Elections '06: Pennsylvania Senate

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Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.

James Carville, quoted in A Democrat for Main Street, The Washington Post, August 16, 2006

For Whom Will the Liberty Bell Toll? [Tim Wilson / Flickr]

The Alabama part of James Carville’s Pennsylvania is traditionally the Republican stronghold, but this year it appears to be going with the Democrats for the first time in decades. And the suburbs, which are usually up for grabs, are swinging to the left and joining the cities, which have long been a Democratic mainstay.

Bob Casey, Jr., son of a late and beloved Pennsylvania governor, is expected to unseat Rick Santorum, the GOP’s third-ranking Senator. If Casey wins he’ll be the third Senator to unseat a Republican in 60 years. Casey is pro life and anti gun-control; he’s also not Santorum.

In 1994 Rick Santorum was at the right place at the right time. The traditionally conservative Quaker state elected Santorum on the heels of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. In the decade that followed, Santorum achieved Christian rockstar status. Now his anti-gay, pro-intelligent-design, war-hawking ways have eroded his support down to his base; polls show him with 41% of the vote.

As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else….it’s being drawn to Iraq and it is not being drawn to the US. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don’t want the Eye to come back here to the US.

Senator Rick Santorum, Santorum Defends Iraq War, Bucks County Courier Times, October 17, 2006

Would a Casey victory signal the beginning of the end for the religious right? Would it give the Republicans a reason to strike back even stronger in 2008? Or is this race just a blue blip in a traditionally purple state?

Extra Credit Reading

David Brooks, A recent look at Santorum, New York Times (Select), October 29, 2006: “After Election Day, the underprivileged will probably have lost one of their least cuddly but most effective champions.”

John Baer, What it means to lose in PA, The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 19th, 2006: “Santorum, after running an aggressive, smart campaign, after beating Casey on points and substance in four debates, after desperately fighting for a job he loves, is going to lose. And Casey’s going to win a job he never wanted in a city where he doesn’t want to be and in a way in which few will give him credit.”

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith, Penn Hills loses bid to charge Santorum for online school tuition, Pittsbrgh Post-Gazette, July 12th, 2005: “Estimates of the tuition paid by Penn Hills range from $34,000, which Santorum claims was paid to the cyber charter school, to $67,000, which some school board members say the district paid.”

Lowman S. Henry, It’s the Economy, Stupid, Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research: “Should Democrats recapture control in such a manner it would be very different from the Republican take-over of 1994. During that campaign, the GOP – led by soon-to-be House Speaker Newt Gingrich – put forth the ‘Contract with America. The ‘contract’ was a well thought out and detailed document outlining the vision a potential GOP Congress would have for the nation’s future. Americans went to the polls consciously voting for a specific set of ideas. This year, national Democrats have failed to develop anything even close to a comprehensive message.”

Gar Joseph

City Editor, Philadelphia Daily News

Billmon

(Anoymous) Blogger, Whiskey Bar

Lowman Henry

Blogger, Lincoln Blog

Chairman and CEO, The Lincoln Institute

Randy Potter

Blogger, PennPatriot Online

Editor, Voice PA

Ala

Blogger, Blonde Sagacity

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  • Right Democrat

    Social moderate Democrats like Bob Casey are the best able to defeat far-right Republicans such as Rick Santorum. Casey is focused on economic populism and understands the values of socially traditionalist working class voters. Casey is a religious man whose faith connects with helping the less fortunate. With more candidates like Bob Casey, Democrats will be recognized once again as the party of working families and individuals.

  • My only experience is in Philly and it was always boring and depressing that the politicians in the city saw the world one way..a predictable, Democratic way…and the elected people in the surrounding counties were predictably Republican. They all sort of worked together to get money out of Harrisburg, but otherwise there wasn’t a vision thing to be found. Disgraced Congressman Curt Weldon started out as a suburban Republican country official. Mayor Street was a brilliant street-theater Democratic city counciman. This polarized election has pitted a boring Republican against a predictable Democrat–as patterned as things go in Pennsylvania.

  • Anonymous

    Again a Carville generalization is confused for wit and insight. As far as PA being two cities with “Alabama in between”: that reflects the nauseating inside-DC thinking that somehow Progressive political culture only happens in regions where people are more likely to college educated — or else live in regions with high minority populations. That’s not to say the center of PA doesn’t still trend red. But if the DNC is proving a 50-state strategy could work nationally, a 67-county strategy has at least equal potential. You only need to look to Nebraska, Kansas, and Montana to see that rural voters are fast seeing that the GOP has failed them, and those regions are turning around fast.

