I’m sure you’ve read, as have I, a variety of explanations as to why Arlen Specter switched from a U.S. Senate Repug from PA to a Dem, but I have to tell you that the one from Specter’s former party colleague Jim DeMint may be the biggest stretch of all.
As TPM tells us here…
(DeMint) attributes the non-viability of the Republican party in states like Pennsylvania to the fact that voters have fled "forced unionization" in the northeast for the safety and comfort of the southern motherland.("the southern motherland" - tee hee...)
I would say that that type of non-thinking has led the party to its current state of near collapse, particularly in the northeast, as kos tells us here.
Well, maybe instead of criticizing all of us in the Keystone State for allegedly driving out those Repugs voters with our nasty unions and prevailing wage law, DeMint should pay more attention to his own backyard, as it were, particularly given this story which tells us…
According to the Economic Research Service, the average per-capita income for all South Carolina residents in 2006 was $29,767, although rural per-capita income lagged at $27,004. Estimates from 2007 indicate a poverty rate of 19.2% exists in rural South Carolina, compared to 13.8% in urban areas of the state. Data from 2000 finds that 29.1% of the rural population has not completed high school, while 21.8% of the urban population lacks a high school diploma. The unemployment rate in rural South Carolina is 7.7%, while in urban South Carolina, it is 5.3% (USDA-ERS, 2008).Also, this tells us that “about 4.6 percent of the population of South Carolina currently lives at or below the poverty level, despite working 40 or more hours per week, compared with the national rate of 4.1 percent” (not sure of the exact time periods for some of these numbers, but they are fairly recent and do not paint a pretty picture).
And here’s a WaPo update providing even more bad news…
On Day 88 (of the Obama presidency), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that South Carolina had set a record for its highest unemployment rate in state history, at 11.4 percent. Greenwood's unemployment is 13 percent -- more than twice what it was (in 2007).Also, South Carolina has no state minimum wage law, making it easy prey for the Walton family and other corporate vultures; this tells us that the company with the yellow smiley face settled a lawsuit for wage nonpayment dating back to 2000 nationwide, including in The Palmetto State (I have to admit that the state did create this rather interesting tourism promotion, though).
But anti-unionism is as natural as breathing for DeMint; as noted here, he blocked a Democratic attempt to implement one of the 9/11 Commission recommendations that would have “require(d) that all containers on U.S.-bound vessels be screened in foreign ports for radiation, and all cargo loaded onto U.S. airliners be screened for explosives”…see, the “problem,” as far as DeMint is concerned, is that the bill would have allowed the Transportation Security Agency screeners to unionize.
I would say that a union would have been able to provide for at least some of the residents of Greenwood, SC, were they to join through their employer (the town was profiled in the WaPo story); I’m sure Councilwoman Edith Childs, also profiled, could convince DeMint of that fact if she had the opportunity.
But of course, DeMint would have to admit that she and her issues even exist at all (I would guess that that’s part of the reason why DeMint hasn’t even cracked the 50-percent incumbent approval mark, as Nate Silver notes here, with DeMint defending his seat next year – looks like the incumbent is only one credible Democratic challenger away from being retired from public life…we can only hope).
Update: I meant to note this earlier concerning this notion DeMint is trying to propagate that all workers in PA are unionized; as noted here, "Union density in Pennsylvania rose from 15.1 percent in 2007 to 15.4 percent in 2008. In 2007 there were 830,000 union members in Pennsylvania among 5.496 million employed workers. In 2008 the number of union members increased to 847,000 among a workforce of 5.504 (million) employed workers."