Klein Is Right- Specter Needs a Primary Opponent

I agree with this assessment:

Democrats, from the President on down, are trying to get Congressman Joe Sestak to back off, to let Arlen Specter have a free run for the U.S. Senate, as a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but it seems to me that if a sitting U.S. Senator decides to change parties simply because he perceives a better chance of winning reelection–that is, if he does so out of zero personal conviction–then he deserves to be primaried simply for form’s sake, to find out what he actually believes. (Maybe I’m not so old-fashioned: in the 19th century politics being practiced by the Democrats, the bosses decide who runs.)

I’ll note that there was something really irritating and grating about Sestak’s performance the last couple of weeks, but I think he should have the right to run against him in the primary.






38 replies
  1. 1
    Adrienne says:

    As a native Pennsylvanian and dedicated progressive, I think that Sestak should have the right to run and primary Arlen. However, I totally understand the motives behind ppl trying to discourage it even if I don’t necessarily agree.

  2. 2
    MNPundit says:

    Obama from the beginning has always believed first and formost in himself and his ability to run things.

    The Campaign shutting down the 527s, ignoring the blogs as much as they could, losing control of the stimulus… over and over again Obama never wants to relinquish an iota of control even when the situation would be the better for it. It’s just not his nature and so he must be forced.

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    Specter
    Prefers
    Electoral
    Circumvention
    To
    Electoral
    Ratification

    his name is a recursive acronym for his behavior.

  4. 4
    KG says:

    every incumbent should have a primary challenger in every election.

  5. 5
    greynoldsct00 says:

    every incumbent should have a primary challenger in every election.

    Agreed…we need some way to make these politicians (of whatever stripe) face the voters so that they don’t get too lazy or full of themselves.

  6. 6
    MikeJ says:

    There’s nothing wrong with Specter’s style of politics, simply doing whatever you have to do to get elected. That being the case, the only way to get him to support the party is to make a convincing argument that he can and will be replaced if he doesn’t.

  7. 7
    Zifnab says:

    @Adrienne: Why? If Specter lives by one rule and one rule only, it’s that he’ll compromise on anything if it ups his odds of getting re-elected. Putting lots of left wing pressure on Specter will force him to move to the left himself or risk losing the Democratic Primary. Leaving him alone in the primary allows him to win Democrat votes by default, but leaves him exposed to Right wing pressure in the general. Which will propel him to the right.

    If anything, the Democrats should be fiercely advocating for Sestak every time Specter so much as looks to the right. A hard left wing push will leave Specter bumping uglies with Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy in no time.

    Why on earth would Dem Party Leaders or Liberal Activists not take up the banner against Specter at every opportunity? It’s a win-win for them.

  8. 8
    eric says:

    it is all about money. The more money Specter can save with no primary, the more he will have for the general, and (here is the important part of the party switch), the less the dems need to provide specter, the more money the dems will have for Florida and Missouri and NJ governor race.

    in tough economic times, every dollar counts.

    eric

  9. 9
    TenguPhule says:

    A hard left wing push will leave Specter bumping uglies with Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy in no time.

    Thank you for that wonderful image that will not leave our minds.

  10. 10
    Poopyman says:

    The Obama machine’s desire for total control of the Dem money and message apparatus from the late campaign onward has always irked me. Their attempts to control who gets to run likewise bugs the crap out of me.

    I don’t care that it’s always been that way for those controlling the party, it’s a new day. The internet has given us a great tool to move information and money independent from the political machines. Let Sestak stand or fall on his abilities. Likewise, Arlen needs to explain why people should vote for him. Too bad if he has to spend some cash to do so.

  11. 11
    IndieTarheel says:

    @KG:

    every incumbent should have a primary challenger in every election.

    This could stand to be repeated, oh I don’t know, about a gazillion times…

  12. 12
    The Other Steve says:

    My only concern is Sestak loses the primary for Senate can he still run for his house seat? I would think so, but…

    If so then yes, we should always have a primary challenge as it creates better candidates.

