned that the Democratic national leadership will try to prevent other candidates – favoring key Democratic issues – from challenging Specter, a concern addressed by Stephen Crockett in this guest essay:

Most Pennsylvania Democrats are Democrats for good reasons. It is not because they like the letter “D’ more than the letter “R.” They are Democrats because they support the Democratic approach on a wide array of issues more than they support the Republican policy positions on those issues.

While I welcome Specter to the Democratic Party, I am not convinced that he holds mainstream Democratic values. His record and stated policy positions remain largely Republican.

Specter has made himself a major obstacle to passing the Employee Free Choice Act. He supported almost all the Bush agenda for eight years. Without Specter, we probably would not have Alito and Roberts on the Supreme Court.

Specter has not protected American jobs leaving the country because of unfair "free" trade deals. He has done almost nothing to help get us out of Iraq. He has opposed government provided universal healthcare.

He has opposed the vast majority of Democratic policy positions during his long political career.

Pennsylvania Democrats should have a real Democrat running as the 2010 Democratic Senate candidate. Specter is an honorable man but hardly the best choice to represent mainstream Pennsylvania Democratic values in the 2010 Senate race.

It is highly unlikely that the winner of the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary will lose the general election. Pennsylvania Democrats do not have to compromise their values to take this Senate seat and should not be pressured into making such a bad choice.

Pennsylvania politics has shifted dramatically in a Democratic direction. Fielding a Democratic candidate holding a majority of policy positions that are Republican Right in nature would in my opinion be a betrayal of all those Pennsylvania Democrats yearning for real change.

Specter with his current policy positions cannot deliver the change those voters desire.

Organized labor and the progressive community in Pennsylvania are very strong and growing. Specter offers almost nothing to either group.

Local Democratic activists are not fans of Arlen Specter. The core of the Democratic coalition in Pennsylvania deserves to have a mainstream Democratic Senate candidate who reflects their values and supports their policy positions on at least 80 to 90 percent of the issues. Complete political purity is not required but Specter currently fails the minimum test.

Specter needs to change his positions on a wide array of issues before he is given a clear field in the Democratic primary. He needs to move toward the center in a major way. No candidate opposing the Employee Free Choice Act, supporting right-wing federal judges or job-destroying “free trade” deals and the like should go unopposed in any Democratic primary election.

Pennsylvania largely reflects the general values of America. While a candidate with Specter’s policy positions would be a big improvement over Senators like Corker and Alexander of Tennessee, Shelby and Sessions of Alabama or Vitter of Louisiana, he is not really at the center of the American political spectrum on a vast majority of issues.

Specter is close enough to the center to shift his positions on enough issues to win a Democratic primary but has not indicated any willingness to do so!
Working-class and middle-class Pennsylvanians deserve a Senate candidate with values and policy positions that fully embrace the changes promised by the Obama presidency.

Nobody including the Senate Democratic leadership, the Democratic National Committee or even President Obama should attempt to keep Pennsylvania Democrats from having a choice in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary that fully reflects Democratic values.

Sen. Specter should have the opportunity to compete but the field should not be cleared of major league Democratic competitors.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party would be seriously harmed by any attempt to limit the field of Democratic Senate competitors in 2010.

Union activists and progressives deserve an opportunity to field serious candidates who fully reflect their views. Specter does not currently fill that need although he can do so if he so desires by merely changing his policy positions.

Specter was definitely going to lose the Republican Senate primary in 2010. It was in his interest to switch to the Democratic Party. However, adding a “D” after your name on a ballot does not make you a mainstream Democrat.

If Specter wants to win a Senate seat from Pennsylvania as a Democrat, he needs to become a mainstream Democrat. He is highly unlikely to do so without a strong Democratic primary opponent.

Certainly, Specter can be beaten in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary by any serious challenger holding “real” mainstream Democratic values.

Stephen Crockett, host of Democratic Talk Radio and editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com). He can be reached by email at demlabor@aol.com or by phone at 443-907-2367. Democratic Talk Radio airs Thursday mornings on WGPA SUNNY 1100AM in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The mailing address for Democratic Talk Radio is: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702.

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