Arlen Specter, former Senator of Pennsylvania, lost his primary election and left the Senate for good. Before he wandered off quietly into that good night, he made a speech on the floor. In said speech, Specter outlined everything he felt was wrong with the Senate and politics today.
According to the Associated Press article detailing his speech, those items include lack of civility, Republican support of Tea Party candidates over “establishment candidates” and the extreme partisanship. In the article he mentioned how “in some quarters, compromise has become a dirty word.”
It’s always nice when politicians prove they’re not complete idiots. Specter did a good job of that and of also proving the best people for politics are those who can never actually get into politics these days. Or stay in it, in this case.
The only problem is his farewell speech may not have the impact he intended. As desperately needed as the speech may have been, one elderly senator leaving the circle of politicians isn’t going to make the senators stop and think about the error of their ways. It’s entirely possible that wasn’t Specter’s point, though, he may have just wanted to take his last chance at flipping off Congress before walking out the door.
Whether out of disgust, anger or genuine hope that his message would have lasting influence, Specter’s message is no less true regardless of his intention. When a fellow Senator is disgusted with the way the Senate does business, the time has surely come to sit back and think about what choices brought you, as a Senator, to such a point where one of your own is sick of the status quo.
In order for that message to ring through the Senate for years to come, more politicians will need to speak up. Those who speak up will need to do so while they are still in office, not just when they’re leaving or have lost to the forces they oppose.
Only when enough current Senators speak up can a new era of cooperation and civility begin. Senators spend too much time pandering to the small vocal base of the party and too rigidly supporting the party over the needs of their state and the nation.
Specter got the ball rolling, but more will be needed to keep it going. More than that is the need to keep trying. The Senate itself is a sound system; it’s the people within it who are the problem. Electing Senators might be a detriment as well. They used to be appointed by the state legislature.
Either way the burden for civility and cooperation comes down on us, the voters. We are the ones that keep sending the same age defying Time Lords into the Senate, and even the House.
When politicians fail, it’s their fault. When the people keep electing the same politicians when they know they’re corrupt, unqualified to represent their voters or simply incapable of serving the people properly, it’s the definition of insanity. End the insanity and my PSA announcements about voting. Remember Specter’s words.