Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What today's primaries really aren't about...

A lot has been happening lately, much of it worthy of some attention here: the oil spill in the Gulf, the Texas Board of Education’s continuing war on actual education, the Department of Education’s report that Virginia Tech violated the law in not notifying students more quickly of the horrific events unfolding on that campus three years ago, the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, the new immigration law in Arizona, Facebook's accelerating assault on personal privacy, the ongoing inability of the most ostentatiously pious of the right to practice what they preach (ad nauseum) and the recent Supreme Court decision allowing the corrections system to hold “sexually dangerous” prisoners indefinitely, even after their sentences expire, for example.

I suspect I’ll be commenting on one or more of those topics over the next few days now that grading hell is beginning to recede. [By the way, I do, time permitting, take requests.] But I want to get this short essay up now: before the election returns in the two primary races I’m talking about start coming in tonight, so that what ends up happening, whatever that is, won’t be seen as influencing these remarks.

There’s some interesting stuff happening out there: a couple of congressional races this week, a good possibility of Rand (son of Ron) Paul winning the Republican primary for Senate in Kentucky. The latter, where a Tea Party darling stands a good chance of actually being elected (not merely nominated) would interest me more if the race were somewhere else. As a one-time resident of that state, I can tell you that no electoral absurdity perpetrated there will ever surprise me. And, frankly, Rand Paul could never be the idiot that Jim Bunning is. Just as an Elena Kagan confirmation would move the Supreme Court to the right (because she’d be replacing John Paul Stevens), a Senator Paul, should that happen, would move the Senate toward the left… or at least toward the sane. Moreover, whether the Democrats can hold on to seats in Pennsylvania (today) or Hawaii (Saturday) is less interesting to me, though probably more meaningful: the Pennsylvania seat is in a very conservative district (carried by McCain for example), the Hawaii seat is probably going to be lost because of internal wrangling in the Democratic Party.

No, the races I’m interested in are on the Democratic side in Arkansas and Pennsylvania. In the former, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter is challenging Senator Blanche Lincoln; in the latter, Representative Joe Sestak is running against Republican-cum-Democrat Arlen Specter. The reason these races interest me is that the punditocracy is claiming that victories by the challengers, get this, “will raise questions about the effectiveness of the Obama political team and Organizing for America.” OK, I’m saying this once: NO, IT FREAKING WON’T.

Neither Lincoln nor Specter is a principled moderate. Lincoln was a major thorn in the side of any real health care reform, even threatening to join a Republican filibuster against any proposal including the public option. Then, when challenged from the left, she ran campaign ads in predominantly black districts talking about what a good Obama-supporter she is. Specter used to be a principled moderate, just as John McCain once was. But now he’s interested in one thing and one thing only: the longevity of Arlen Specter’s senatorial career. That’s why he changed parties—not because he’s really a Democrat, but because he was going to get his ass handed to him in a Republican primary if he stayed in the GOP.

True, President Obama has endorsed the incumbents: publically, at least. And he and his staff supposedly tried to talk the challengers out of running. Of course, he did. What the geniuses at MSNBC (and elsewhere) can’t seem to wrap their tiny little brains around is that he did so because it’s his job as leader of the party. I find it difficult to believe that he’d really rather have Lincoln and Specter than a couple of real Democrats like Halter and Sestak. Notice that he hasn’t exactly been working the stump for the old guard. It’s expected of him that he say nice things about current office-holders from his party. He did that. But he’s pretty much staying out of both races. Were I of a cynical disposition (perish the thought!) I might suggest that he doesn’t want another conspicuous loss (like, say, losing Ted Kennedy’s seat) in a race where he took an active interest. But it’s also true that 1). Lincoln and Specter would be projected to lose their seats in a general election, regardless of what happens in the primary, and 2). Halter and Sestak would both be more reliable votes for the Obama agenda were they to be elected (and since they actually stand for something, they might have a better chance in November than the folks they’re challenging would).

I know, pundits need to pretend they know something the rest of us don’t. I just wish they wouldn’t talk such drivel.

No comments: