May 19, 2010

Not an Anti-incumbent Thing

Senator Arlen Specter
The press seems to be attributing Joe Sestak’s victory over long-time Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter in yesterday’s Democratic Party primary to a general anti-incumbent sentiment. This is clever journalism and, seemingly, not much of a stretch. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell has attributed Sepcter’s loss to an “anti-incumbent mood throughout the country.”

Whether there is a general throw-the-bums-out mood among the American electorate is hard to say, but, as one who voted for Congressman Sestak, I can say that there were lots of reasons not to vote for Senator Specter, endorsements by President Obama and Governor Ed Rendell notwithstanding.

To begin with, Spector is 80 years old and has recently battled cancer. How healthy and mentally acute is he likely to be at the end of another six-year term? I’m sure that many voters asked themselves this same question.

There is, of course, the fact that Specter, whose long service in the Senate has been as a Republican, switched parties to avoid a probable loss in the Republican primary. No doubt, some Democrats held this against Specter. Sestak cleverly exploited any queasiness Democrats might have about Specter’s opportunism by airing TV spots of Specter declaring that he was changing parties to get reëlected. Well, I’m a Christian who believes in redemption, and I welcomed Specter into the fold. The reality, however, is that whereas, in these times, Specter could be seen as a left-of-center Republican, he has to be viewed as a right-of-center Democrat.

Specter feared that he would be defeated in a Republican primary election, probably by Representative Pat Toomey. In fact, Toomey won the Republican nod yesterday. If Democrats were suspicious of Specter’s changing parties, just imagine what Republican voters would have been thinking in November as they contemplated a Toomey–Specter race! Sestak looks more like a winner in the general election.

True, Specter was an independent thinker who, no doubt, drove Republican leaders nuts. He was more willing than nearly every other Republican senator to vote with the Democrats on particular issues, though I doubt that anyone, Republican or Democrat, could predict what those issues might be. I was not ashamed that Pennsylvania was represented in the Senate by Arlen Specter. I never mistook him for a Democrat in Republican clothing, however. And I will never forgive Specter for his disgraceful treatment of Anita Hill.

I appreciate what Specter has done for Pennsylvania, but I would have preferred a Democrat all along. I did not vote for Sestak because I was mad at incumbents generally; I voted for Sestak because I wanted to select a Democrat who could actually be elected.


  1. LD - I voted as you did for much the same reasons. I admit, though, that on the state rep/senate races, I was strongly anti-incumbent. The PA legislature is a disgrace (speaking as a newbie - only resident 4 years)

  2. The Pa. legislature is indeed a disgrace. I’ve lived in Illinois and Louisiana, and those legislatures were a disgrace, also. If any state has a diligent, wise, and honest legislature, I don’t know which one it is.


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