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As most know as a rule I generally stay away from religion and politics here at the Jungle Gym.  There are not two subjects out there that cause more animosity and ill will then those two.  And, quite frankly, I like you guys.  I don’t want to start arguments that lead to bad feelings.  That being said, however, I would like to skirt the edge of politics a bit here today.

This past Tuesday was Primary Day here in the state of Pennsylvania.  There were many notable contests, but the one that everyone was watching most closely was the race between incumbent senator Arlen Specter and his challenger for the Democratic nomination, Representative Joe Sestak.  The reasons for the focus on this race are many, but they really boil down to two things:

  • Specter has been a Senator for Pennsylvania for 30 years and at times has seemed nearly indestructible in the state from a political standpoint.


  • Specter changed party affiliations from Republican to Democrat in April 2009.

Specter and Sestak both ran vicious negative campaigns that eventually led to Sestak ousting the longtime senator and taking the nomination to face Republican Pat Toomey in the November General Election.

But, enough nuts and bolts of the situation.  The real point here is Specter lost, Specter deserved to lose, and Specter brought his troubles on himself.  I can say this with complete confidence, and I can do it without even delving into the gnarled hedge that is Specter’s form of governance.  The truth of the matter is that Specter took a look at the political landscape, and made a decision that called into question his integrity no matter what your thoughts on his politics are.

In early 2009 polling data in Pennsylvania was showing a decided lean toward Toomey over Specter in the Republican primary.  I put little faith in most polling data because it can be so easily manipulated, but there is a point where the numbers become large enough that they are difficult to ignore.  So, faced with almost assured defeat in May 2010 what did Specter do?  Did he rededicate himself to his constituents, making a point to make a connection with them and listening to what they have to say?  Did he begin making a point of highlighting his accomplishments and what he has done for the state?

Nope.  He looked around and saw a much weaker field on the other side of the aisle and jumped ship.

This was not an ideological move.  This was not about issues.  This was a move of pure self-preservation.  A calculated decision that was clearly Arlen looking out for Arlen. 

And that, to be quite honest, is a good chunk of the problem in the political system of this country today.  Our elected officials seem to have forgotten what they truly are: public servants.  They are not some elite class that looks down from an ivory tower and passes judgement upon us.  They are men and women we have selected to do the business of governance.  They are there to represent the interest of whatever constituency elected them.

Arlen should have been making decisions and moves for the people of Pennsylvania who have time and again put him in the position to do so.  His obligation was to put the citizens of this state first and foremost.  And, that, my friends, is what no politician seems to do anymore.  Our leaders no longer govern, they campaign 24/7/365.

Our governor, Ed Rendell, came out and claimed that “the rain killed Arlen” as our state experienced a relatively minor rainfall (and a truly ridiculous low voter turnout, see here for my thoughts on that).  Rain?  The rain had nothing to do with it.

Specter lost because the people lost their faith in him.  And that is a burden that falls squarely on his own shoulders.


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