May 19 2009 California Special Election

Today, on May 19 2009 at approximately 7 PM, I voted in the statewide special election on the six budget-related propositions.  Here’s how I voted.


Proposition 1A (extends higher taxes to pay for increase in rainy day fund and increases in education, infrastructure, and emergency spending and deficit reduction): I voted Yes because I feel that such a measure, including the higher taxes (which affect me now! I’ll explain in a future column), is necessary to put our mess of a budget back on track.


Proposition 1B (directs money from 1A, if passed, towards repaying schools): I voted Yes because I want some of the 1A money to go towards education.


Proposition 1C (reduces the deficit with borrowing from future lottery profits): While I initially was going to vote Yes so that lottery money could go towards deficit reduction, I realized at the voting booth that the money the state was borrowing now was from future lottery money.  In other words, the state is going to pay for stuff now with money that doesn’t even exist yet.  That sounds deeply irresponsible to me.  At least when the government deficit spends it’s using money that already exists (as far as I know…).  To pay for stuff now with money that’s supposed to be here later, but isn’t here yet, seems pretty fishy and isn’t really solving the problem.  The state government will have to find another way to balance the budget if 1C fails.  So I voted No and I hope the state government will come together and discuss the only two methods that provide for real deficit reduction: budget cuts and (my preference) higher taxes.


Proposition 1D (transfers money from local First 5 children’s programs to state children’s programs): I voted Yes because this seemed like a reasonable thing to do to alleviate state cutbacks in children’s development programs and balance the state budget.  I was not concerned about local funds being used statewide, especially when it’s possible that local funds could be spread from higher-income, less-in-need areas to those areas in more dire need of those funds. (Yes, I know that’s spreading the wealth.  But I won’t start complaining unless I lose 200 IQ points and become Joe the Plumber.)


Proposition 1E (transfers money from Prop. 63 mental health programs to state mental health programs): I voted Yes for the same reasons as with 1D.


Proposition 1F (ties state elected officials’ pay raises to whether or not they pass a balanced budget): Of course I voted Yes.  Politicians’ paychecks are the last things I’m worried about when the state needs to make cutbacks.  I’d cut elected officials’ salaries to save education, infrastructure, etc. any day, even if I were an elected official myself.


As a side note, this is the first election where I did not vote in the city and county of San Diego.  I voted at East Avenue Elementary School in Fairview, Alameda County.

Open Left

As per tradition, I mark my birthday by renewing my call to lower the alcohol drinking age to eighteen, if not doing away with it altogether.  One of these years I’m going to get around to a full-blown discussion as to what the facts and consequences surrounding the drinking age issue are.


But I want to briefly talk about something else.  I’ve been lurking around on Daily Kos for awhile now (maybe since sometime in mid- or late-2008) and it’s great.  But I never signed up for an account there, in part because the posts are too rapid-fire and long for me to be able to keep up.  But recently I’ve discovered another, even more liberal blog, Open Left.  Open Left reflects my liberal political views and strong desire to take out centrist Democrats, and there’s less posting so it’s easier to keep up with.  I’ve visited there a few times but I finally created an account (liberalmaverick) early this morning.  My first post, on the issue of a primary challenge to Senator Arlen Specter, can be seen here.


I hope to contribute to the discussions at Open Left for a long time.  I encourage everyone to follow the discussions of their interest on this incisive and intellectually stimulating blog.

Comments on Specter’s Switch III: Let’s Take the Fucker Out!

What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses

·         I give the liberal community a guide to what’s wrong with Arlen Specter.

·         I also have updates on Joe Sestak, with some promising news and some unpromising news.

·         I will continue to post updates on the Specter situation in this entry.

You know what I’ve realized in the last, oh, two or three days?  I haven’t been hard enough on Arlen Specter.


I think part of that is because most of my standing ire is directed at another self-serving moderate/conservative fuck Democrat, Ben Nelson.  As of this writing, there is no person I’d rather see leave the Senate – by any means necessary – than Ben Nelson.  Yes, he’s eclipsed and succeeded Joe Lieberman as my most reviled Senator. (I will post a more substantive entry on this later.)


But you know what, there’s plenty of anger and opposition to go around, and Specter is a bit easier prey.  I say “a bit” because it seems like he has the whole Democratic establishment – the Obama administration, the Ed Rendell administration – supporting him.  But you know what, we took on a popular establishment fake/opportunistic Democrat before, and we beat him. (Hint: His name appears somewhere in this Xanga entry!)


