The fear seems to be that with sixty votes the Democrats will be unstoppable when it comes to passing Obama's policies. This assumes, of course, that the Democrats will stay united around Obama. It's easy to fear this, but I wonder how monolithic the Democrats are in their thinking.
Specter can spin his move any way he wants, but it still comes across as desperate and selfish. Rather than continue to be a leader for moderate Republicans in what he thinks is an ever-increasing conservative party, he gave up. How is that admirable?
The GOP will definitely shrivel if they turn away from socially conservative platforms. But here's why holding onto socially conservative platforms is hurting the GOP: any scandal by any GOP member comes across as grossly hypocritical. Socially conservative platforms come across as merely political tools rather than right principles. When Republicans are exposed for committing acts that go against the platform they represent, it weakens the voter's resolve to support the party. The Republican party has talked tough about cutting spending and lowering taxes, but they don't actually do it - not enough to undo what they spend. And the Republicans are always trying to put down the Democrats, or waiting around till there is a scandal to manipulate. I know, I know, that's politics. But if the Republicans are inept, leaderless, unvisionary, and self-absorbed, why vote for them?
One last observation: according to Republicans and social conservatives - if you don't vote for them and support their policies, it could be the end of America, the end of our economy, the end of marriage, the end of our freedoms. It's all doomsday kind of scenarios if they aren't elected/reelected. But with the Democrats it's not about the end of the world, it's about injustice and oppression, about hope and change. People are tired of doomsday prophecies. Too much emphasis is placed on policies, on platforms, on political power. America is not great because of the Democratic or Republican party. As a whole, they are an embarrassment. There are a few exceptions. Also, FDR and Lincoln were not great because of their political affiliations, but because of their ability to get our country through terrible trials. I could care less about the Democratic or Republican party, or any other political party. What I do care is about certain political, economic, and social principles. To the degree that someone represents those ideals, they will have my vote.
What will get America through the next couple of decades is not our political parties. It will be through people becoming very innovative at making money despite the government. People who start/run businesses and non-profits despite the efforts of the government. People who start/run churches and community initiatives apart from government help. America may not be "great" in two decades, we may be completely beholden to China and India due to our debts, but that doesn't mean that it's the end of the world. It just means that America needs to start over again.