Posted tagged ‘arlen specter’

Voter Theft

May 14, 2010

Politics has become so sophisticated over the years that stealing an election has become an art more than an act of thuggery. Denying potential voters the right to register was long a favorite technique but advocacy groups have made this method harder to use. The weapon of choice is an expensive one these days. Simply buy the election.

If a candidate can attract enough money, he or she can craft campaign ads (as well as an image) that portrays the candidate in some light that makes it easy for a voter to be convinced that that is the person to elect. This is certainly ok as long as the portrayal is accurate.

An attractive image coupled with lots of television and print air time is expensive. Name recognition follows quickly, however. Then strategically, at the right time, this well financed candidate dumps a lot of money into negative ads. Bingo, an easy win and theft of the election.

In Pennsylvania all this has been tried but to no avail. The underdog for US Senate nomination, Joe Sestak, has kept climbing in the polls and now appears to be leading Arlen Specter. The lead is small and within the margin of error so what happens on election day could make the difference. Here’s where the past meets the present.

Philadelphia, like many big cities, has a political machine. Here it is a Democratic machine. Their orders are to elect Arlen Specter.

Endorsements, fund raising, and passing out literature are all fair and above board. Word on the street has it that the Democratic machine may go further in Philadelphia. The word is that some lucky citizens will vote more than once and others who have passed away may reach back from the grave to cast one more vote.

The tragedy of this is that the Democratic leadership is more concerned about winning and retaining power than listening to voters who are disenchanted with politics as usual. This election is a wake up call for Pennsylvania Democrats.  It is time for meaningful change. I think this is the same message being heard around the country, often from conservative Republicans and Tea Baggers.

This is not about ideology, this is about methodology and not being co-opted by entrenched special interests. It is about doing the work of government as it should be done.

Men Acting Honestly When It is Mistake

May 12, 2010

In politics we are used to seeing politicians acting only in their best interest. For sure they are eloquent in their explanation of why they did something this way this time, and another way the next time. But I suspect this is a big reason why voters are so dissatisfied with Congress. There is little integrity left in any member of Congress.

In the Pennsylvania primary we are seeing a different scenario play out. President Obama, Vice President Biden and the Democratic national organization promised Arlen Specter that in return for his switching parties and becoming a Democrat, they would bankroll him for reelection (which was not a sure thing). Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Arlen Specter has botched his campaign against Congressman Joe Sestak (who was originally asked by Democrats to vacate his representative seat and run against Republican Specter). After losing his double digit lead, Specter is now in a statistical dead heat with the momentum favoring Sestak. Has President Obama and Vice President Biden abandoned Specter?

No! The Democratic national committee has poured in almost a half million dollars and both Obama and Biden are standing behind Specter. Why?

First, a deal is a deal. Second, Democratic leaders must have concluded Joe Sestak can not beat the likely Republican candidate, Pat Toomey, and they think Specter can. Third, and most worrisome, they are misreading the national mood. For incumbents like Specter, the question is not about the past and what they have done (although it is worthwhile remembering that Specter voted for the Bush tax cuts, supported deregulation, and was for the war in Iraq), but rather, it is about what they can do to change things going forward in Washington DC. At 80 years of age and 5 terms of experience, there is not a shred of evidence that Arlen Specter will participate in any change. It will be more of the same.

Never the less, I have respect for the position of Obama and Biden even though they are making a mistake. I will be watching carefully in the event that Sestak does win. What will they say then?

Wrong Tactics or Wrong Time?

May 11, 2010

Next Tuesday, Pennsylvania Democrats will vote in a Senatorial primary. They will choose between 80 year old, 5 term, (newly Democratic) Senator Arlen Specter and 58 year old, 2 term Congressman, Joe Sestak. In a race that could have been meaningless, the contest now looks like part of a pattern sweeping across the country.

The voters are sick and tired of their elected representatives and they aren’t going to take it any more!

The latest polls indicate that Sestak has emerged with a small but significant lead. The race is not over but if momentum continues, Arlen Specter will be defeated. Why has this possibility arisen?

In the Specter-Sestak contest, all of the Democratic Party bosses right up to President Obama have endorsed Specter. On top of that Sestak was relatively unknown and only modestly financed State-wide. How could Specter lose his lead?

Specter lost his momentum the old fashioned way. He refused to debate Sestak (except for one time) and he chose to sling mud (or tried to) from day one. Worse still, Specter chose to impugn Sestak’s military record and that struck both average voters and veterans the wrong way. Voters opened their eyes and what they say was an old time politicians doing things the old way. In the eyes of voters, the old way has not worked.

There is still a week to go and the contest is not yet decided. With huge Democratic organizations in Philadelphia and Pittsburg who might be able to “turn out the vote”, Sestak will have to wait until May 18 to find out.

For Specter, if he loses, it will be because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and chose to shoot himself in the foot with the wrong tactics.

Two Negatives Make a Right?

May 5, 2010

Why do so many politicians resort to negative campaigning? Experts tell us that’s simple. Negative advertising works. Oh, so now I understand.

But what if the claims made in the negative ads are false or totally irrelevant to the election? Experts again say that does not matter. It is simply important to implant a negative image into the voter, who they claim will forget anyway in time. The goal is getting elected silly.

But what if the negative campaigner is an incumbent who is a member of Congress that enjoys a low approval rating? Experts counter that all politics are local and voters will think only about themselves. Voters will sense which candidate will do best for that voter and demeaning the opponent is a necessary tactic. Why so?

Experts may try to explain that they seek a “share of mind” with the voter as justification. I believe, however, the real answer lies elsewhere. Most politicians and certainly the “suites” behind them hold a very low opinion of the average voter. They see the voter as a necessary nuisance. Tell them what ever but don’t scare the special interests who actually fund most of the campaign expense.

