Joe Stesak defeated Arlen Specter in the Democrat senatorial primary in Pennsylvania. In a close race Stesak came from behind to defeat the newly-minted Democrat incumbent. Specter switched from Republican to Democrat in 2009 when he fell out of favor with conservatives for voting in favor of the Obama administration’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”. Both the Democrats and Obama endorsed Specter as a candidate.
Specter started his career as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican party in 1965 to run against a Republican incumbent for the office of District Attorney of Philadelphia. He was always known as a moderate within the party, often crossing the aisle to work with Democrat legislators.
His switch to the Democrats in 2009 was widely viewed as a cynical attempt to make an end-run around Republican conservatives and secure another term in an era hostile to bipartisanship. The 80-year-old Specter is expected to retire from public life.
Incumbents had a rough time in the early 2010 elections: Republican Senator Bob Bennet was passed-over at his party’s convention in Utah; Rand Paul, son of Representative Ron Paul, defeated the Republican party’s nominee for Senate in Kentucky; Representative Alan Mollohan of West Virgina lost his bid for the Democrat candidacy for his current seat.
The theme was constant: party favorites and incumbents are out, and new blood is in. Republican or Democrat makes no difference – the electorate has found its own way to make changes. The issue is ALL the issues that Washington seems unable to grapple with. The issue is government itself, and the perception that government is unresponsive to the needs and desires of the people. The frustration level has maxxed-out: America is pissed-off.
The only problem with this is the needs and desires of the people are inconsistent, incompatible, and vague. We want “something” done about the economy, and “something” done about immigration reform, and “something” done about terrorism. The right and left are not only at odds with each other, they are fractured amongst themselves, leading to spasms of inarticulate political reaction exemplified by the “Tea Party movement” on the extreme right and the “Anti-Globalization movement” on the extreme left.
In the midst of this crisis of political identity the American people were presented with the farce enacted in Washington over health care reform. Posturing and anti-posturing were the tactics of mistake that lead to a reform bill that presents very little reform, while upsizing the rhetorical gridlock that makes the very word “bipartisan” meaningless.
The result: one of the few true bipartisan politicians of this generation is out of a job – and at 80-years-old Arlen Specter probably should be put out to pasture. So should a lot of other crotchety old men and women in Washington who have too much baggage and too many old scores to settle for them to govern effectively.
The Fall of 2010 and the elections of 2012 will be a political slasher movie: the campaign trails are going to run red with rhetorical blood. In the current political climate we will be subjected to rumor, innuendo, outright lies, and every form of political dirty trick known. In other words it will be the same stuff we’ve had for the past 50 years. And when the fighting is done, we will get the same old stuff, in the form of a new bunch of unresponsive hacks who will start piling-on the baggage and new scores to settle. And we will be stuck with some of them for as long as we were stuck with Arlen Specter. Because in the end it’s us, the people, who never learn.