I said before that I would want Arlen Specter to win reelection ONLY if his Democratic opponents are all moderates.  But if a real liberal steps up to challenge him, by all means I want that liberal to win!  As of this moment his only serious challenger is Joe Torsella, whom I don’t have much information about.  Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) looks to be more and more seriously considering a run against Specter; I don’t know enough about him yet to make a solid opinion but he’s been sounding the right things from what I’ve heard (i.e. Arlen Specter is just some Johnny-come-lately trying to hitch a free ride, and the Democratic nominee for this Senate seat has to be decided by the people rather than by Democratic honchos).


So I’m going to start a running count of the strikes against Arlen Specter.  Any liberal running against him is free and welcome to use these talking points.


1.      Arlen Specter was a Democrat until 1965 when he ran for District Attorney as a Republican (while still a registered Democrat) because it was easier to get elected that way.  He stayed a Republican until recently, when he switched back to being a Democrat because he thinks it’s easier to get elected that way.  See a pattern?  He switches parties purely to cover his own political ass, and admitted almost as much in his press conference regarding his recent switch.  If George W. Bush feared a John Kerry presidency because Kerry was a “flip-flopper”, he’d drop dead screaming with President Arlen Specter.

2.      Specter voted for the stimulus, but before he did he made sure that a bunch of spending, spending that could have been used to create tons of jobs and infrastructure, was removed from the stimulus package.  Why?  Because he wanted to stroke his own “moderate” ego, perhaps, and because of vague notions about not wanting to “spend too much money”; never mind that he voted for deficit spending and budget-busting tax cuts during the Bush years.  This guy is NOT a real liberal.  Not even close.

3.      Since becoming a Democrat, Specter voted against President Obama’s FY2010 budget.  His stated reason was because he opposed the budget’s “possibility” of using reconciliation to pass health care legislation.  But I’m sure not wanting to “spend too much money” also had something to do with it, since Obama’s budget is the biggest and most ambitious of perhaps any Democrat since LBJ, and certainly much more so than the shit ones we got from the Bush administration (which Specter supported and voted for, of course).

4.      Also since becoming a Democrat, Specter voted against “cramdown” that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to make it easier for people to pay their mortgage payments and keep their homes.

5.      When asked about health care legislation on Meet the Press, Specter said he doesn’t want the government to offer its own health care plan (the “public option”, usually said to be similar to Medicare) alongside private plans.  Having a federal government plan alongside private ones is a key liberal/Democratic position in my mind.  When asked what kind of health care reform he would like to see, he mentioned a bunch of blather about improving technology, funding medical research, emphasizing diet and exercise, etc., milquetoast crap like what Hillary Clinton used to talk about before 2007, but nothing concrete on what to do with the uninsured, except for mentioning his support for the Wyden-Bennett health care plan, which he did not elaborate on or explain. (From a quick read of a CBPP report on it, Wyden-Bennett would establish state-based purchasing pools for private insurance and mandate individuals to buy insurance, with subsidies available on a sliding scale.  Not bad, but still inferior to the public/private option plan or, my (and a lot of other liberal Democrats’) favorite, single-payer Medicare for All.)

6.      In that same Meet the Press interview (in the same question, actually), David Gregory quoted a Wall Street Journal piece that claimed Specter had said to President Obama, “I will be a loyal Democrat.  I support your agenda.”  Specter vociferously denied saying that (or at least, the “loyal Democrat” part).  Sounds pretty fishy.  Plus, um, I kinda want a loyal Democrat, one who supports Democratic principles and values.  Arlen, that ain’t you.

7.      Two years ago when he was still a Republican, Specter was for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and was generally pro-union, which explained why labor unions constantly backed him even against Democrats.  This year, as he was shaping up for a grueling battle with a conservative in the Republican primary, Specter switched his position and became against EFCA.  When he became a Democrat, he declared that he would continue to be against EFCA, probably because to switch his position back at that moment would’ve looked too blatantly political.  Not only is Specter a flip-flopper, but he’s flip-flopped to the wrong side of the issue.


UPDATE (May 7 2009): Joe Sestak has come out swinging against Benedict Arlen, attacking both Specter’s conservative past and blatant opportunism and, even more promisingly, the entire Democratic establishment for wholeheartedly supporting Specter.


The good news is this money quote right here:


But according to Sestak, even if Specter moves in the right direction, the more important question is whether or not he’ll actually stick to those new positions going forward. If Specter’s re-elected, he’ll be senator (potentially) until 2016, and Sestak worries he won’t be reliable over time.