  13. 13
    Skippy-san says:

    there was something really irritating and grating about Sestak’s performance

    What do you expect? There was a reason Sestak was fired by the Navy you know. And why he did not retire as a VADM the way he says. He retired as a two star-fired for cause. Because he was such a sycopath.

    He was a bad guy and impossible to work for. That’s why he has been through what? Eight Chiefs of Staff so far?

    I don’t disagree that Specter may need a primary opponent-but Sestak ain’t it.

  14. 14
    kid bitzer says:

    given the demographics and the trends, that senate seat belongs to the democratic party.

    it would be very, very hard for any republican, no matter how stellar, to win against any fair-to-middling dem.

    in light of that fact, why the hell are we giving it to specter?

    he has done *nothing* for any progressive cause over the years. he repeatedly caved to the bush crime syndicate.

    his record before the bush years is spotty at best–every now and then he made okay noises on civil liberties. he was not the worst republican, given the competition (frist, delay, etc. etc.).

    but he has done absolutely *nothing* to deserve this sort of reward.

    primary his ass and get us a real democrat.

  15. 15
    eric says:

    @kid bitzer: money. it is that simple. every $100,000 counts.

  16. 16
    wmd says:

    19th century senators were chosen by the states’ legislatures, not by voters directly. That changed in 1913 with the 17th amendment.

  17. 17
    Zifnab says:

    @Poopyman: That’s not really Obama’s job to fix. We’ve got orgs like ActBlue and Daily Kos and MoveOn that are supposed to be decentralizing the power base of the Democratic Party.

    Obama needed to win the Presidency and he couldn’t do it if Hillary was controlling the Party Machine. He wasn’t going to destroy it so he could rebuild it inside 3 months. Contrary to popular belief, Obama is not Jesus.

    If the Democratic Party wants to change how it is organized, you can’t stomp your feet and whine because they guys at the helm aren’t rushing to give up the rudder. Organize with the myriad groups – from the ACLU to ACORN to unions to left-wing church groups – that are party of the Democratic power structure and push them in your direction. At the moment, he’s got a very strong hand and he thinks he needs that strong hand to get his job done. You can’t blame him for refusing to fold it.

  18. 18
    Tsulagi says:

    I’ll note that there was something really irritating and grating about Sestak’s performance the last couple of weeks

    Would take an occasionally irritating Sestak over the constantly spectering Specterator any day.

  19. 19
    Indylib says:

    OT But the ass from TNR has decided that “Of course, Judge Sotomayor should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.’
    Ignoring the fact that the crap he spewed earlier is the basis of the wingnut attacks against her now. What a jackass.

  20. 20
    Indylib says:

    @Skippy-san:

    What do you expect? There was a reason Sestak was fired by the Navy you know. And why he did not retire as a VADM the way he says. He retired as a two star-fired for cause. Because he was such a sycopath.

    What’s the story? I asked my husband, who is a Navy Senior Chief, about him when Sestak first started running, but my husband had never had any contact with him, if fact didn’t even know who the hell he was.

  21. 21
    gizmo says:

    The White House is probably supportive of Specter for two reasons– they likely made a deal with him before he jumped the fence, promising that they would support his re-election in 2010. And, they are hoping that Snowe and a couple more GOP moderates could be enticed into becoming Democrats, and they don’t want to scare them off by pulling the rug out from under Specter. As a progressive, I think this whole thing sucks.