    Demographically, PA does not look to be a sustainable GOP stronghold much longer anyway.

    The “blue” zones of PA continue well beyond Philadelphia northward into Bucks County, Northampton/Lehigh County all the way up the Delaware River towards the poor, industrial city of Scranton. Most of SW PA trends blue, too. These are not just suburbs of Philly, Pittsburg or NYC — many are independent metropolises with unque political culture’s of their own.

    The GOP incumbents in districts along the Delaware River, western Philly suburbs, and in western PA are all unsustainable GOP seats. Just like the GOP in NH, CT, RI and in Upstate NY — demographics are against these types of pols who are hanging on laregly because of the benefits of incumbency. I think all it takes is one wave-election (such as possibly as 2006) to wash out many of these GOP seats for a generation or more.

    So for Carville, and possibly Rahm Emanuel too, to write off these regions as backwater, unwinable, “Pennsyl-tucky” would be a quasi-criminal act of political negligence this year. Democrats can win and hold many of these seats.

    The Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton) is and has been a classic political bellwether region. It’s the third largest part of the state. It’s largely recovered from the disastrous collapse of the steel, concrete and other heavy industries. Demographically it’s booming, and has been trending blue. Allentown is fast becoming a latin city, which often bodes extremely well for the democrats. The region has been flooded with commuters from NJ and NY who are attracted by lower cost of living and — much like MA transplants in southern NH — are bringing their politics with them.

    Otherwise in “Pennsyl-tucky” — demographically, PA’s white population is shrinking fast. It’s has one of the oldest populations amoung all 50 states: that’s because a) young people are leaving, b) the old are dying, and c) populations of poor elderly tend to not have the resources to retire to warmer climates.

    The future of the PA probably looks much more like the Lehigh Valley, then it does Altoona.

  • Anonymous

    sigh

  • Tonight’s program has a rather strange, surreal, quality for me. I don’t live in PA (grew up in NY and live in CA), but my parents have a house in the suburbs of Philadelphia (Bucks County) that suffered a devastating fire yesterday. One of those dark coincidences, I suppose.

    Not sure what that says about the politics of the state, though I’m totally in favor of seeing Santorum (often cited as the “dumbest” Senator) go down to defeat. Perhaps the history of the house is significant though, an old colonial farmhouse in what was long a quiet and sparse area along the Delaware. There was certainly interesting interaction between some old timers and newcomers like the people we rented this house to over the past few years. Many of the old farms have given way to subdivisions and the area is really a suburb of Philadelpha now, more and more like New Jersey. Perhaps the politics is more New Jersey as well?

  • One interesting thing about the politics of Pennsylvania is that the founding of the state under the influence of Quaker William Penn extended a hand to the native Lenape who had mostly been wiped out by disease. As Chief William Thompson told me when I was crafting an article on the history of Pennsylvania, “William Penn was a friend, but his sons were traitors.” Although not one settler was killed by a native weapon while Penn was alive (while entire villages were burning at the stake in New England and elswhere). Villages had a communitarian element to them, with communal grazing space, for example. Things took a turn for the worse in the 1730s. I grew up only 5 miles from the beginnng of the ‘Walking Purchase” in Bucks County, where the Penn sons, in collusion with a few drunken Iroquis leaders, scammed the Lenape out of a large portion of their territory along the Delaware River. They fought back, and within a few years there was a price on the head of every native man, woman and child as the French and Indian War began.

    I moved away from the region because most of the development laws these days are geared towards encouraging growth in western PA, and there is little that local officials can do to stem the tide of sprawl in suburban Philly. We must remember that this is the land that the Lenape called the “promised land. The land of sasafrass.” My hope is that one day, local control will return to the beautiful farmland of Pennsylvania, along with the spirit of peace and serenity that William Penn spread in the region until his sons hijacked his vision in the 1730s.

  • jazzman

    I was actually able to listen (a rare occurrence) to this show last night and was struck by a couple of points. One is that according to the central PA bloggers (Lowman Henry and Randy Potter) who support Santorum do so, in their words, because he understands the dangers posed by Islamic Extremists and the “out of control” spending by liberals who want to raise taxes to cover all that spending.

    In other words their worldview (like most conservatives) is FEAR based.

    Fear of Islam, fear of liberal ideology which will tax and spend their money in ways of which they disapprove, fear that liberal teachers and professors will brainwash their children, fear that homosexual marriage will destroy the institution of heterosexual marriage and family values, fear of pissing off God, fear that godless (viz. Ann Coulter) left wing moonbats will bring down religion (Their God is too helpless to counter the attack.)

