Arlen Specter, John McCain, and "broken windows"
By Jack Savage Posted in Republicans — Comments (9) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
In 1982, sociologists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling introduced their “Broken Windows” thesis. Wilson and Kelling observed that if a broken window in a building was not repaired, then soon all the windows would be broken. They extended the metaphor to crime in neighborhoods. For example, if public drunkenness, abandoned cars and graffiti were tolerated, more serious crimes would soon follow. Here’s how it goes:
- Minor crime leads to an atmosphere / perception of disorder
- This perception aids those who would take advantage of the situation
- The disorder leads to demoralization and isolation of law-abiding citizens
In reverse, if minor crimes are met with aggressive intolerance, not only were these crimes curbed but the incidences of more serious crimes dropped substantially. Rudy Giuliani turned New York City around using this theory of law enforcement.
So what does this have to do with the Republican Party, you ask? Let me answer by giving a good example of a political “broken window”:
“Kerry / Specter 2004”.
Remember those signs? Even though they were blamed on a well-known rogue consultant, no one doubted their sincerity or applicability. Since Specter is perceived to be a leader of the Republican Party (most often by the media), his betrayals (abortion is a good example) carry a great deal of weight - particularly among the party faithful. Not only were these minor “crimes” not dealt with aggressively, Specter was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. The old Republican saw “it was his turn” no doubt came into play. (Quick gratuitous sports analogy - “it was his turn” is the political equivalent of the “prevent defense”. Sounds good, but most often leads to defeat.) There has been much talk of behind-the-scenes machinations to make Specter toe the Republican line more frequently in exchange for his trophy, but in our example, behind-the-scenes doesn’t count. Anyway, that prize was short-lived, since Republicans quickly lost the majority in both the House and Senate. It seems that the base was pretty demoralized in the election of 2006. Hmmm…..
I won’t go into detail about John McCain. Suffice to say that I believe he has been responsible for a lot of broken windows, with much the same effect on the loyal residents of the Republican neighborhood. And now, it is quite likely that he will become the next President of the United States.
So when does it stop? Answer: It doesn’t. Specter’s and McCain’s triangulation away from the conservative base and their own party by using small, petty, self-aggrandizing moves has been met with nothing. No statements from elected leaders. Not a peep from the party chairmen. Not a word from our President. Just like the neighborhood with broken windows and unchecked petty crime, things will only get worse. If a Republican can get away with trashing Gitmo, trampling free speech, advocating open borders or invoking Scottish law, it makes one wonder what is next.
The point, however, is that the effect of these highly visible “crimes” on the base is the same as the effect on a neighborhood. And no matter how you look at things, this is simply not good for Republicans.