  22. 22
    JK says:

    OT

    John Yoo’s reaction to Sotomayor’s nomination

    President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor shows that empathy has won out over excellence in the White House. Sotomayor has sterling credentials: Princeton, Yale Law School, former prosecutor, and federal trial and appellate judge. But credentials do not an excellent justice make. Obama had some truly outstanding legal intellectuals and judges to choose from—Cass Sunstein, Elena Kagan, and Diane Wood come immediately to mind. The White House chose a judge distinguished from the other members of that list only by her race. Obama may say he wants to put someone on the Court with a rags-to-riches background, but locking in the political support of Hispanics must sit higher in his priorities. Sotomayor’s record on the bench, at first glance, appears undistinguished. She will not bring to the table the firepower that many liberal academics are asking for.

    h/t http://blog.american.com/?p=1187

  23. 23
    Cyrus says:

    @Zifnab:

    That’s not really Obama’s job to fix. We’ve got orgs like ActBlue and Daily Kos and MoveOn that are supposed to be decentralizing the power base of the Democratic Party.

    Not his job to fix this particular problem, sure, of course not. But it would be nice if he’d stop making it worse.

  24. 24

    You people are talking about the Obama campaign, right?

    The one that hosted people’s self-created web sites on its server? The one that allowed unprecedented levels of independence among local supporters’ groups?

    I think you’re a bit full of yourselves.

  25. 25
    demkat620 says:

    @JK: John Yoo hates her?

    Well, that’s good enough for me.

  26. 26
    Cris says:

    @Zifnab: Contrary to popular belief, Obama is not Jesus.

    You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

  27. 27
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @JK: Gaaaaaaah! I knew I shouldn’t have read that. Fuck you, Yoo. I hate that man! He and Cheney need to be perp-walked alllllll the way into a super-max prison, preferably one in which we keep the Gitmo prisoners.

  28. 28
    JGabriel says:

    John Yoo:

    The White House chose a judge distinguished from the other members of that list only by her race.

    Which would mean that Sotamayor is just as good as the other candidates, and that Yoo’s (and Conservatives, assuming he represents their attitude) only complaint with her is her race.

    There’s a word for that, you know.

    .

  29. 29
    Comrade Kevin says:

    @Indylib: I’d take anything that guy says with a mountain of salt. On his blog, there are some real gems he pulls out of his ass:

    I really don’t like the logic that deliberately limits the gene pool by saying the new justice has to be a woman and Hispanic. That’s more diversity nonsense that just does not pass the logic test.

    and

    I think the confirmation hearings ought to prove interesting to say the least. But, I’ve got a feeling abou this pick and its just not good. Same feeling I had when I first heard Sarah Palin talk. I was right then-and I think I am right now.

    In short, he’s an idiot.

  30. 30

    But Sestak does have the right to run. It’s not like anyone is proposing a new law requiring the Govenor or some designated party official to approve all prospective primary candidates in Pennsylvania or something. If Sestak wants to file for the race, there’s nothing anyone do to stop him. By the same token, Obama, Rendell, Casey, etc. have a right to campaign for whichever candidate they want, and a right to make known that they’ll campaign for a particular candidate. Indeed, from Sestak’s standpoint, it’s better to know the odds than to get blindsided by Obama and Rendell stumping for Arlen in Philly 2 week before the election.

    Ultimately, all this does, for me, is confirm how incredibly immature the netroots still is when it comes to the bare knuckle reality of politics. Democrats wanted Arlen Specter to change parties. Democrats benefit from having him switch parties. If nothing else, he’s got no incentive to cater to the most right-wing sentiment out there. Arlen Specter the Republican is a vote against cloture on basically every issue. Arlen Specter the Democrat probably votes to facilitate healthcare reform, EFCA, for cloture on Sotomayor, etc. Even in incremental terms, it’s a big win for Democrats. But you can’t get that without giving up something. Promising to campaign for a guy if he starts voting for your agenda is hardly unseemly.

    At that, it’s not even like Sestak is a raging progressive. Every index I’ve seen rates him as more conservative than his district, exactly the sort of person the netroots is usually fantasizing about beating in a primary. Ultimately, he’ll probably have about the same voting record as Specter. This is nothing more than a child’s temper tantrum; they only want the toy (Sestak) because Daddy told them they couldn’t have it.

  31. 31
    JGabriel says:

    @Brien Jackson:

    Ultimately, he’ll probably have about the same voting record as Specter.

