Arlen Specter Goes Rogue as the PA Dem Primary Heats Up

Joe Versus the Volcano

Ah yes, spring is in the air: the budding of the foliage, the nice warm breeze and of course, primary season.
Here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Democratic Primary, just over a week away on May 18th, is heating up. Former Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter is in a tight race with current PA Congressman Joe Sestak for the chance to be the Democrat’s candidate for Senate in the November election. As I’m sure most will remember, Specter switched party allegiances less than a year ago by stating that he had no chance of winning a primary against a Republican challenger—at least he was honest about his switch.

Specter has historically been characterized as a “moderate” Republican, meaning he has not been blatantly in the tank for corporate interests and has given un-Republican lip service to the rhetorical “plight of the working man” through support of labor unions—at least that’s what he says, his record shows a bit of a different story.

Just about a year ago, Specter flipped his support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill designed to strengthen labor unions and workers ability to unionize. This is one of many of Specter’s inconsistencies in regard to rhetoric and action. Even more surprisingly, the AFL/CIO is endorsing Specter in the Primary—seems counterproductive to the interests of their members, but not surprising considering their shift to the right the past couple decades.

Putting aside Specter’s poor record when it comes to supporting labor, this current campaign has turned decidedly dirty as Specter—who feared losing the Republican Primary not too long ago—has turned to a barrage of negative, character assassinating ads against Sestak. For those of us living in PA, it is a never-ending cycle of attack ads if one turns on the television. Here is one such ad highlighting Sestak’s attendance:

This is fairly tame compared to other ads in which Sestak is accused of exploiting his worker’s and in which his service in the United States Navy is brought into question.

This is not to say that Sestak hasn’t resorted to negative campaigning as well. He has highlighted Specter’s previous support of George W. Bush’s policies, a now tiring ploy of Democrats trying to capitalize on Bush’s unpopularity—it certainly didn’t hurt Obama’s campaign against McCain two years ago. Yet, Sestak’s attack ads pale in comparison to Specter, who might be seeing his long run in the Senate, come to an end in just nine days. These desperate tactics of Specter only exemplify his lack of anything close to resembling a liberal voting record and the fact that Sestak has actually supported forward-thinking legislation that benefits the environment and labor interests.

Sestak was an original sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act and has a 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. This is not to say that Sestak should be the next Senator of Pennsylvania, quite the contrary. Like any other so-called liberal democrat, he has failed to stand up to the blatant pro-corporate interests of the Republicans, giving the typical lip-service to issues of importance to those of us who are not wealthy.

Considering the limitations of a democracy monopolized by two parties with very different rhetoric, yet very similar results, Sestak is obviously a better choice than Specter. Though in this context, that is like saying that light cigarettes are healthier than full-strength—obviously there is no difference as they both cause cancer. Our Democracy may not cause cancer, but it is indeed harmful to our health.

Sestak’s record gives me some hope that he might stand up to the far-right and at the very least, support progressive legislation as he has in the past. While Specter has supported and voted for legislation that is in the interests of the people rather than corporate hegemony, he is still to the right on many issues and has proven and admitted that he is just another politician desperately clinging to his livelihood. So for all Pennsylvanian’s voting in next Tuesday’s Democratic Primary, go with Sestak, the lesser of two evils…so to speak.

Todd Curl is a known radical with a myriad of psychiatric disorders. When he is not cleaning septic tanks the old-fashioned way, he spreads his unique brand of crazy on The Todd Blog