Precisely.  As David Broder, a man whose views I normally despise but in this case is spot-on, put it in “Specter the Defector”, Specter will do precisely whatever it takes to keep his job.  If he’ll flip-flop to make people vote for him, he’ll do it.  But Pennsylvania is, unfortunately, not liberal enough to force Specter to be a full-throated liberal (yet!).  So in all likelihood he might do a couple of leftward feints to secure victory in the Democratic primary (though on that count he’s on a bad start, what with the budget and cramdown votes, non-support of EFCA, non-support of government health care, etc.).  But once that primary’s over, watch him quickly move back to pretty much where he is now and expect to coast to reelection as he did in the last couple of reelections.  Which raises an interesting question: Why is Sestak waiting to see if Specter shapes up before entering the race if Specter is always going to be unreliable anyway, and anything Specter does can’t be taken on good faith?  Seems to me he might as well jump in now.


The bad news comes in the quote right after:


Interestingly, though, there may not be much daylight between Specter and Sestak on at least one of these issues. Sestak says he’s still unsure whether he supports a public health insurance option as an element of comprehensive health reform. He plans to discuss the issue further with SEIU president Andy Stern and others and come to a decision in the coming weeks, but if he ultimately comes down against that policy, he’ll be in just about the same camp as his new rival, who came out against a public option over the weekend. Obviously that means less in the House (where Sestak serves) than it does in the Senate (where Specter potentially wields enormous influence), but no less a figure than Howard Dean has said that comprehensive health reform requires a public option.


Howard Dean is right, of course, and I applaud him for leading the charge for the public option.  That Sestak hasn’t gotten with the program yet and still needs consulting disturbs me greatly.  Health care issues in general and the public option issue in particular have often served as a very convenient fault line separating true liberal Democrats from faux I’m-just-a-nicer-version-of-a-Republican moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh (whom, not coincidentally, both do not support the public option).  If Sestak doesn’t support a public option it’s a very good indicator that he falls on the side of centrist, government-is-bad faux Democrats.  And in that case I think I’d rather take an ailing 79-year old faux Democrat who won’t serve that much longer than a healthy 57-year old faux Democrat who could be in there for a couple of terms.


I hope Sestak makes the right decision.  Of course, even if he doesn’t, Sestak would still be better than Specter.  But if he isn’t that much better, than liberalism would profit in the long run with Specter rather than Sestak.  I don’t know much else about Sestak at this point, but so far he’s at least been saying the right things.


Interestingly, I have heard nothing from or about Joe Torsella, who is actually in the race.  I wonder why that is.

UPDATE II (May 8 2009): There is precious little being said about Joe Torsella, but at least his freakin website is up, which couldn’t be said a week ago.  Unfortunately, at this point the website has nothing of value in terms of explaining his ideology or stances on the issues.  Hopefully he gets that up and running soon.  Not to nag or anything, but it’s not a good sign if it takes this long to get a website going.


As several bloggers have pointed out, a primary challenge to Specter will most likely succeed with fewer people in the race – ideally, just one liberal challenger to Specter.

UPDATE III (May 11 2009): I’m working on a broader update on the merits and drawbacks of Joe Sestak as our “liberal” champion.  But right now I need to vote in this straw poll hosted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which along with Open Left (which I recently joined), looks to be a site suited to my tastes for supporting progressive candidates against not only Republicans but centrist and conservative Democrats as well.


The question is as follows: “Should a Draft Sestak movement be created to take on Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary?”


My vote will be No, for the following reasons:


1.      Sestak seems to already be very much inclined to run even without this straw poll, and I doubt that his decision will be significantly affected one way or the other by this poll.

2.      Though I have no way of telling this other than gut instinct, I have a feeling that Yes will win, perhaps by a large margin.  This is not the basis on which I form my opinion, but it does make me more comfortable in voting on it.

3.      Okay, time to get to the point.  I don’t want to support someone whose liberal-ness is, at the moment to my eyes, a mixed bag with lots of question marks.  I have heard good things about Sestak and from Sestak, and I have heard bad things and have bad feelings about him.  I will discuss his pros and cons later, but I can say at this point that Sestak is a decently liberal guy, but not that liberal, and there’s still a lot of things I don’t know about him that I want to/need to know.  If we’re not going to have a real liberal champion to take on Specter then, as I’ve explained before, it’s better to just let Specter win and then push a real liberal for the office when Specter dies or retires in a short time down the road.  Maybe Sestak is that champion, but as of right now, I don’t know that, and until I do I’m going to withhold bold declarations of my support.

