Arlen Specter and the Entitlement of Incumbency

bumped

David Sirota has a good post over at Open Left about the disgusting sense of entitlement that infects incumbents of both parties. Indeed, Arlen Specter's entire switch was premised upon the same "what do you mean I have to face the voters to even qualify to run again?" arrogance that characterized Joe Lieberman three years ago. Of course, Lieberman was able to squirrel out of his loss in the Democratic Party, Specter is not so lucky. To Specter, Lieberman and, as we saw last night on Rachel Maddow, Lincoln Chaffee, primary challenges are some unfair quirk of the system rather than a function of the very democracy that elected them in the first place.

Here was Chaffee from Rachel's interview last night:

"...the tremendously successful fundraising juggernaut that pours the money into these primary races against moderate Republicans in particular. I saw it happen to me in 2006, largely responsible for my loss in the general election...this is America, anybody can run for office.  It's the money that pours in that really makes these primaries destructive...Primaries run-up your negatives and they cost you money."

Sirota slams him:

These incumbents, whether Chafee, Specter or Joe Lieberman, genuinely feel it is some sort of awful affront to democracy when they draw well-funded primary challenges who can make a primary election a genuine contest, even though the definition of democracy is contested elections.** I mean, Chafee is literally complaining that "primaries cost you money" - as if it's awful that an incumbent should have to deal with a primary. And yet, we're supposed to simultaneously believe it's perfectly fine for an incumbent to leverage their office and votes to raise truckloads of special interest cash that then lets them grossly outspend any primary challengers who come their way.

This built-in sense of entitlement among the elected establishment is, of course, not specific to any one party. In fact it's rampant in the Democratic Party. It's the same bullshit that led Debbi Wasserman Shulz to refuse to actively campaign against her Republican friends who (mis-)represent their South Florida districts and it's the same attitude that is behind Ed Rendell's arrogant declarations that Arlen Specter will run unopposed in next year's Democratic primary.

Here he was again today:

"Well, I think that Arlen will probably wind up running unopposed, or without a serious challenger," said Rendell. "Look, the President of the United States has already endorsed Arlen, the Vice President of the United States has. Everyone knows Arlen and I are personal friends, go back to when he hired me as an assistant district attorney without asking me what party I belonged to. I think every major Democrat is gonna be for Arlen. And I think he's got a lot of inherent support with Democrats and independents all across the state."

Well, Arlen Specter fled to the Democratic Party but with shit like this, it's no wonder that while there's an exodus from the Republican Party, it's not exactly accruing to the benefit of Democrats. And quite frankly, Rendell's comments only bolster the case FOR a primary challenge. Certainly I'm now even more determined than ever to both fund a Democratic challenger to Specter and withhold any and all support for the DSCC if they do anything to support Specter prior to the primary.

I don't mind people in the party welcoming Specter with open arms, what I do mind is their shutting down a process by which the voters get to say who their Senator is as opposed to Specter's political friends, especially considering Specter's open opposition to EFCA yesterday and his vote against the president's budget today. Unlike yesterday, Arlen Specter today said today that he welcomes "all comers in the Democratic primary and the general election." Let's give it to him.

Tags: Arlen Specter, Ed Rendell (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

Left-right spectrum

In addition, this sense of entitlement maintains a conservative influence in the Senate that maybe greater than the electorate of the the states in question. At least with a primary, Specter would be forced to veer leftward from the positions he has taken in the last few years. What will push him to do so now? Wishful thinking?

by bruh3 2009-04-29 04:03PM | 0 recs
Well

I have never met a people more frighten to admit that they have a governing elite than Americans. It is incomprehensible to all too many.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-29 04:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

 what's with the superior tone? You think you're better than us?

by QTG 2009-04-29 05:43PM | 0 recs
I sorta understand what Charles is saying

One the biggest problems I've seen over the years working on campaigns is that so many people are afraid to admit when there are things about America that are bad and need to be fixed...as if there's something underlying rule that being a good American = pretending that America is perfect.

But I think it goes beyond that...for many people, I don't think they're afraid to admit they're being governed and ordered around by the elite...I think they understand that's true, but stay quiet with the hope that they, themselves, will one day be PART of that elite.

by DTOzone 2009-04-29 06:05PM | 0 recs
It's the Sarah Palin appeal

Sarah Palin's appeal is only about her not really being perceived as part of the elite. And in particular, in not being (perceived or otherwise) part of the intellectual elite.

