That great observer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that U.S. political parties were like nations at war with one another.
While that’s certainly true when it comes to the average rank-and-file party members, who work, sweat, bite and fight against their political opponents for ascendancy, the same cannot be said of those at the highest levels.
That is but one lesson to emerge from the abrupt party-shift of U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who, up until quite recently was the senior Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and among the institution’s longest-serving.
Facing an increasingly difficult primary election in the fall, he ditched the party on which he has run and won (as a senator) for almost 30 years, and cast his lot with the opposing majority party (Democrats)
Political pundits and talking heads went almost apoplectic in their overheated responses and predictions. "Earth-shattering!", said one. "An earthquake!", said another. In moments, they counted his votes on Democratic bills and proposals that had yet to be written.
The truth was quite simple: he wanted to win re-election, and he couldn’t do it in the GOP.
It’s often been said that the Senate is a millionaire’s club; but it’s more. It’s one of the most exclusive clubs on earth. It’s only 100 men and women, who are essentially princes and princesses of power. In each U.S. state, only 2 people can sit in the Senate, and once in, it’s quite difficult to lose an election. Because Specter had an irritating independence streak, his upcoming Republican primary would’ve been among those seen as unsure.
Richard J. Needham said, "Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked."
Power. That’s it.
Specter, who has spent his adult life as a prince, didn’t feel like giving up that incredible power. And his switch virtually insures that he won’t have to.
By switching parties he gives the Democrats one vote closer to a bulletproof majority — to 60 votes with which they can virtually run the table (assuming former comedian Al Franken can hold his lead over the GOP’s Norman Coleman). By so doing, he virtually insures that his former party-mates will be powerless, as without 41 votes, they can’t stage a filibuster – or effectively block any legislation.
He therefore becomes the most powerful member of that body, for his vote becomes crucial.
The great wit, Alexander Pope said, "Party-spirit…which at best is but the madness of many for the gain of the few."
Arlen Specter is a Party unto himself.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal for a new trial based on racism in jury selection. The U.S Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will further consider the Philadelphia DA’s appeal of the 2001/2008 rulings of two lower courts, which ruled that Abu-Jamal deserves a new sentencing hearing if the death penalty is to be re-instated. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the DA, Abu-Jamal could be executed without a new sentencing hearing.
In response, Abu-Jamal’s lead attorney Robert R. Bryan will be filing a "petition for re-hearing" at the U.S. Supreme Court. Emergency meetings have been held in several cities to coordinate grassroots response, and over 3,000 people have signed an online petition <http://www.petitiononline.com/supreme/> in an effort coordinated by anti-death penalty activists.
On Friday April 24 and 25, 2009 events were held in more than a dozen cities to organize and to celebrate the release of Mumia’s new book with City Lights, JAILHOUSE LAWYERS. More info here:www.citylights.com
Watch Angela Y. Davis speaking at the Oakland event on April 24, 2009
Listen to Abu-Jamal’s latest commentaries on Prison Radio.
Emergency Rally | 4pm, Friday May 8th | 163 W. 125th St. in Harlem