4.      This does not mean that I will not support Sestak in the primary.  As of right now I’m inclined to favor a primary against Specter but I need to be convinced that the person who beats him will be someone that I and the rest of the liberal community will be reasonably happy with for the duration of their service, which will likely be a long time.  If Sestak convinces me then I will support him.  But I’m voting No right now because he hasn’t convinced me yet, not because he will never convince me, and not because he has convinced me to not support him.


I feel like I need to pound on this point again: Any Democrat will be better than Specter.  The question liberals and progressives like myself need to ask is: Irrespective of how much better he is than Specter, will Sestak (or Torsella, or whatever) be someone WE will be happy with for the next several decades?  If the answer is no, then it’d be better to let Specter win and elect a real liberal champion sometime soon down the road.

UPDATE IV (May 17 2009): Two pieces of news.  First is that, as expected, voters in the PCCC straw poll voted overwhelmingly – 85-86 percent – to support a Draft Sestak movement.  Though I voted No, I am heartened that the results show that the overwhelming majority of those on the left are not going to simply roll over and dumbly accept Specter as our nominee.


The other news is that Joe Torsella has ended his barely visible campaign, leaving Specter unopposed for the time being (aside from the ignored Bill Kortz).  Though I’m not particularly surprised nor disappointed in his decision, I do question the motives behind Torsella’s withdrawal – and whether he was pressured by anybody to make that decision.  Torsella denies it, but considering that he’s good buddies with conniving Governor Ed Rendell who is in turn good buddies with Arlen Specter, I have a hard time believing any decision by Torsella was based purely on his own motives.


His public explanation was somewhat lame:


Over time, it’s become clear to me that the kind of campaign this would become is not the kind of campaign I – or you – signed up for. It would probably become negative, personal, and all about Senator Specter’s past, not our common future. And that doesn’t do Pennsylvania any good.


Uhhh, every challenger has to talk about his opponent’s record to at least some extent.  Torsella was gonna have to criticize Specter’s “past” regardless, at least if he wanted to have any chance of actually winning.  That didn’t change with Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party.


Anyway, Torsella said that he’s “not going anywhere”, and that’s probably true.  Apparently, if you’re friends with Ed Rendell you can go anywhere and be anything you want, no problem.  Such is the sad state of Pennsylvanian democracy.

Comments on Specter’s Switch II: Purity vs. Viability

What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses

·         Given a black-and-white choice between stand on principle and lose and sacrifice your principles and win, I’d take stand on principle and lose.

·         To echo Senator Jim DeMint, I would rather have 30 Democrats in the Senate who really believe in principles of active government, regulated markets and not only free people but helping those free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.

·         Political party doesn’t matter – it’s what you believe in and what you do about it that matter.  That said, I’d vote for a liberal who was a Republican over a conservative who was a Democrat any day.

·         A lot of the liberal blog chatter about how weak the Republicans are and how they have to move to the center seems not only premature and hyperbolic, but also contrary to what the bloggers themselves have to say about their own (Democratic) Party.  Of course, according to them the reason conservatives have to move to the center but liberals don’t is because liberal ideas are actually popular.  Of course, how convenient! <rolls eyes>

·         Such an argument implies, of course, that principles will have to be betrayed or moderated if they are found to be unpopular.  Considering that liberal ideas were (and, very possibly, still are) unpopular, and yet people like Kos (whom I have great respect for and otherwise mostly agree with) not only stuck to those unpopular ideas but argued that the Democrats should proudly adopt them, I find his argument that conservatives should give up/moderate their beliefs now that the shoe’s on the other foot very contradictory, self-serving and ridiculously smug.

·         A political party that needs to betray the people in order to win elections doesn’t deserve to exist, let alone win those damn elections.  There’s no point in selling out our principles for some election victory because it’s the selling out that makes that victory totally meaningless.

·         If a party that’s supposed to act as a vehicle for an ideology modifies its core beliefs with the political winds, in my mind it ceases to be a meaningful party.  To put it another way, moving to the center and betraying core principles to “save” a political party is just the same as destroying our constitutional rights to “save” our country from terrorists: by supposedly “saving” the party/country we’re actually destroying it ourselves.

·         I briefly talk about twelve “Democrats” betraying the American people by voting against mortgage cramdown.  You can find the list of the twelve Democrats, and which ones I consider vulnerable (all two of them, sadly), at the bottom of the entry.

·         By the way, wouldn’t it be great if, having switched parties to avoid a defeat from the right, Arlen Specter is defeated in the Democratic primary by the left?  How ironic and terrific would that be?  Let’s do it!


