by Jeremy Young | 8/04/2009 08:50:00 PM
Cross-posted at Daily Kos and BooMan Tribune.

BooMan sez:

You'd think I'd be more interested in the campaign of Joe Sestak to defeat Arlen Specter and win the Democratic nomination for one of Pennsylvania's two senate seats. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to muster a whole lot of enthusiasm for the race. ... I might be geared up for such a battle [with the establishment], if only I thought of Joe Sestak as a sincere progressive. But, I don't. I can almost assure progressives that if he wins a stunning upset and becomes the next senator from Pennsylvania, we'll wind up preferring Bob Casey on every issue that isn't related to reproductive rights and stem-cell research.

I quote BooMan not because I disagree with his analysis of the Sestak-Specter contest -- I don't -- but because I think he misapprehends the reason it's so important for the Left to back Sestak strongly in this race.

BooMan's right that Sestak's no progressive, but for once I don't care. I'm not even convinced that we can elect a progressive Senator in Pennsylvania, particularly against Specter. Joe Hoeffel gave it the old college try back in 2004, and wound up losing by double digits against a bloodied Specter even with the national chairman of the Constitution Party sucking away votes on the right. The state's demographics have shifted to the left since then, and Hoeffel or someone else might be able to pull it off, but I'm still skeptical.

The main reason I don't care about Sestak's political views is that this isn't just about a Senate seat. This is a national campaign that is about sending a message to the conciliatory flank of our party, and President Obama in particular.

In December 2007, in a piece critical of Obama, I wrote:

...There can be no civility or compromise with a president who spies on American citizens without a warrant, who tortures suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, who manipulates and fires U.S. Attorneys in order to politicize their positions, or who pardons an aide who has outed a CIA agent. We do not need Obama to heal the rift between good and evil, or to bind up the nation’s wounds with Bush’s venom still in her bloodstream. Obama’s balms of civility and bipartisanship may lull Americans into complacency, but they seem ill-equipped to end the outrages and injustices of the current administration’s policies and restore America to moral solvency. Obama has given us no indication that he will exercise the bold, far-reaching, and, yes, partisan leadership that will be necessary to undo the travesties of the past seven years.

Though I voted for Obama twice after I wrote that piece, I still agree with the argument. There is nothing in the President's agenda, even health care, that is as important as bringing justice to the Republicans who nearly destroyed America -- yet it seems there is nothing he is more reluctant to do.

For eight years, from 2001-2009, the United States was betrayed by own government. The Republicans in power flagrantly violated our constitution, sent our soldiers into an unnecessary war without body armor, committed unspeakable acts of torture in overseas prisons, spied on American citizens, stationed troops on American soil, forced federal attorneys to pursue the President's political enemies, and outed a CIA agent as political retribution. The only protection we have against such things happening again is from appropriate use of the justice system, augmented by political punishment. We need to prosecute the criminals and send their enablers into the political wilderness, not out of retribution (as Obama has charged), but as a warning to future transgressors against the American people: sow the wind and you will reap the whirlwind.

Arlen Specter was part of every single part of the Republican betrayal, and in some cases, such as the criminal FISA bill, he led the charge in covering up the President's actions. By welcoming Specter into our party, Obama is saying that the Republican betrayals don't matter. More importantly, he's setting a precedent that is going to invite politicians in the future to betray our country even more flagrantly, since they'll just be welcomed back into the fold when they're out of power.

In 2006, the Lamont-Lieberman race was about getting rid of an inconsistent, backstabbing Democrat and replacing him with a consistent, loyal Democrat. But more importantly, it was about sending a message. It was about saying, you cannot say the things about Democrats that Joe Lieberman says and call yourself a Democrat. We sent that message, and Lieberman left the party.

Now we need to send another message to Arlen Specter, and to all Republicans who expect to be forgiven for their actions against our country. We need to say, you cannot do the things that Arlen Specter has done and call yourself a Democrat. You cannot vote for the Detainees Bill, sponsor a coverup to let the President illegally spy on American citizens, support the President's agenda, vote for Trent Lott and Bill Frist and Mitch McConnell to run the Senate, and then be welcomed into the Democratic Party. Those actions are unforgivable, and standing against their perpetrators is what gives Democrats whatever moral character they possess.

Since Obama is not willing to draw a line in the sand against the Bush criminals, Joe Sestak is going to have to do it for him. And we on the left should support him in that effort. It's truly the most important fight of the 2010 cycle. If Sestak wins, we won't just have a centrist Democratic senator replacing another centrist Democratic senator. We'll also have confirmation that if the President wants to get reelected, he needs to take a harder line against the criminals who soiled the office he now occupies. This is our one and only chance to send that message, and we'd better take advantage of it.



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Blogger Debrah on 8/05/2009 9:16 PM:

From a depressing topic to the sublime.

The magnificent KC dah-ling will be receiving yet another prestigious award.

The academy's sexiest man alive!


Blogger AndrewMc on 8/06/2009 9:45 AM:

Particularly disappointing is the fact that Obama seems inclined to continue many of the more odious policies of the Bush administration, especially with regard to secrecy.