Of course, the idea that anyone of average intelligence and no intellectual curiosity can do a good job at something as complex as running the US government is absurd, but it's something that many American's believe (in fact, a majority of them believed that in 2004, and enough of them believed that in 2000 that we ended up with 8 years of W).

by fsm 2009-04-29 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Bad choice of word

These are just a few of the definitions of elite, and they are FREE: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/elite
so any conversation about elites fails because nobody can know what the others are talking about.

Noun 1. elite - a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social or economic status

elite group

upper class, upper crust - the class occupying the highest position in the social hierarchy
elect, chosen - an exclusive group of people; "one of the elect who have power inside the government"

cream, pick - the best people or things in a group; "the cream of England's young men were killed in the Great War"

clerisy, intelligentsia - an educated and intellectual elite

beau monde, bon ton, high society, smart set, society - the fashionable elite
few - a small elite group; "it was designed for the discriminating few"

aristocracy, nobility - a privileged class holding hereditary titles

technocrat - an expert who is a member of a highly skilled elite group

Adj. 1. elite - selected as the best; "an elect circle of artists"; "elite colleges"

elect

selected - chosen in preference to another

by QTG 2009-05-02 01:18AM | 0 recs
Re: I sorta understand what Charles is saying

We tend to believe that we govern but we don't. Corporations do.

We do have a stakeholder part in the system. In short, I am arguing the battle for democracy is a never-ending one and that over the past 30-40 years, we the people have taken a beating at the hands of they the corporate elite.

We don't talk about class issues as much as we should. Look at the Obama budget and the tax rate increase. He's being charged with a being a socialist. It's so patently absurd. And no it's not a grassroots Free Republic thing though certainly that component exists. Scratch beneath the surface, I'll bet anything that powerful economic interests lie behind the tea party movement.

The battle for a more democratic America is a never-ending one and firmly believe that one of most important thing we can do is enact public financing of political campaigns so as to open up the system.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-29 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

No tone though I admit I am very angry over the Smithfield issue and on this ONE issue I see the Obama Administration placating corporate interests.

Here's another more developed stab at my point. Go to any major US Presidential address and you'll find two commonalities 1) they ask God to bless America and 2) references to what the "American people" believe or think abound. The former is idiotic and rare among policy makers outside the Islamic world. The latter is more prevalent in the speeches of world leaders but in the US there is a more pronounced view that some how we are all equal. Notions that we live in a Jacksonian or a Jeffersonian democracy are flights of fancy. We live in a country run by corporations and for corporations. We just get to vote on our corporate keepers every now and then. Is there a difference between the two parties? Yes, obviously. The Democrats are more inclusive and socially aware. But even then, there are limits to which we might express an alternative vision. People like Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders in Congress are a rara avis.

Ask yourself these questions: what percentage of Americans are millionaires? Fewer than 1 percent of Americans are millionaires though one in three think they will achieve such an exalted status. Why I am not sure since the deck is stacked against them on purpose. Now ask yourself what percentage of our Congressional Representatives are millionaires? In the Senate 66% are and in the House it's 39%. That disparity is the highest in OECD save for Turkey. There is an elite in the US and one that governs but for whatever reason, people thought the GWB was one of them. He's not. As per Obama, well he's certainly an improvement and both he and Michelle are self-made millionaires. To be blunt, I like Michelle more than I like Barack. She still seems to have working class values. Obama has yet to convince me that he fully understands working class issues. Then again, the budget is really a dramatic departure from the past 30 years so I am optimistic.

Breaking corporate power remains a daunting task. Breaking the stranglehold that elites have on the political process a herculean one. This is why we need public financing of political campaigns.

That I am a radical, I won't deny.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-29 07:11PM | 0 recs
I believe though

that despite their bitching otherwise, most Americans want it that way. Whenever they get the chance to break corporate rule, they reject it.

If this is the best we're gonna get, then I'm very happy.

Maybe one day people won't look at the New York Post compare Obama to Marx and believe the crap they right that Karl Marx was somehow "anti-American"

by DTOzone 2009-04-29 08:10PM | 0 recs
Re: I believe though

that many of us think that the circumstances of our own particular lives (IQ, pedigree, net worth, education, employment, etc.) are at all common. Layer onto those differences the place(s) we were raised, the politics of our group, and the nature of our religious upbringing....

Truth be told, I don't think we are typical Americans, and we aren't members of the political elite either...

we just play like we are on the internets!

by QTG 2009-04-30 02:05AM | 0 recs
We are the radical fringe

That I why I alway chuckle when some chowderhead logs on here and declares

"We in the Democractic Party are now so disspointed in obama...." etc..etc...

