In the end, longtime Republican Senator Arlen Specter had no choice.
If he wanted to keep his Senate seat, he had to return to the Democratic Party he left early in his political career.
If he wanted to keep his sanity he had to get away from the rabid right wing that controls the Republican Party.
Specter's announcement Tuesday that he was switching from Republican to Democrat left an already-reeling GOP in shambles. They knew it was coming but it still struck at the heart of a party that has lost focus and severed what little connection it had with reality or the wishes of the American people.
Specter's move drove the wooden stake through the heart of the blood-sucking party of the elephant. It reduced a political vampire to ashes. Even so, it will take decades to remove the stench left by failed GOP policies and the party's never-ending assault on rights and freedoms that once were taken for granted by American citizens.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll show just 21 percent of Americans claim to be a Republican -- the lowest percentage in a quarter century.
Writes Dan Balz in The Washington Post...
How much more can the Republicans take? Demoralized, shrinking and seemingly lacking an agenda beyond the word "no," Republicans today saw their ranks further thinned with the stunning news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter is switching parties and will run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat.
Specter is worried about his own survival -- and particularly a primary challenge from the right. Many in the GOP might say good riddance. After supporting President Obama's stimulus package, Specter was persona non grata in his own party. So it may be easy for some Republicans to conclude that they are better off without people like Arlen Specter.
But his defection is a reminder that the Republican Party continues to contract, especially outside the South, and that it appears increasingly less welcome to politicians and voters who do not consider themselves solidly conservative. Northeast Republicans have gone from an endangered species to a nearly extinct species. Republicans lost ground in the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest in the last two elections. That's no way to build a national party.
When a party is defined by pompous loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh or political vacuums like Sarah Palin, it's time to yank the life support and put both the party and this nation out of its misery.
I saw the warning signs when I worked within the GOP in the 80s and 90s. I saw a party dominated by right-wing reactionaries, homophobes, bigots and political hacks that had lost touch with the American people. I left politics in 1994 because I could no longer take the hypocrisy. I tried drowning my disgust with single malt scotch. Even that didn't work.
Republicans have become the poster children of everything that is wrong with this country: Supporters of corporate greed that sent the economy plummeting, shredders of the Constitution through the criminal acts of George W,. Bush and Dick Cheney and purveyors of the "party first, country never" philosophy that defines political excess at its putrid, rotting core.
Specter made the right decision to leave the GOP. Hopefully, his decision gives Democrats the Senate majority they need to accomplish real change.
And, more importantly, his decision drives one more nail into the coffin of a failed political party that deserves to be buried forever in the most toxic landfill we can find.