If these posts are any indication, the amount of Club for Growth-bashing on the right is going to increase in the wake of Arlen Specter’s defection. I share the skepticism that 2010 was the greatest time to risk a Senate seat by settling scores with Specter. But let’s keep things in perspective.
Arlen Specter left the Republican Party for two reasons. One, he admits, is that his own stimulus vote “caused a schism” with conservatives “which makes our differences irreconcilable.” The second reason is that his base had already defected to the Democratic Party before him: “Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats.”
These Republicans were not kicked out of the party by the Club for Growth. They tell pollsters they left because they did not like Bush-era Republican leadership. They claim to disagree with Republican policies pretty much across the board, but it was the last eight years that finally moved them to bolt. There is nothing like a sustained popular perception of a failed presidency to send nonideological supporters of a party streaming toward the exits.
You can plausibly blame the Club for Growth for three Democratic House seats: Maryland’s First Congressional District, Michigan’s Seventh District, and Idaho’s First District, two of which the Club-backed Republicans were able to win in the tough 2006 cycle. The Democrats have picked up over 50 House seats in the last two elections. Iraq, Katrina, and the economic crisis have cost Republicans far more seats than the Club.
Pat Toomey didn’t fail to locate the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he didn’t commend Brownie on doing a “heckuva job” in New Orleans, and he didn’t preside over a financial meltdown or mortgage crisis. To the extent Toomey can be linked to these things at all, it is precisely because conservatives didn’t spend the last eight years being disloyal Republicans. Instead they were loyal and partisan to a fault.
So yes, if the Democrats get to pass nationalized health care they should erect a statue in a certain Republican’s honor. That Republican’s name is George W. Bush.