Yeah, people who spend inordinate amounts of time on politics blogs are representative of the typical democratic voter?

Sure, just like Bill Gates is a typical Seattle-ite!

by WashStateBlue 2009-04-30 06:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Well

In America, reality is optional. Everyone knows this is wrong, but because it's "our team" it's suddenly okay.

by bruh3 2009-04-29 06:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Is that substantially different from other countries?

by the mollusk 2009-04-30 02:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Yes.

by bruh3 2009-04-30 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Pizza.

by the mollusk 2009-04-30 10:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Hence my support for Barack Obama.

by the mollusk 2009-04-30 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen

Wordier, but exactly how I reacted but I think I was a bit more head shaky and chucklier. He needs (and we need for him) to be seriously and successfully primaried by someone who can then trounce Toomey.

But Spector also needs to step up and do some heavy atonement for his past sins by being a very very reliable vote for the Democrats in the Senate, because we already have one Lieberman too goddam many.

by QTG 2009-04-29 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen Specter and the Entitlement

I agree. Look how Joe Biden picked his aide to fill in his spot until his son returns from Iraq. These pols help each other out and want to sidestep the voters. I hope Obama does not campaign for Specter in the primary if he gets a challenger. I also hope that grassroots Dems treat Specter with a lot of skepticism.

by Lolis 2009-04-29 05:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen Specter and the Entitlement of Incumbenc

I'm a former 30 year resident of PA, who campaigned for progressive Rep. Bob Edgar against Arlen in the eighties, and I feel we need a progressive challenger against him in the Dem primary.

by dogenman 2009-04-29 07:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen Specter and the Entitlement of Incumbenc

Me too, but it's a machine state so it will probably be symbolic at best.  If you'll recall, during the primaries Hillary Clinton was a given to win Pennsylvania because of the Rendell endorsement.

by Jess81 2009-04-30 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen Specter and the Entitlement of Incumbenc

I thought it was because Obama eats arugula.

by the mollusk 2009-04-30 02:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen Specter and the Entitlement

It boils down to this:  Specter is perfectly free to become a Democrat. But the Democratic primary electorate has every right to decide whether their perspectives views and interests will be best represented by Arlen Specter or someone else.

I think we are perfectly free to choose "someone else," since as long as we pick someone sane, they are almost a sure bet against Pat Toomey in the general.  Not only that, but Arlen has a lot to answer for.  And he may have even more to answer to a Dem primary electorate for over the next year, beginning with his budget vote today.

by AmericanJedi 2009-04-29 08:36PM | 0 recs
Arlen Specter and the Entitlement of Incumbency

Is this the new J.K. Rowling novel?

by STLSignes 2009-04-30 02:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Arlen Specter and the Entitlement
Excellent points here. But as long as Big Daddy Rendell is calling the shots in PA, don't expect any real Dems to run in the Primary. There may be a candidate, but they'll be so weak, that Arlen will actually look stronger. Perhaps a far-left minority who will win in Philly and nowhere else. Or a Dennis Kuchinich-type who will make Arlen appeal to snark "those hard-working" PA types.
I can understand his switch and  I agree with  it in theory. Obviously, he is a moderate. Obviously the state Repub party is moving away from him. He actually is staying true to his core principles in my opinion.
But it ends there. If Arlen Specter thinks that the Democratic party of PA will throw viable primary opponents under the bus the way the Connecticut Repubs did Alan Schlesinger to make way for Liebermann, then PA voters need to show him different!
by xodus1914 2009-04-30 05:09AM | 0 recs
You'd think Democrats would be for democracy

But you'd be wrong.

by RT 2009-04-30 06:07AM | 0 recs
Re: the Entitlement of Incumbency
Todd,
You are really taking it out of context.
I watched Chafee, what he said is that conservatives like the Club for Growth are using primaries to push out moderate Republicans from blue states.
When asked he said specifically, he is not against primaries, and that Lieberman comes from a blue state, so it was smart to challenge him in a primary.
Not so with Chafee and Specter who come from Blue states, pushing them out is a crazy idea for the GOP.
It's like we primary out Reid or Webb and lose the seats.
by rolnitzky 2009-04-30 07:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Entitlement of Incumbency

Eh, leave Chafee out of it.  He wrote an op-ed right after losing that was basically "no hard feelings Rhode Island, I know why you voted me out, I probably would vote against the modern Republican party too."  Nothing about the unwashed primary voters or anything like that.  

If he wants to use recent events to take a whack at Grover Norquist, I have no problem with that.

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