Conservative Republican Jim Ellis and liberal Democrat Bennet Kelley present Filibanter, a combination of political filibuster and banter. Read Ellis’s perspective on Specter’s switch here.Arlen Specter’s defection from the Republican Party is the canary in the coal mine, warning Republicans that they are on a path to electoral disaster. After two consecutive electoral thumpings, caused in part by too-conservative platforms, the GOP had to choose: adopt the big-tent philosophy Specter spoke of and broaden their reach—or continue to cater to their shrinking base.Proving the maxim that there is “no utility in the second kick of a mule,” the GOP has adopted the latter course. The party has become afflicted with paranoia and outright derangement over President Obama. They’ve spun into a political tantrum that would make Christian Bale blush and highlights how out of touch the party has become.Arlen Specter comes from a long line of pragmatic conservatives, such as John Chafee or Nancy Kassebaum, who cared about governing and who measured success not by political points but by results achieved. This view is out-of-step with the Gingrich philosophy that emphasizes fighting the Democrats “with the scale and duration and savagery that is only true in civil wars.” This philosophy, evident in the kamikaze obstructionism advocated by the current Republican leadership, is antithetical to Specter’s principles. So today we see the reverse of Ronald Reagan’s old claim: Specter did not leave the Republican Party—the party left him.Specter spoke out when his party fell victim to extremism—during the nomination of Robert Bork and the Clinton impeachment, for example—and now has watched Obamanoia take over his party, with leaders calling the president a “tyrant” and “socialist” for setting middle-class taxes lower than they were under Reagan while increasing the top marginal rate to the same level as the Clinton years. Specter’s old party has been usurped by extreme voices who assume their every paranoid fear about the Obama administration—from taking our guns to restarting the Fairness Doctrine—is already in the works. Witness Michelle Bachmann’s claim that the “Serve America Act” would turn into re-education camps for young Americans performing community service. The Tea Party protests, the ludicrous claims, the open wishes for an Obama failure and now even inane calls for Texas to secede from the Union: These all have fanned the flames of fear and distrust—if not open hostility—of the government and the president. This runs against Specter’s lifelong commitment to public service.Now former Rep. Pat Toomey should claim the Republican nomination he nearly captured six years ago. Toomey is a rabid conservative who some are dismissing as cannon fodder after Pennsylvanians gave conservative Sen. Rick Santorum an 18-point pink slip in 2006. But Toomey has won by big margins in Democratic areas; he’s much smarter and savvier than Santorum. Specter’s defection is both a gift and a warning to Toomey in a race that is a bellwether for the GOP’s future. It’s an opportunity for Toomey to move past Obamanoia and recast the Republican message as something other than “no” and “same old, same old.” If Toomey is successful in this battleground state, he will become the poster child of a GOP renaissance. But if he fails to seize this opportunity and follows the path set by party leadership, I am certain Toomey—and the party—will pay the price of Obamanoia.Bennet Kelley, a high school classmate of Pat Toomey, has been active in politics for over 30 years and was co-founder of the Democratic National Committee’s Saxophone Club, its young professional outreach and fundraising arm, from 1992 to 1998. Bennet has worked with many prominent Democrats and was an alternate on the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee from 2001 to 2002 and a Democratic Business Council representative at the 1996 Democratic Convention. With Jim Ellis he has formed Filibanter, which provides a live presentation combining political filibustering and banter.