What Was Your Job Description Again, Senator?

“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate—not prepared to have that record decided by that jury.”

–Arlen Specter, US Senator from Pennsylvania

“Mr. Specter said he would not be an automatic Democratic vote, though he will be pulled in that direction since he now faces the prospect of running in a Democratic primary.”

New York Times, “Specter Switches Parties,” 4/28/09

Uh, senator? Your job is to represent Pennsylvania, not to preserve your career at any cost.

Changing party affiliation is perfectly reasonable, if one no longer agrees with the tenets of one’s current party and sees a viable alternative in another. Changing party affiliation just to preserve one’s job smacks of crass self-preservation. It makes you sound like you care more for your title than for the people you represent.

Call me naive, but I like to think that politicians at least consider voting their consciences over political concerns. Senator Specter seems to be baldly admitting that his affiliation and indeed his voting record will depend more on pandering to future election wins.

Now, I understand that there is a relation between representing the majority opinions of the local electorate and winning their votes. But to put it so bluntly, instead of expressing one’s hopes that one’s legislative decisions will represent one’s constituency, is unseemly in my opinion.

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Filed under Politics, Rants

4 responses to “What Was Your Job Description Again, Senator?

  1. I worked in DC for a Senator. While I agree with what you say in principle, the reality is that it’s all about politics, and at one level I like it when they at least admit it. Senator Olympia Snowe had a good piece in the New York Times today where she reflects on how it’s more than just electoral concerns — the movement of the Republican party away from the moderates creates the kind of atmosphere where a Specter cannot get through a primary since they are a smaller more extreme group (especially since so many moderate and liberal Republicans switched parties to vote in the hotly contested Democratic Presidential primary last year).

    That said, I agree with you. I quit my job, just after getting a promotion, and went from a good LA position for a Senator to working as a night manager at a Brooklyn Park, Minnesota pizza parlor because I made a decision that I could not make the moral sacrifices required to devote my life to the political world. There are honest and dedicated people there, but the concentration of power, the games, and the disingenuous nature of Washington politics was something I simply decided I could not live with. I surprised a lot of people (and really upset my father) when I left, as it appeared I was throwing away a great career. But it was the right choice.

    • Scott, I’d say you have a pretty ideal job, but that’s my nerdy bias!

      As I said, I know I’m being naive. Certainly I don’t want people to be hypocritical and claim to be working from idealistic principles when they’re really a political animal. But it just stuck in my craw that Specter was so blunt about it, and so seemingly disdainful of his own constituents, “that jury”.

      It would be one thing if he explained what you did, that the Republican party no longer has room for moderates. Rather, he seems overly focused on keeping his job.

  2. Yeah, I think Jon Stewart covered it well. He showed the press conference where first Specter said he was doing it for principle, then explained how he couldn’t win the primary. “Oh,” Stewart chimed in, “I guess the principle is he wants to keep his job.” Then Stewart noted how at least he was honest about it. “I respect that, well, maybe not respect…but I get it.”

    Yeah, I think I have the best job in the world 🙂

  3. Alida

    May I call you naive? Just kidding. What gets me is so many in politics don’t even try to fool us anymore. (Isn’t that just cynical?) As for Scott’s comments, I find Jon Stewart and The Onion have gone beyond satire into the realm of just plain honesty…and somehow it seems so humorous.

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