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!

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