Before Specter’s switch, there was a lot of discussion inside and outside the Republican Party as to whether they should valiantly stand by their core principles and defend it to death, or moderate themselves so as to be more competitive in non-deep red states.  As a guy who, to borrow a line from the great Henry Clay, would rather be right than be President, I always favor the “stand on principle even if it loses elections” than mushy moderation, and that goes for Republicans as well as Democrats.  Moderation is uninteresting, deprives us of a real political debate and is often nothing more than pure political opportunism.  Yes, obviously winning elections is important and we should always look for ways to stand on principle and win, but if the choice were a simple black-and-white one between stand on principle and lose and sacrifice your principles and win, I’d take stand on principle and lose.


That’s essentially what Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is rapidly becoming the Republicans’ point man on stubborn, unyielding conservatism, said when he declared: “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”


As a proud liberal Democrat, let me say this: I would rather have 30 Democrats in the Senate who really believe in principles of active government, regulated markets and not only free people but helping those free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.


As if to make my point that it’s ideology and not party that matters, on Thursday the Senate voted 51-45 against the Durbin amendment that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to “cramdown” mortgage payments so homeowners can keep their homes.  We needed 60 votes to pass it but with 59 Democrats all we needed to do was to get everyone on board and then snag an Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins or… well, I guess that’s it.  Difficult, but not impossible… until it became impossible due to our own “Democratic” Senators.  Twelve Democrats – and I will at the bottom of this entry list their full names, their states, their next election and any comments on their political viability, so to facilitate the wrath we will bring upon them – joined the Republicans in stopping the amendment.  I will say this now and I will say it again many times in the future: I don’t care what party you’re in – I care about what you believe in and what you do about it.


And yet, many of my ideological peers, including the denizens of Daily Kos who agree with me that liberals ought to stand loudly in support of their ideals no matter what the political odds, seem to be going out of their way to mock Republicans for their current state of irrelevancy and to goad them into moving towards the center.  Now, I like stomping on dying Republicans as much as the next guy.  But it seems odd that these liberals are counseling Republicans to do something that they regularly attack the people in their own party for doing.


Kos, a guy who should be the first to give the finger to the political winds, recently put out a piece called the “The GOP’s base problem” where he first talks about how the Democrats were woefully stuck in the center, until a magical army of righteous netroots bloggers swooped in and saved the day for the Democratic Party by discovering that – how wonderful! – liberal ideas were right and politically popular:


Lucky for them, a new generation of activists arose to challenge the status quo — on MoveOn, blogs, DFA, and so on, in addition to a core group of big-money donors willing to invest in a new party infrastructure. This was a movement predicated on getting the Democratic Party off its self-destructive path, and realigning it with the populace. There was an ideological component to our work, sure, but also a very practical one. From the beginning, we were poll-obsessed, and we knew by looking at the numbers that we could succeed and thrive as a liberal party if we abandoned the Joe Lieberman-school of politics and became clear, unapologetic, and muscular progressives, while building the infrastructure to generate and disseminate our ideas.


Then he goes on to note that the Republicans are now in a rut and, like the liberal netroots, are sticking to their guns.  But whereas it was great going for the liberal netroots, for conservatives it sucks.  Why the difference?  Why of course, it’s because liberal ideas are popular and conservative ones aren’t!


Note — Democrats didn’t succeed because we forced them to “moderate” and “compromise” on key party principles, but because we forced them to stand up for them. But here’s the difference — our principles are actually quite popular — no unnecessary wars, access to good health care, responsive government, tax fairness, and so on. Conservative principles? Not so popular. War, a lower tax burden for the rich, environmental devastation, hating on immigrants and people of color, starving government and the rest of their agenda really doesn’t light anyone up beyond the wingnut fringe.






Point I: Are conservative ideas really unpopular?  Let’s go through Kos’s roster.  War: I assume he refers to the Iraq war, which indeed is unpopular, but only because we’re losing.  I recall back in the days leading up to the war and during the early stages of the war (i.e. up to “Mission Accomplished” and even beyond), those who supported it were in the overwhelming majority, and not only that, they were true red-blooded patriotic Americans, whereas those of us who protested the illegal and completely unjustified invasion of Iraq were considered to be not only sympathizers to Saddam’s evil regime and his “allies” in al Qaeda, but on top of that we were also elitist tea-drinking, Volvo-driving pacifists.


If the Iraq war was truly over at the end of 2003 I virtually guarantee you that it’d be as super popular now as it was then.  It’d be no less illegal, unjustified and unnecessary, but it’d still be popular.  But that is not where I’d want my Democratic Party to go.


