Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“It takes something like courage to admit that we will never do better than a politician…”

At this hour it looks like Arlen Specter is going to be on his way out of the U.S. Senate. I voted for Sestak … strike that, as I write this the AP has just called the race for Sestak.

I have mixed feelings here. Even though I voted for Sestak I feel a little sad that Specter is done. I can’t remember a time when he was not the senator for Pennsylvania. I love politics on many levels. I love it as a policy debate, governing process, but most of all as a fight, a struggle between candidates, or parties or coalitions.

And Specter represented, up until tonight, a guy who knew how to win those fights.

Specter is cagey. He’s a political animal. There is something that transcends ideology for me: political talent. I can respect a politician who knows how to fight, even when I disagree with him or her. I love politics and Arlen Specter is a consummate politician.

He just came up against his last fight tonight. He’s giving his concession speech at the moment and it is a little sad.

Specter makes me think of Bruno Latour’s (1988) defense of the politician:

“…no one does any better than the politician. Those others simply have somewhere to hide when they make their mistakes. They can go back and try again. Only the politician is limited to a single shot and has to shoot in public. I challenge anyone to do any better than this, to think any more accurately, or to see any further than the most myopic congressman.” (The Pasteurization of France, p. 210)
On that note I leave this post with a double illustration of Specter at his most politically adept; a double feature that shows how truly good this guy was. How many other politicians have anything equivalent to back-to-back TV ads from Barack Obama in one reelection campaign and George W. Bush in the preceding reelection campaign? No one even comes close.

So ideology aside, my thanks to Arlen Specter for thirty years of service to Pennsylvania and now on to a Sestak victory in November! The last thing we need is a Santorum clone representing us in the U.S. Senate!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I’ve been working here at my desk with the BBC humming in the background. It floats in and out of my consciousness, periodically grabbing and losing my attention. One moment that particularly pulled me in was when the hosts began discussing the merits of a two party system over having multiple minor parties.

The two party system is more stable they said; it is less susceptible to “horse-trading,” making it difficult to form a truly representative government.

Most of all, above all other concerns, is that of stability of government. They lamented the fact that they could potentially have a governing body that did not receive a majority or plurality of votes. They claimed that Gordon Brown had already started the “horse-trading” before the votes were fully counted.

What is most fascinating to me about all of this is that process of horse-trading. How do people form a governing coalition? It amazes me that the Tories might win the most votes, but instead of ending up with Prime Minister David Cameron the UK may end up keeping Gordon Brown who would be forced to build a coalition with the Lib Dems. Even more interesting is that fact that the Lib Dems ended up with a disappointingly small amount of the vote, less than the media hype of the last few weeks, and they would be the kingmakers.

What if the Lib Dems decide to build a coalition with the Tories?! How fascinating that politics would make such strange bedfellows!

Could it be that Gordon Brown becomes the Bush 2000 of England; he loses in the vote count and still, because of the quirks of the system, becomes the head of state? The UK political process is going to be fun to watch over the next few days.