Absolute power corrupts absolutely

A filibuster-proof Democratic Party should rule sensibly.

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter shocked the country last week in his switch to the Democratic side of Congress, a move that puts the Democrats one person short of a 60-person, filibuster-proof majority. Assuming Al Franken keeps his seat after his Minnesota and possibly federal Supreme Court case, they will have that majority. Many will remember the conservative outcry when this possibility first became apparent after the early voting results came in, revealing a serious shift in the lineup of both the House and the Senate. Republicans lamented the loss of a dissenting voice, and the rise of a big-government free-for-all. IâÄôve already commented on the irony of this statement, considering the GOP enjoyed eight years of complete domination of Washington. But now that the Democrats are gaining a supermajority, these complaints donâÄôt ring so hollow anymore. On the one hand, having a filibuster-proof Senate would make passing bills important to repairing our country much easier. But, as they say, âÄúabsolute power corrupts absolutely.âÄù While President Barack Obama claims he does not believe he has a âÄúrubber-stamp Congress,âÄù it will be interesting to see if he can hold that restraint for the next three years. Personally, I wouldnâÄôt be all that surprised if some seriously leftist legislation started making its way up Capitol Hill. WhatâÄôs interesting about this situation is that the tipping point came via an outsider. Specter was one of those rare moderate Republicans who had a voting record that leaned way more to the left than most of his right-wing brethren. He says he left because of a large âÄúschismâÄù between he and the GOP, and he has been âÄúincreasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic party.âÄù While Specter has been welcomed with open arms into his new home (most likely because he brings them that much-needed step closer to 60), he has naturally caught flak from those he left behind. RNC Chairman Michael Steele even went so far as to say Specter âÄúflipped the birdâÄù at the GOP. Many have criticized Specter for making this move simply out of political survival instinct. He admits he did it because he felt he could not submit his record to a Republican primary and expect to win, but maintained his move was because he has more in common with the Democratic Party now. This makes sense; it would be foolish to stay with a party whose values you no longer share, if you feel you could do more good on the other side. Whether this was done out of malice, or survival, or simply, as Specter put it, âÄúprinciple,âÄù itâÄôs done. What will be the deciding factor here is whether Specter proves to be one of those senators who believes the party name is how you vote, not simply how you got there. From the sound of his interviews, it seems heâÄôll maintain his moderate status, as he has already made it clear that he will not be an âÄúautomatic 60th.âÄù I hope this proves to be true. Attempting to halt legislation based solely on party affiliation doesnâÄôt get us anywhere. But while I believe the GOP has been on the wrong side of many debates, I donâÄôt believe we would gain anything in the long run by steamrolling legislation over Republicans, either. If the Democrats do get their supermajority, all we can do is hope that they use it as anyone should use power: responsibly. This column, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Oregon Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon. Please send comments to [email protected]