"He's a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
-- Nowhere Man
These lyrics to "Nowhere Man," written and recorded in 1965 by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, describe the Republican Party of 2009. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter rejected that party and returned to his Democratic roots because, even at the age of 79, he's got plans that go somewhere.
The GOP's leaders and their inactions have placed the party at the corner of Unpopular and Nowhere. GOP voter registration fell in every western state in 2008, including Colorado where it dropped a whopping 9 percent. That year, the Pew Research Center found that voters calling themselves Republicans declined six points over four years, for the lowest percentage of self-identified Republican voters in 16 years of Pew polling.
Pennsylvania voters, not always in step, were this time. More than 200,000 Republicans switched registration to Democrat in 2008. Arlen Specter, who was a Democrat the first 16 years of his adult life, this spring joined those fellow Pennsylvania Republicans and returned to his Democratic roots.
The Republican response typifies why voters continue to convert the GOP to D on their party membership cards. The Republican National Committee posted on its web site nasty automatic e-mails to Specter that can be sent with the click of a mouse. Mean spirited is bad enough, but these lack a certain introspection.
One is supposed to be the White House teleprompter welcoming Specter to the Democratic Party. The text says, "Welcome to the Democrats. I look forward to working together to borrow more money from China." Another is supposed to be a welcome from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, saying, "You'll love how much we can spend taxpayer money." Both are blind to a fact that taxpayers clearly see - Republican majorities during the Bush administration spent so much that they created the largest budget deficits known to man or nation, compelling excessive borrowing from China.
He's as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?
-- Nowhere Man
The leader of Specter's new party - President Barack Obama - stood before the American people on his 100th day in office, assessing progress and promising to press forward to aid people in need during the worst recession since the Great Depression.
He spoke of accomplishments, such as the stimulus bill that will create or save 3.5 million jobs, the extension of health insurance for 11 million children whose parents work full-time, and a measure to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. He talked of changing the tone of foreign policy from threats to diplomacy, forbidding torture and closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
This Democrat has his sights set on the next hundreds and hundreds of days and pledged to continue working on priorities he established during his campaign, including health care reform and clean energy development.
Even those who disagree with him know he's got plans. He's going places. This guy's definitely not at the corner of Unpopular and Nowhere.
He has offered to bring Republicans along with him, to negotiate with them, to include them in the process. But they've smacked him down at every turn. They're not just fighting with him, either. They're also bickering among themselves. And it isn't pretty.
There was the infamous back and forth between GOP mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh who is calling for the president of his country to fail, and GOP chairman Michael Steele, who made himself famous by promising an "off the hook" public relations blitz "to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets." After Obama's chief of staff said Limbaugh was the representative of the GOP, Steele shot back saying he was the head of the party, adding that Limbaugh was incendiary and "ugly." Limbaugh responded with a rant on radio that Steele was unfit to lead, to which Steele responded by crawling on his belly to apologize to the "ugly" one. There's some inspiring leaders for you!
Now a group of Republicans has split from the RNC, calling itself the National Council for a New America. They contend they are upset that the GOP has failed to provide alternatives to the Democrats' plans. The group includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "It's no secret that we're in a seriously troubling time for the Republicans," said Mike Murphy, a strategist who has advised Romney and Sen. John McCain.
It's also seriously troubling that this new cabal, supposedly trying to solve the old group's problems, called itself National Council for a New America. Clearly they are not satisfied with the current America, the America that is rejecting Republicans. So their plan is to remake America rather than to remake themselves. Good luck with that.
Actually, there's a much easier option. Obama described it to Republicans during the press conference on his 100th day in office. Even with Specter in the Democratic fold and the potential of a 60-vote supermajority for Democrats in the Senate, the President said he would like to work with Republicans. He said the majority will likely rule on core issues. But there are many matters on which Republicans could exert influence if they would come to the table and negotiate in good faith.
Republicans can continue to simply vote NO on everything. They can bicker among themselves and look ridiculous to the American people. They can get nothing done and be the party of "I'm-in-control-NO-I'm-in-control" nonsense. They can continue to lose members and statesmen like Specter. Obama suggested that would be an unwise strategy.
That would be a nowhere strategy.