Monday, February 22, 2010
An article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, as politically liberal a rag as exists anywhere in America today, titled "Sorry, but for me, the party is over", written by local quasi-celebrity Michael Smerconish was published in that paper's Sunday, February 21st edition 'Currents' section.
In this article, Smerconish reveals what every true local Philadelphia Republican has known for more than a year. The man who has billed himself as THE local Republican voice, who glommed on to the popularity of programs such as Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor", and who attached themselves at the hip to commentators such as Sean Hannity, is in fact not a Republican after all.
The article, which carried a secondary headline where it continued on page C3 titled "Parting ways with the party, after 30 years", reveals that Smerconish recently had an epiphany of sorts. And he had it while standing in line at, of all places, the DMV. The Inquirer, of course, then bent over backwards to advertise this alleged political change away from conservatism. But is it really a change at all?
Smerconish goes to get his license renewed and the clerk asks him at one point as to whether he would also like to change his voter registration party affiliation. Why this is an appropriate question for some clerk at the DMV to be asking in the first place is never revealed, nor ever fully explored by the allegedly dogged journalist.
Smerconish then goes on to reveal that this was his "hallelujah" moment. One can imagine a mystical light shining down on him from above and revealing that he is actually not a Republican, nor is he a Democrat, but instead he is that most cherished of ideals. He is an "Independent" thinker, beholden to no party values! Hallelujah!
He has the clerk switch his voter registration status from 'Republican' to 'Independent', leaving behind his party of the past three decades. Smerconish writes that in doing so he is better reflecting his personal values. He claims that actually, he is "not sure if I left the Republican Party or the party left me. All I know is that I no longer feel comfortable."
Now let me state before I go on that I myself have switched my formally registered political affiliation a few times over the years. As I have explained in full detail before here at this blog, during my 20's in the 1980's I was a fully-indoctrinated liberal Democrat. It was at some point during the first Clinton administration where I had my own 'hallelujah' moment, realizing that my values and positions had evolved to conservative ones. I made the switch to Republican and have not looked back.
During the time that I was a registered Democrat, however, I switched my party affiliation from Dem to Republican a couple of times. Each time I did so at the request of and specifically for my father, who was involved in the political process and publicly supporting Republican candidates such as John Egan for Mayor of Philadelphia. I would always switch back to Dem following the election cycle, and remained so until making the permanent switch during the mid-90's.
However, unlike the spineless Smerconish, I did not ever try to paint myself with the brush of mediocrity that is the act of being a registered Independent. Smerconish tries to make himself out to be some sort of victim to the system. "Where political parties used to create coalitions and win elections, now they seek to advance strict ideological agendas."
Malarkey! Political parties have existed in America since the earliest decades of our founding, particularly in the years following George Washinton's first Presidency. From those early parties like the Whigs through to Teddy Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" Party to today's liberal-dominated Democrats, political parties have displayed polarizing differences in their platforms and in their personalities.
Smerconish tries to defend his decision by pointing to a handful of examples of party inclusion of disparate ideas and visions. In every party there will always be individuals who are slightly moderated from the main party platform and ideals. But you rarely, if ever, can find a full-on conservative Democrat or a full-on liberal Republican, especially among the politicians.
That may prove Smerconish's point, that the parties are indeed ideological, but the fact of the matter is that situation has been in existence since those early years of our Founding Fathers. It didn't suddenly happen in the last election cycle. It didn't slowly develop in recent decades. Political party ideology has been around forever.
The fact is that Smerconish began broadcasting full-time in the early years of the George W. Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He took up the Republican mantle fully, supporting most Bush policies and positions vocally and publicly, including the use of torture on terrorist suspects.
Over the next half-dozen years, Smerconish became a quasi-celebrity, his public conservative positions landing him gigs as a guest host for O'Reilly and Glenn Beck and his largely conservative writings leading to New York Times best-sellers. Smerconish made a lot of money and gained a measure of celebrity in these years thanks to what were perceived to be his intact, well thought-out, mature political and social positions.
