The Specter of Defeat

AKA – Death of a Salesman, OR Arlen go Home

Perhaps best known for flip-flopping, thirty year Senator Arlen Specter (Dem, this time – PA) was forced out yesterday when he lost the Pennsylvania Democratic primary to Congressman Joe Sestak (Dem). Sestak is only 58 and a retired Rear Admiral in the US Navy. He is considered one of the most effective members of Congress and is popular in his suburban Philadelphia district. Sestak has firm, well-stated positions on a number of issues and is certainly liberal having supported the stimulus and health care bills as well as being pro-choice and pro gun control.

Specter started his career as a Democrat and switched to the Republican Party in 1965. He remained a Republican until 2009 when it became apparent he would lose the Republican primary. Most saw his switch as brash opportunism and being driven solely by the hopes of political game – and it is hard to argue that point. To his weak defense he stated what one would expect him to say when he switched parties – “[I am] at odds with the (current) Republican philosophy.” fn1 His lack of party and ideological conviction, his age and the backlash against incumbents of all stripes proved to be his ultimate demise.

Specter was often engaged in high profile bills and at least one odd populist situation that one would like to think is beyond the purview of the United States Senate. In 2008 he pressed the NFL on internal league operations regarding rules violations by the New England Patriots. This was at the same time the nations leaders were hard at work on stimulus bills and the Iraq war. Specter stated “I do believe that it is a matter of importance. It’s not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war, but I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people – and further the Congress – because they have an antitrust exemption.”[1] While I am sure this played out nicely in his home state where his beloved Philadelphia Eagles had lost the Super Bowl in 2005 to the New England Patriots it really was irrelevant beyond Specter’s trying to win popularity at home.

It is always hard to see a person lose their job, age and feel expelled from their home. Specter’s run was a long one, but much like his attempts at attacking the NFL and the New England Patriot’s – he too has become irrelevant. People can see thru the nonsense and the clearly see thru the populism that made him change political parties in order to save his political life. The same tactic worked for Joe Lieberman in 2006 – but that was still ahead of the economic downturn and recession, and the anger voters have at their dysfunctional government. Joe survived that time – will he the next time?

As much as I would like to see a Democratic vote preserved in the Senate it is obvious that Specter was not a reliable vote. He is the embodiment of what is wrong with our government and the voters decided to enforce their own term limits by eliminating Arlen Specter from the polls well ahead of November.



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