Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Some Good News

It's not much, but I guess we'll take it:

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator, lost his bid to run for re-election as a Democrat to Rep. Joe Sestak, the Associated Press reports.

With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Sestak received 53 percent of the votes, AP reports; Specter received about 47 percent.

Sestak's victory marks a striking triumph over the establishment candidate, who just last month had a more than 20-point lead in polls.

Arlen Specter Loses Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Primary to Joe Sestak

As an aside, I don't recall any serious polls that had Specter that far in front. Sestak was closer than that last year, when much of Pennsylvania didn't know who he was. There was a time when the trends seemed to be going the wrong way in the first part of this year, but that stopped a couple of months ago, and Sestak's been overtaking Specter ever since.

Anyone who thinks that either the Pennsylvania Democrats or the Obama Administration are going to wise up because they lost this primary is mistaken, though. Here's a quote from Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell that should serve as proof:

His campaign blamed the defeat on the fervent anti-incumbent mood that is sweeping the country, in both parties, as demonstrated by the defeat this month of three-term Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) at his party's nominating convention and last week's primary defeat of veteran Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W. Va.).

"It's everywhere," Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa.), Specter's longtime friend and close political adviser, said after Specter's concession speech.

Rendell said that the opponent did not matter, and that the only thing Sestak did right was picking a "great ad" company, a reference to the Sestak consultants who previously worked for Rendell.

Arlen Specter's party switch and subsequent fall

There's no fear of a progressive resurgence in those words. Right or wrong, Rendell doesn't think this is due to a sudden desire among voters for progressive government. He thinks it's a hissy fit by voters. For all I know he's right, but it's his attitude that's important here.

The problem, I think, was that Specter was starting to look like a guy who was more interested in helping himself than he was in making the country better. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a retrospective about Specter's career today, which said this among other things:

As a Republican, Specter was often an irritant to his party, especially on social issues such as abortion rights and stem-cell research. He voted with the GOP position 58 percent of the time over his career, according to Congressional Quarterly. That's a high degree of dissent by today's Senate standards.

Specter made his biggest mark as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chaired from 2005 to 2007, and he has helped shape the Supreme Court and the entire federal judiciary.

Conservatives still loathe him for killing Reagan's 1987 nomination of appellate Judge Robert Bork for the high court. Specter thought Bork held too narrow a view of civil rights, and he was the most prominent Republican to come out against the nominee.

The end of the Specter era

Unfortunately, Specter's days as a maverick were over a decade ago. He voted for the stimulus bill last year, and bucked his party a few other times when he clearly would have been punished for not doing so at the polls, but on the whole he was a party loyalist. Switching parties at the last minute certainly didn't help him any, since he could have done that at any time in the last six years. You'd think a real moderate would have tired of this Republican Party a long time ago.

The other good bit of news was that Bill Halter has earned a runoff with Blanche Lincoln. Neither appears to have gotten the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff:

With 62% of precincts reporting, Lincoln and Halter are tied at 43% each, though Lincoln is leading the popular vote. Conservative alternative D.C. Morrison has a surprising 14%.

Progressives Fight Lincoln To A Draw In Arkansas

As of this moment, Talking Points Memo shows Lincoln up 45-43, with conservative Democrat D.C. Morrison getting about 13 percent.

As Josh Marshall observed yesterday, that's an impressive thing against an incumbent Senator, particularly one who has ingratiated herself with big lobbies as much as Lincoln has.

This may turn out to be a small victory for progressive politics. It's not much to build on, though. The DC progressives are almost universally unreliable, and neither challenger is a solid progressive. They're just more progressive, and seemingly less corrupted, than the people they're running against.

It's not much, but it's something. If it were happening lots of places, instead of just a couple, I'd be more optimistic. Unfortunately, this trend isn't nearly powerful enough to change things that matter.


lawguy said...

I'm wondering any more what one builds on. I thought one could build on the Clinton presidency, I know I know.

I'm not sure if it is my natural outlook or the flu, but I am not particularly optomistic myself. I expect all the big guns to put whatever pressure they feel they need to on Sestek to get him to toe the Obama/Rham line, if he gets in.

The thing that got me the most about PA was that the unions came out for Spector early.

Cujo359 said...

I don't expect Sestak to be a whole lot more progressive than Specter would have been, for a whole lot of reasons. As for his being independent of the Democratic leadership, I don't expect much more than Specter displayed back in the day.

The unions did their usual job of failing their membership, I think. It's like they'd forgotten how Specter refused to support them on EFCA.

As for what there is to build on, I think the problem is that the old saying of Thomas Jefferson's about how when government fears the people, it's a democracy isn't how things are now. They aren't afraid of us - the Democrats know that progressives won't vote against them. As long as that's true, they will hold onto power, and they won't have to do a thing for us. Until progressives take this to heart, we're not going to see anything different than we've been seeing.

So far, I see little evidence that they have.

AMIT said...

Nice article written on this news.

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