A lower tax burden for the rich: Hrm, doesn’t everyone support lowering taxes on the rich because hey, they might be “rich” someday?  I can tell you that the Bush tax cuts, the first round of which passed with overwhelming support thanks to quite a few guys and gals on our side, were never unpopular.


Environmental devastation: Okay.  But didn’t most people support offshore drilling?


Hating on immigrants and people of color: Okay.  But on the question of illegal immigrants I think a lot of people are uneasy about allowing them to remain in the country.


Starving government: As Dick Morris just helpfully pointed out for us, Americans still hate government. (This is the one thing in politics I want to change most in my lifetime.)


Okay, I admit that I’m mostly playing devil’s advocate.  Kos is right in that Americans probably agree with Democrats on more issues (or even way more issues!) than they do with Republicans.  But Republicans didn’t win six of the past ten presidential elections and control Congress for 12 long years for free.  They won those elections, and while gutter politics had a lot to do with it there were issues involved too, and Americans liked what the Republicans were saying enough to give them wins.  So let’s not forget or pooh-pooh what the Republicans did in pushing their issues.


Point II: So is Kos saying that principle only matters as long as they’re popular?  His argument essentially boils down to: We should stand on our principles because they’re popular, and they should give up on their principles because they’re unpopular.  So that begs the question, if our principles were unpopular, does that mean that we would have to moderate?  I’m guessing Kos would say yes, and that we did just that with Bill Clinton, but that doesn’t make him very principled, does it?  Besides, I’m guessing that Kos would be among the first to criticize the actual steps Clinton took to moderate the Democratic Party (e.g. welfare reform).  I say “guessing” because I don’t know for sure where Kos stands on those issues.


Certainly I mostly criticize the “moderation” that the DLC forced the party into.  Yes, some steps were necessary, like letting voters know that Democrats care about families and safety. (I can’t believe we actually had to go through the trouble of doing that.) But some steps, like welfare reform and like DOMA, were just betrayals, pure and simple.  I don’t care how viable that made the Democratic Party; a party that needs to betray the people in order to win elections doesn’t deserve to exist, let alone win those damn elections.


What I am saying is that it’s great that our liberal principles are finally finding resonance among the American people (or are they?).  But that has not been, nor will it always be, the case. (In fact, it might not even be the case right now, as Americans’ continued distrust of government shows.) And when that day comes that liberals are the unpopular ones (again), the real test of principle is whether we stick to our ideals or compromise them to look more like the popular guys.  On that question, I think that I, for one, will stay principled by sticking to principle, period.  And if that makes me unpopular, so be it.  If Democrats stick to principle and don’t win elections because their ideas are unpopular, that’s fine – actually it’s better than fine, it’s democracy!  And best of all, we won’t sell out our principles for some election victory that’s meaningless precisely because we sold out our principles.


Of course, when the time comes to vote a moderate Democrat is always better than a conservative Republican.  But, likewise, a liberal Republican is better than a conservative Democrat, and a moderate Republican is better than a conservative Democrat.  That’s my point – it’s the ideology and actions, what you believe in and what you do about it, that matter, not the party label.  Which is why if a party that’s supposed to act as a vehicle for an ideology modifies its core beliefs with the political winds, in my mind it ceases to be a meaningful party.


Bringing the discussion back to the choice that faces Republicans, the Republican Party may well wither away or even die if most of the people in it remain staunch conservatives.  But so what?  Who cares if the GOP dies?  Parties come and go; they are but vehicles for ideologies and worldviews.  It’s the conviction in the party that matters.  So I don’t see why Republicans should have to moderate their core convictions and rush to the center in order to “save their party”, if saving their party means destroying what it stands for.


Likewise with Democrats.  If the Democratic Party some point down the road is dying and needs to move to the center to be “saved”, watch me not give a fuck.  I’m staying right where I am and so should my fellow liberals.  What’s the point in moderating our beliefs or voting for subpar people?  Moving to the center and betraying core principles to “save” a political party is just the same as destroying our constitutional rights to “save” our country from terrorists: by supposedly “saving” the party/country we’re actually destroying it ourselves.


P.S. Here are the Dirty Dozen Democrats who voted against cramdown, and should be punished, potentially through electoral defeat in a Democratic primary.  For what good are electing Democrats if they vote AGAINST the people?


Max Baucus (Montana) (next up in 2014) – A usual suspect.  We probably can’t beat him in a primary.

Michael Bennet (Colorado) (next up in 2010) – Pretty new to the Senate and already a centrist fuck like his predecessor.  We gotta replace him with a liberal in 2010.  Andrew Romanoff is rumored to be considering a run – I don’t know for sure how liberal he is but he’s probably more liberal than Bennet.

Robert Byrd (West Virginia) (next up in 2012) – He’s good on most issues but has centrist tendencies from time to time, usually on social issues but I guess on helping people keep their homes too.  Not primary-able but at 91 his Senate career is heading towards its finale.  Let’s hope that his successor will be a more committed liberal.

Tom Carper (Delaware) (next up in 2012) – Another usual suspect.  Unfortunately he’s probably not primary-able unless we find and fund some netroots insurgent ala Ned Lamont.  But I don’t know how many Ned Lamonts can be found in Delaware.

Byron Dorgan (North Dakota) (next up in 2010) – Dorgan’s usually a good guy!  I don’t know what’s going on… needless to say in a state like North Dakota any Democrat is precious.

Tim Johnson (South Dakota) (next up in 2014) – Also usually a decent guy, and again Dakotan Democrats have to be held onto with both hands.

Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) (next up in 2014) – Among the worst of the Conservadems, but in Louisiana no Democrat’s going to challenge her.

Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas) (next up in 2010) – Sigh.  Probably not replaceable.

Ben Nelson (Nebraska) (next up in 2012) – This fucker is probably the worst excuse for a human being in politics.  I don’t know if Nebraska can send another Democrat in his place but at this point his death will suit me just fine.

Mark Pryor (Arkansas) (next up in 2014) – Probably not replaceable.

Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) (next up in 2010) – Very centrist and very replaceable, if some liberal Democrat would just grow some balls already.  Joe Torsella is running against him and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) may get into the race as well.

Jon Tester (Montana) (next up in 2012) – Do Montanans not have houses?  Tester was supposed to be a relative liberal for a Montanan Democrat, but he seems to be moving to the center lately.  Disappointing.  I doubt we’ll get another Democrat in his place.


So of the 12 only two, Bennet and Specter, look like they can be conceivably replaced, and both in 2010.  But even in Specter’s case it looks glum since the establishment is backing him.  Not good.


P.P.S. Just had a thought.  Wouldn’t it be deliciously delightful if, after having switched parties to avoid a defeat from the right, Arlen Specter is defeated in the Democratic primary by the left?  How ironic and terrific would that be?  Can we make it happen?  Please???


C’mon, liberal idealist crusader with a passion for politics in Pennsylvania!  You could be the next Ned Lamont and do the Democratic Party a favor by weeding out these traitors and hangers-on!  Send Specter packing!


Fuck, I’d do it myself if I were established in Pennsylvania politics.

Comments on Specter’s Switch I

What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses

·         Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party changes the letter after his name but it doesn’t change how he votes; that is, he will vote for whatever helps him survive and thrive politically.

·         Hopefully, the combination of political pressure from Pennsylvanians and the pressure from his Democratic colleagues will get him to vote the right way, especially on EFCA.  The idea of Democrats getting tough on him seems unlikely to me though, since Democrats seem to get absurdly thrilled just from being in office.

·         The Democratic primary field is already pretty empty, with Joe Torsella being the only even remotely serious opponent, and it will probably be cleared by conniving kingmaker Governor Ed Rendell.  If there is a truly liberal Democrat who steps up to challenge Specter, I hope s/he wins.  Otherwise, if it’s Specter versus a marginally more liberal but still squishy moderate Democrat, I hope Specter wins so a real liberal can run and win when the aging Specter retires or dies.


Aging and embattled Senator Arlen Specter (formerly R, now D-Pa.) has switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party and is running as a Democrat for reelection to the Senate in 2010 in order to avoid a politically fatal battle with conservative Pat Toomey in the Republican primary.


Pat Toomey (left) and Arlen Specter. Source: Down With Tyranny! blog


This is big news… psychologically. (I first found out actually from watching the news on a TV in the basement student lounge of the USC Dental School.) But practically speaking this doesn’t have the huge impact that Jim Jeffords’s switch in 2001 had.  What it does change, however, is the dynamics of Specter’s voting, the Pennsylvania Senate race, and some basic questions about party/ideological purity and how important it is versus electoral viability.  To keep this entry shorter I’ve included the discussions on the first two aspects, and saved the third for a later post.


Specter’s voting: Up until now, Specter has been a moderate conservative with some liberal sympathies; he’s pro-choice and supports at least some government help in the economy (as well as directing tons of pork back to Pennsylvania).  He was one of the few Republicans to vote for President Obama’s stimulus package, though, in a huge mark against him, he was also one of the small cadre of infuriating moderates (see also Ben Nelson) who callously gutted billions of dollars in what would have been crucially important stimulus spending.


