FLORIDA, October 14, 2012 — Arlen Specter was the sort of politician that we don’t hear much about these days.
He followed his conscience and voted in the best interests of his constituents, rather than toeing the party line. All things considered, one might say that partisan concerns never were a paramount issue for him. From the time he was elected district attorney of Philadelphia County until the day he retired from the United States Senate, he cared most advancing good ideas through compromise rather than debate.
Most outside of Pennsylvania will likely remember Specter for leaving the GOP during early 2009. He joined the Democratic caucus because he thought that his party had taken too radical a turn. Considering the fact that he was sure to lose his then-upcoming reelection primary simply because of voting for the stimulus package, this is a difficult point to disagree on.
Interestingly enough, Specter didn’t even make it through the Democratic primary. He was challenged by Joe Sestak, a well left-of-center congressman from the Philadelphia suburbs. Though many initially believed that Sestak would be a nominal opponent, he managed to galvanize activists across the state and scored an upset victory.
It could be said that the end of Specter’s political career symbolized the end of a political era. He belonged to a generation in which people chose to talk about the tough issues rather than shout over them. The creeping tide of partisanship inevitably swept him away from Capitol Hill, though, and brought in new ideas which have done nothing to improve the legislative system.
Arlen Specter has left this country with a profound legacy of public service. Needless to say, none of us always agreed with his opinions. That being said, it is all but impossible not to respect him.
Hopefully, public officeholders and those considering a life in politics will learn from his examples. Of course, this might mean losing a few elections, but in the long run, it should prove to be worth the cost.
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