Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Williamson Turn

OK, I really don't do state level politics, but everyone is commenting on the political spasm of the moment: the conversion of Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat. Deep down I suspect Arlen is neither Republican or Democrat and its fairest to say he has merely changed his registration from one major party to anoother.

Seriously though... has anyone as successful as Arlen has been in the political world been an enigma for so long. Single Bullet Theory anyone?

Yet Arlen is not as far out there as you would think as Pennsylvania goes. Put another way, if Arlen didn't exist in Pennsylvania politics, we would have to invent him. Trying to make sense of state level Pennsylvania politics starts as a fools game and descends from there. There may be signs that the Commonwealth may be shifting into one camp or another, but the recent history of state level political success is a definition of neurosis.

Case in point. Consider that in the 2000 general election both Rick Santorum and Al Gore won Pennsylvania by decent margins. This isn't a comment on one side or the other. If there was just one conflicted voter out there who would split their vote like that I would recommend therapy. Two together would have me crossing to the other side of the street. Yet that single electorate is large enough to have been the decisive voting block for statewide races for decades. Good or bad I leave to others, I will just say it's a fine line between maverick and Sybil.

What's it mean? I wish I knew. If you can figure out who these folks are and what makes them tick you could make a fortune as a political consultant in this state.. . Arlen is really a logical result of Pennsylvania's core conflictions. Republicans that vote like Democrats or Democrats that vote like Republicans might be the modal office holder in the state. Maybe it's just moderation, but it gets awfully confusing as you listen to these folks try to speak to their political bases. Thus the pain of listening to Arlen of late as he tried to deal with his little primary problem. All of his recent public statements are already being disected by the media. That will continue on through the fall election most likely. My advice, don't try to apply logic to it. If it starts to make sense to you, you have been absorbed.

Thus in the end important statewide races often turn on things that may not have any philosophical consistency. The oft quoted rule that the governors office shifts between parties every 8 years is as superficial as it has been immutable. Specter may be the exact type of office holder a core group of voters want. Whether that works one more time for the Senator we will find out.. But there will be a few elections between now and then. Remember we are talking about next years election.

So goes another day in Pennsylvania politics. I'm sure it makes sense in base 8 or fits into the unified field theory somehow. It's screwey enough for these high profile races that at least have the advantage of national focus and media coverage. Go into the statewide row office or those commonwealth court judicial races (quick, name a commonwealth court candidate!) and you enter the twilight zone.

and hey, they tell me there is an election here in less than 3 weeks. I think? At least there is a rumor to that effect. Speaking of the election coming up. I didn't make this recent headline up: Dowdometer: Hot, Flat, and Dowded (also, naked Pat)


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