Just imagine some politician taking a principled stand. Rather than demeaning his opponent, clearly stating his principles and how they would play out if elected. In todays world that would elicit all sorts of special interests taking a shot at the candidate and confusing the voter. So, politicians conclude it is better to talk vanilla and damn the other person. Sort of makes sense.

And, look at what we have as a Congress. The public views all politicians as fully compromised and the captives of special interests. How can this change?

It can begin by electing the few brave souls that run on principles and reject negative advertising. This will require voters to be satisfied with a candidate that favors most but not necessarily all of their views. This will usher in a new generation of politicians who will have the chance to turn their backs on special interests simply for campaign funding.

So what about two candidate, both of whom choose to go negative, will they produce one decent public servant. Voters, it is your choice, but my view is they will not.

The Snake’s Spots

April 30, 2010

The American public has an amazingly low opinion of Congress. Many reasons are giving ranging from they get nothing done to they do too much. What is most worrisome, however, is the low regard for Congressional members’ personal integrity. The public views that all these members are for sale and their words cannot be trusted. Time for a change?

On May 18, Pennsylvania voters will get a chance to choose between 5 term, 80 year old Arlen Specter and two term Representative, 57 year old Joe Sestak. Specter has had a storied career, mostly as a Republican, and Sestak has had a distinguished Naval career (graduated second in his class at the Naval Academy) rising to the rank of a 3 star Admiral. Both face the possibility of running in the general election against a conservative, friend of big business republican who polls say may beat either of them.

What a time to campaign over issues that will impact Pennsylvanians as means of separating ones candidacy from the intrenched and disliked politicians. No brainer, right?

Unfortunately no. Specter has used two separate TV spots to go negative. The first impugned Sestak’s military career and the second deals with the relatively low pay of Sestak’s campaign staff. What has these claims have to do with (1) how effective Specter might be, if elected, in the next 6 years? (2) How would these claims inform about how Sestak might be, if elected, during the next 6 years?

Specter’s intent is clear. Focus the light away from him and the limited potential he can be effective in the next 6 years.

Voters do not like negative adds, especially when they are not related to any legislative issue. I wonder whether voters will recognize the evil ways of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater behind this style of negative campaigning?

Specter versus Sestak

April 22, 2010

This week Arlen Specter broadened his campaign attack upon Joe Sestak. Senator Specter, who turned 80 on Februrary 12, 2010, shifted his campaign to a “take no prisoners” style. In a TV spot, Specter demeaned the 31 year, 3 star admiral career of Sestak. Why would he go so negative, so early?

One reason may be that Specter, a five term Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, picked up too many bad habits from the likes of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Another reason might be that Specter has never shaken off his “attack” style that made his a successful DA, oh so many years ago. Still possibly Specter’s camp is worried about Congressman Sestak’s appeal to independent thinking voters and have become worried.

Five terms or 80 years old seems like a long enough stay. It seems long enough to have made your mark and maybe not so long as to have gotten terribly out of touch with voters. In short, 5 terms or 80 years is a good time to say enough is enough.

Senator Specter has chosen, however, to seek another term. Public opinion polls describe voters as disillusioned with Congress. Negative advertising does the public no service in helping them decide which candidate is more equipped to deal with the challenges facing America. Negative ads are designed, in fact, to take the voters’ eye off the real issues, and distract their attention on misinformation.

Will this early use of mean spirited advertising backfire?

The Prophesy of Arlen Specter

April 29, 2009

Yesterday, Senator Arlen Specter announced he was changing political parties and would exit the Republican Party in favor of the Democratic Party.  Was this the beginning of the end for Republicans?

Unlikely in my opinion but probably the end of being a main stream party with a legitimate chance to govern from a majority position any time soon.  A political party that is ready to eat its own if they should stray from the doctrine is on dangerous ground if it wishes to appeal to a majority of Americans.  “Party discipline” is an oft used term to describe how party leaders attempt to get their members voting in the same direction.  If you cross the leaders, you get the discipline.  Senator Specter faced just such a situation.

Discipline seems to make sense to a point.  What if, however, the majority of voters do not or no longer accept many of the tenets of the party?  How can the party appeal to a majority of voters if it continues to narrow its views to those lying far to the right?

In the short run, Specter’s party change bodes well for the Country and the Democratic Party.  The Republican Party and their pursuit of their conservative goals has driven the country into the ditch.  As a result, President Obama has received a large mandate to put in place other more progressive policies.  With Specter in the Democratic column, Obama should expect much less effective opposition from Republicans.  It is the longer term that I worry about.

America has thrived upon a two party system, largely counter balancing each other, and keeping the ship of state centered over the long haul.  A semi permanent shift to one party or the other for an extended period of time, will not be good for the Country.  We need a healthy (and sane) opposition party.

“Lower or no taxes” as the answer for every situation is clearly as wrong as increasing taxes (that is more spending) in every case.  The abortion and intelligent design litmus tests have no place in sensible governance.  The advent of globalism has opened whole new areas where one party can differentiate itself from the other, and contribute mightily to the future progress of America.  Continuous improvement of all government programs as well as the departments providing them (citizens receiving more services for the same amount of tax dollars) would be a tremendous party platform plank.  Fiscal and monetary responsibility along with a balanced social agenda would be also attractive to most Americans.

It is possible that what is left of the Republican Party is so far gone that it will need to vanish politically before a new opposition party can rise from these ashes.  But we can not begin yet to ignore the Republican Party.  What is left is so ideologically driven, it could easily become a black hole of all the odd balls who do not necessarily know when to stop if their positions are ignored.  I hope this is not the prophesy of Arlen Specter.