Now that Specter is “free” from the Republican Party and its annoying conservative primary voters, he may be able to vote more liberally than he has in the past.  But Specter is an unprincipled hack who will do whatever he has to in order to get reelected and stay in office – and I say that charitably.  His very defection to the Democratic Party was pretty much motivated solely by the need to avoid a primary battle with Toomey that he was sure to lose.  Now that he’s a Democrat he’s in “safe” territory, so he can vote however he wants.  Which is to say, potentially no different than how he’s voting right now.  But on any given issue – and the filibuster that he’s supposed to help break is on an issue-by-issue basis – he will vote the politically expedient way when he needs to (which is hopefully the liberal way as Pennsylvania is trending more towards the Democrats) and the rest of the time he can vote his “conscience”, which is probably somewhere in the murky and ill-defined “center”.


The most salient issue on which Specter’s vote will be closely watched is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which used to have Specter’s support but he then kicked it to the curb to help his chances in the Republican primary.  He doesn’t have to worry about winning that primary anymore but he stated that he still opposes it.  Hrm… this may be one case where, regardless of how he personally feels about it, Democrats, and big labor Democrats especially, support EFCA and Specter will have to vote for it to survive a Democratic primary.  So my guess is that he’ll vote to stop the filibuster on EFCA and let it go through for a vote, and then vote against EFCA out of “principle”.  I bet we’ll be seeing a lot of those having-it-both-ways from Specter in his remaining time in the Senate (fellow unreliable “Democrat” and self-centered hack Joe Lieberman is a pioneer of that technique).


Pennsylvania Senate race: Previously, the Senate race had been analyzed as an easy Democratic pick-up in the likely event of Toomey winning the Republican primary.  Now it seems that Toomey will have an even easier time winning the primary but will still get creamed by a Democrat in the general election (it’s not easy being Toomey).  The question is, who will be the Democrat?


At this point the Democratic primary race is between Specter, Joe Torsella and Bill Kortz.  Joe Torsella is the CEO of the National Constitution Center and has for months been the sole declared opponent of Specter.  He announced that he was staying in the race and that Specter’s switch changed nothing.  I never heard of Bill Kortz until five minutes ago and I suspect he will have no impact on the race, and probably won’t even stay in now that Specter’s in.  So the race will probably come down to Specter vs. Torsella.


I don’t know much about Torsella.  There’s a lively debate going on at OpenLeft about Torsella.  I’ve heard some good things about him and some bad things, and I don’t know who I’d rather see win.  On one hand, it is pretty hard to be a Democrat and to the right of Specter, so in all likelihood Torsella is more liberal, even marginally so.  On the other hand, Torsella is only 45 years old and if elected he could serve for a long time, which will not be a good thing if he’s just a bloodless moderate.  Specter is 79 and has battled Hodgkin’s disease.  This will probably be his last term (though I was saying that at the beginning of his current term too…).  It might be better if Specter won this time and served one last term before vacating the seat one way or another, and then having a competition for an open seat from which a true-blue progressive Democrat could win the seat.


The one ugly factor in all this is Governor Ed Rendell, who is probably the most machine hack politician I’ve seen (outside of Chicago, anyway) in recent times.  He’s close to both Torsella and Specter, but probably closer to Specter, and I mean in a possibly “I secret support him against the guy in my own party” kind of way.  When asked a month ago about the possibility of Specter running in a Democratic primary, the conniving Governor declared that his good friend Specter would run unopposed, which probably means that the oh-so-wise Democratic establishment would force other Democrats out of the race, with Rendell at the head of the pack waving the biggest spear.  So who we can get into this race and who wins will be largely in the hands of Rendell.  At this point I think the most likely scenario is that Specter wins the nomination and the general, but as I said earlier this may be a good thing cuz it could pave the way for a more progressive Democratic Senator (which we haven’t seen out of Pennsylvania since Harris Wofford) to eventually succeed Specter.


P.S. I love how Specter’s move now puts all the pressure on Norm Coleman to keep up his increasingly hopeless struggle to stop Al Franken.  Coleman’s arguments before the Minnesota Supreme Court will not be heard until the beginning of June, so that’s the earliest Franken can/will be seated.  If Coleman appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court (and why not?  He has nothing better to do, other than his rewarding and enriching job at the Republican Jewish Coalition) it will take until the fall even if the Supreme Court declines to hear his case.