In the Arena

Stepping on Sestak

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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 covered Sestak’s race for Congress in 2006, and he was a strong candidate–a former Admiral who argued, cleverly, that the values of the Democratic Party are closer to those of the military than Republican values are. After all, the military provides universal health care, vast educational opportunities and a racial environment far more progressive than most G.O.P. precincts–plus new war-fighting tactics that resemble urban community policing more than the good old,  line up the tanks and smash the Russians scenarios favored by the conventional warfare crowd. He beat a heavily favored but prohibitively crooked incomubent, Kurt Weldon. I don’t know how Sestak will fare on a larger stage against an experienced and well-funded incumbent, but it seems to me that this is precisely the sort of candidate Democrats should be encouraging for higher office, especially if his opponent may not be a Democrat at all.