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The Specter of Arlen

Despite the fact that I have never voted for Arlen Specter, I have come to respect some of the values he stood for over his long career in the Senate.  As a Republican, he remained an advocate of women’s rights and more recently, as a Democrat, he stood on the right side of the Health Care debate.  I had the opportunity to see him work an audience up close late last summer here in State College when he came for a town hall meeting at the Penn Stater.

There my admiration grew as he responded to a very angry group of Tea Party activists who were as disrespectful as they were misguided.  The exchange I captured on video below says a great deal about Specter’s ability to speak the truth in such a tense atmosphere.

Nevertheless, I am very happy to see Joe Sestak as the Democratic nominee for US Senate from Pennsylvania this evening. Everyone understands why the Obama administration supported Specter, albeit somewhat halfheartedly, given the need to garner Specter’s vote for Health Insurance Reform. The irony of it is that many of us voted for Sestak precisely because we understand that the Health Insurance Reform bill was crippled by too many conservative Democrats in the Senate. 

My hope is that by nominating Sestak, who will be a formidable candidate in the fall, we can defeat Toomey and push the Senate to take a more progressive approach to the problems of health insurance reform, sustainable energy, and improving education. In the end, many of us who worked hard to elect President Obama saw in Sestak a person who would champion the same ideals.

The time is ripe for a new, more progressive voice in the US Senator from Pennsylvania, but still, I admire and thank Senator Specter for his long service to the Commonwealth. The specter of Arlen will continue to haunt Pennsylvania in a largely positive way for many years to come.  And I am glad to see that he is already endorsing Sestak in the general election.

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