But what also was going on is that Smerconish was doing all of this while working at a local Philadelphia radio station. He was not a nationally syndicated host with a vast network of listeners supporting him, he was broadcasting in one of the most liberal cities in America. His stated positions made him a number of political enemies, and shut him out of a number of local sources.
Realizing over time that he was not going to break out nationally as had people like Beck and Hannity, Smerconish saw himself stuck in Philly and treading water. Then suddenly it happened, the savior, Barack Obama, came along with his glib tongue and his two faces. Smerconish began earlier than most to sense the momentum of the Obama campaign, and the alleged Republican talk radio host did the unthinkable in endorsing Obama for President.
It was in this moment that those of us who had suspected for years that Smerconish was simply a charlatan opportunist, using 9/11 and the Republican Party popularity of the early part of the last decade to his advantage, got our proof of that as fact.
There is no way that anyone who took any time to evaluate a politician's actual record before endorsing them, as a public personality with a radio talk show in a major market should, could ever find anything other than the facts. Those facts were that simply from his voting record and previous public associations, Barack Obama was one of the most, if not the single most, liberal members of the United States Senate.
Michael Smerconish threw in with Obama because he saw the momentum switch, believed strongly that Obama was going to win, saw that Obama was articulate and intelligent, and further believed that the sun was setting on the ideology of conservatism. Smerconish basically glommed on to the next big thing to maintain his local audience relevancy.
In the beginning it was actually a good thing to say that he was a Republican who was supporting Obama. In that way, Smerconish could actually try to portray himself as not being ideological himself, despite what was out there in the public purvey for the past half dozen or so years.
But as time has gone on, Smerconish has become more and more enamored with the Obama celebrity himself, tossing aside the substance of the issues for increased access to the administration. Thanks to his position as 'the Republican talking head who supports Obama', Smerconish was actually given the first live radio broadcast, interview, and listener question-answer session from inside the White House with the new President in August of 2009.
A man whom I happen to admire, Glenn Beck, has been an outspoken registered Independent for some time now. But with Beck there is a major difference. He legitimately sees and eloquently expresses his own ideology of American exceptionalism, pointing out with detailed precision how leaders of both parties have been led astray by political and social 'progressivism' and calling for a return to the Constitutional direction of the Founders.
Whatever their motivations, I still believe that whether it be in Beck's principled stand against progressives or in Smerconish's unwillingness to publicly embrace either his change to liberalism or that he has no political backbone, registering as and championing oneself as a registered 'independent' is a bit disingenuous. There is no doubt that Beck's conservative lean would, for example, find him in the voting booth ever pulling the lever next to the name of any current Democrat, while there are any number of Republicans who share his basic ideals.
In contrasts to Beck's independence status, Smerconish is simply a fraud. He is an opportunist who now sees his best opportunity at continued celebrity by casting in with Obama and his liberal followers. Smerconish is waiting for this type of characterization. He is waiting for it and expecting it so that he can use it as well. He is waiting for conservatives to let loose on him for his alleged betrayal.
No, this indictment of Michael Smerconish and his allegedly changed political positions and resulting party registration change do not stem from feelings of betrayal. They come from a long-held belief that the man is all about himself, not any true, bedrock values or political positions. He has no political backbone whatsoever, and has only proven his irrelevancy with this registration switch. That is one man's opinion based on what I have seen and heard.
It is also my opinion that this move to alleged 'independence' is only itself a temporary move. Right now, Smerconish senses the unsure direction of the future political winds as Obama's plans prove to be the socialist failures that many of us predicted. I predict here that Michael Smerconish's political independence itself will not last, and that it is only a matter of time, and more security in the direction of those future political winds, before the big 'R' is back, or before the big 'D' takes a permanent place on his voter registration.
For local Philadelphia morning drive-time radio listeners, you do indeed have a choice. The intelligent, articulate, personable Bill Bennett can be heard by sliding your radio dial over to 990AM weekdays from 6am-9am. There, Bennett's 'Morning in America' program is a part of the "intelligent, conservative talk" that local station WNTP offers each weekday. The one thing that Bill Bennett will never be accused of by anyone is being spineless, and you won't ever see him change his political affiliation for career or financial expediency.