    It’s ironic that when paying for abstract SAFETY by borrowing from China and Mexico and running up a debt burden for their children to figure out how to pay down, they don’t mind. It’s the price of freedom spend what ever it takes as along as they don’t increase taxes to pay for it. What about the family value of not passing a huge financial burden to their children? We are paying $4 billion/week (borrowed) to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here and who knows how much else is wasted building symbolic border barriers, funding the TSA, and enforcing the Patriot Act. ALL of this is born out of FEAR.The present administration has increased the size of government and the debt more than previous administration which should cause alarm to a true conservative.

    The other point is the only positive attributes that Casey can muster is the NOT Santorum attribute. Like Harold Ford, he supports very few of the Democratic Platform tenets, opposes the majority and is more like a stealth reactionary with a liberal label (Democrat.) The only positive aspect of these candidates (should they be elected) and happen to aggregate to a majority is the committee leadership and perqs that accrue to the majority party. This system of sinusoidal 2 party oscillation only benefits those in power and neither party does an acceptable job. As momos said in the October Surprise thread, “it’s always a choice between a candidate who sucks ass and a candidate who sucks tremendous ass.”

    Peace,

    Jazzman

  • frobisher

    I’ll take Jazzman one further. He says the central PA foks are fear-based. I’d say they are ignorance-based. One said that “Islamic Faccists” just want to kill us, as though they are some mindless berserkers out of a Steven Segal movie. Five minutes of homework would tell us that actually, they want us to get out of their country and out of the Arab world.

    In case lovers of American military intervention wish to take me to task for not loving America enough, I will graciously admit that yes, suiciders are bad and I don’t like them at all and wish they would stop. (Did anyone notice that invasions of Middle Eastern countries by the US tends to cause the result of INCREASING suicide bombers?)

    I’m sorry, Chris, but you let the show deteriorate to a faux-Limbaux rant-fest. Thank you Billmon for snippets of cogent thought.

  • jazzman

    frobisher says: I’d say they are ignorance-based.

    Ignorance is the basis of all fear that is a function of secondary information. The human brain reacts to 2 types of information. Primary information is that which originates from and is experienced in one’s current environment such as sensory data, face to face communication, and imminent danger. Fear which is derived from these primary sources while possibly may be due to ignorance, unwarranted, and usually an overreaction, is at least a natural fight or flight response.

    Secondary information originates outside of one’s primary experience such as news reports, hearsay, and many times imagined out of whole cloth. Fear in response to this information is harmful to one physically (and to others as a result) as the fight or flight chemicals that are generated have no outlet. They may manifest mildly as elevated blood pressure or grouchiness, or intensely as violence, bellicosity and many times disease (Stress Related Syndrome, ulcers, or worse).

    The biggest problem with ignorance and inappropriate response to secondary information is way it affects one’s worldview and belief system. Uncritical acceptance of one’s beliefs about “reality” results in fear based decisions and the bartering of anything one possesses, abstract or concrete, for putative safety which can never be guaranteed much less delivered.

  • jazzman
  • Randy Potter

    Ignorance is more about internalizing your own self-serving, narrow view of the world than it is about education. Someone who is ignorant is blinded by the box they choose to package themselves in. That pretty much sums up the motivations of the previous comments.

    Accusing someone of being ignorant is accepting your own short comings.

    The reality is the following. Islamic Extremism is a serious threat to the United States and the stability of world economies. You can choose to deny that fact and I’ll respect your opinions. That doesn’t mean I think you are ignorant. May be you are just simple wrong.

    I am afraid of a new Dark Age. A world where Islamic extremists are free to spread their destruction and ideology at will. So what I think you are saying is that the Islamic extremists will stop craving world domination onlly if Western Civilization just leaves them alone. You obviously lack knowledge on the history of the Middle East.

    It funny how liberals always say this war is really about oil. Did you ever think that is what Bin Laden wants? In his world, oil is power and the quickest way to restore an Islamic Empire.

  • martinfowler

    Here’s my personal thoughts about this broadcast. I enjoyed the early part as it was an analysis of PA and its politics, social structure, and voting patterns. The only qualm was a sense that it was primarily an urban point of view. So as a result I was glad to hear Henry and Potter come in with their perspective. Sadly then the show deteriorated into Crossfire. I don’t solely blame Henry and Potter for this, indeed the one who irritated me most was Joseph. I turned my ipod to something else with about ten minutes left to run.

  • jazzman

    Randy Potter says: Ignorance is more about internalizing your own self-serving, narrow view of the world than it is about education. Someone who is ignorant is blinded by the box they choose to package themselves in.

    Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. Whether it is internalized (reflected upon) or externalized (broadcasting or blogging) it has nothing to do with a narrow view or education. Some of the most educated people have the narrowest view. In this age of specialization the Liberal Arts education is a modern dinosaur and the narrow view is quickly becoming the rule. The Renaissance man (person) ala Jefferson and Franklin and the generalist are becoming as rare as the true Liberal (not the straw bogeyman manufactured by the conservative right.)

    From the American Heritage Dictionary: A Liberal is a person who is:

    1a) Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

    1b) Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

    i.e., Not FEARFUL of new ideas, people, or change.

    Contrast to Conservative: (Same Source) A person who is:

    1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

    2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.

    3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.

    i.e., FEARFUL of new ideas, people, and change.

    The self-serving part is true of ALL humans except when altruism holds sway.

    Everyone is ignorant about the majority of the SET of knowledge. The volume of each of our subsets varies in a (Gaussian) distribution. The subset variation is potentially lessened due to the internet as our virtual set of knowledge is vastly extensible but a hyperbolic discriminator is needed. ALL people are “blinded” (tunnel-vision would be a more apt analogy for your “narrow view”) by the precepts (filters) of their belief systems (your packaging analogy) which are chosen by how they well comport to their worldview (pre-conceptions)(many beliefs are accepted by default due to lack of questioning or critical analysis that would cause them to be rejected or supplanted by another choice.)

  • jazzman

    Sorry, the last paragraph should have read:

    Everyone is ignorant about the majority of the SET of knowledge. The volume of each of our subsets varies in a NORMAL (Gaussian) distribution. The subset variation is potentially lessened due to the internet as our virtual set of knowledge is vastly extensible but a hyperbolic discriminator is needed. ALL people are “blinded” (tunnel-vision would be a more apt analogy for your “narrow view”) by the precepts (filters) of their belief systems (your packaging analogy) which are chosen by how they well comport to their worldview (pre-conceptions)(many beliefs are accepted by default due to lack of questioning or critical analysis that would cause them to be rejected or supplanted by another choice.)

  • jazzman

    Randy Potter says: Accusing someone of being ignorant is accepting your own short comings.

    I assume you mean excepting but one’s personal peccadilloes have nothing to do with accusations of ignorance. One may or may not be ignorant of the subject at hand depending on one’s breadth. I agree that accusing one of ignorance is often an ad hominem device used to distract from a weak argument.

    The reality is the following. Islamic Extremism is a serious threat to the United States and the stability of world economies.

    This is a reality you create and to which you choose to subscribe. It is an opinion based on FEAR of certain people who are: Extremists (fanatics) in your estimation, and a serious threat to the US and economic stability (again FEAR) and if it were a fact, (it’s not – it’s a belief) denial would be ignorant.

    That doesn’t mean I think you are ignorant. May be you are just simple wrong.

    Why would you think that gainsaying that opinion is wrong? Right and wrong are personal value judgments and not absolutes, the simple part is that this in the subjunctive (not real) and is merely academic to anyone not involved directly.

    I am afraid of a new Dark Age. A world where Islamic extremists are free to spread their destruction and ideology at will. Again it’s FEAR ( I’m afraid says it all) (BTW How will they get past all those PA deer hunters to spread that destruction?) and who but the naive and fearful would subscribe to such a misguided ideology?

    So what I think you are saying is that the Islamic extremists will stop craving world domination onlly if Western Civilization just leaves them alone.

    The stated goal of Islam is one world under Islamic dogma and theoretically could be ushered in democratically (spreading democracy to Iraq is just the 1st step)

    You obviously lack knowledge on the history of the Middle East.

    So you do think I’m ignorant!!!

    It funny how liberals always say this war is really about oil. Did you ever think that is what Bin Laden wants? In his world, oil is power and the quickest way to restore an Islamic Empire.

    I am an ultra-liberal (true political and social liberal/libertarian) and I believe the war was about personal vendetta and fear of a bogeyman primarily and secondarily about fulfilling a neo-con empirical fantasy with the added bonus of repaying cronies (like Halliburton). It wasn’t about spreading democracy or WsMD or humanitarianism, the oil was a red herring to assuage taxpayers fears by claiming the oil would pay for the war. By deposing Saddam Hussein, an avowed secularist and no friend of Islam (he brutally suppressed it) if anything opened the door to the viability of Iraqi oil funding the Empire you so fear.

    Peace thru no fear,

    Jazzman

  • jazzman

    Damn italics