    Actually, Nate argues that Sestak’s voting record is a bit more conservative than Specter’s, once you factor out procedural votes that always split along partisan lines.

    Obviously, Sestak has every right to try to primary Specter, but he doesn’t seem like an ideal choice from the Dem perspective.

    .

  32. 32
    THe Illogical Planner says:

    John,

    Just a minor quibble (not with the general intent of the article, with which I totally agree).

    Not all the “machines” in the cities were Democratic. Some cities had very active Republican machines: Philadelphia, Cincinnati, uh, Cleveland. They’re not as well known as Tammany, and they didn’t last as long as Chicago, but they were not non-existent.

    Alas, greed remains an equal opportunity employer…

  33. 33

    Sestak has every right to run as do countless other Pennsylvanian politicians and community leaders. That primary isn’t for another year and no one has officially put their hat in the ring. Fun to speculate about but what’s scary is that some Kossacks have already done a very weak online poll in an effort to raise money and support for Joe Sestak.

    Most of the blogs involved in that project are not from Pennsylvania. That’s carpetbagging and it will hurt the netroots progressive movement when it backfires and it will most surely backfire.

    Here in Minnesota the netroots butted in on Franken’s behalf over ONE YEAR before our primary. I can’t say they caused this clusterfuck of a recount but I know from experience that Franken was a weaker general candidate for not having been sufficiently tested in the primary. Online money and support is great but the netroots need to let the people who actually live in a state do the decidering.

  34. 34
    Skippy-san says:

    Sestak was publicly fired by the current chairman of the Joint Chief’s of staff-then the CNO. It was one of his first acts after becoming CNO.

    Sestak is notorious for working his staff literally to death. There are several promising officers who had great careers before them-who were cut down early because they just had enough of his BS. Admiral Mullen fired him in a very public fashion ( rather than just ask him to retire) to send a message to the Navy that his “command climate” was abusive and would not be tolerated.

    If you go back and look at his later Navy career you will find that he was one of the most ambitious SOB’s around. Sestak is in any endeavor he undertakes, only in it for himself.

    More here.

  35. 35
    kth says:

    #30 says about all I’d want to say. I would only add that it would be desirable for other Republican politicians who feel like their party has left them to flip. And such people, if there are any, are probably looking at Specter’s progress as a road map for what they might have to anticipate.

  36. 36
    mattH says:

    If nothing else, he’s got no incentive to cater to the most right-wing sentiment out there. Arlen Specter the Republican is a vote against cloture on basically every issue. Arlen Specter the Democrat probably votes to facilitate healthcare reform, EFCA, for cloture on Sotomayor, etc. Even in incremental terms, it’s a big win for Democrats. But you can’t get that without giving up something. Promising to campaign for a guy if he starts voting for your agenda is hardly unseemly.

    Not only do we have no guarantees that he will start voting for Democratic policies, on at least one of the 3 you mention (EFCA) he’s said he’s pretty much still opposed to it. I really don’t see the “netroots” as being naive about politics, so much as trying to make sure there are consequences if he doesn’t change his voting behavior. Primaries, especially successful ones, don’t often happen in the space of a few weeks, and that’s the real enforcement mechanism that the “netroots” has to influence a sitting elected official’s behavior. I really don’t understand why you seem to be so dismissive here.

  37. 37
    feebog says:

    I don’t get the critisim of Sestak talking about running in the primary, but not jumping in yet. For craps sake, the general election is more than 18 months away. I would expect that he would take a long hard look at it before commiting. In the meantime, his threat to run in the primary has to move Specter to the left on a number of issues, most importantly EFCA, where Specter has already staked out a position. At this point, I like the dynamics. Specer unsure of which way Sestak will jump, and pushed to the left as a result.

  38. 38

    […] a candidate, because I’ve noticed a lot of warring ideas about him.  For example, John Cole feels his appearances on talk shows in the wake of Specter’s defection to the Dems was grating […]

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