Interesting news from the Pennsylvania senate race today: Former Senator Chuck Hagel will endore Joe Sestak. Hagel was a Republican; Sestak is a Democrat running against Republican Pat Toomey.
Hagel told The Associated Press on Monday that Sestak has demonstrated during his two terms in Congress that he puts what’s best for the country before the interests of his party. He said Sestak’s courage and integrity as a legislator are qualities the nation needs more of.
This just shortly after we’ve learned that Bob Dole, former Republican senator and presidential candidate, has thrown a $1,000 check to Charlie Crist, who is running for the Florida senate seat as an independent against Republican nominee Marco Rubio (and a soon-to-be-determined Democratic nominee).
Why are some Republicans throwing support behind Democratic and independent candidates? I suspect it’s for three reasons. First, the Democratic party mainstream has moved to the center, while the Republican mainstream has moved far, far to the right, making centrist Democrats and independents far more palatable. This is the same environment that made it comfortable for first Sen. Jim Jeffords to switch parties in 2001 and later Sen. Arlen Specter to switch last year. Second, the luxury of retirement from party politics makes independence both possible and a virtue.
Third, both these guys are who I would call thoughtful conservatives, and both have histories of being, while wholly conservative, are rational, reasonable and willing to compromise. Note as well that Hagel supported Obama in 2008, while Dole supported the Affordable Care Act (probably because it was almost exactly what he had hoped to deliver both in 1993 and if elected president in 1996). So, have fellow members of their party grown too angry, irrational and hostile to compromise for them? Signs point to yes.