Notes on different U.S. primary elections (May 18th primaries)

Just some thoughts from the headlines:

In Pennsylvania, longtime Senator Arlen Specter lost the Democratic nomination. He’s 80, and had been a Senator since 1981. (Eighty and won in ’80, sworn in in ’81.). So thirty years on the scene. That’s quite some time even by Washington standards.

Specter spent most of his career as a Republican, but switched to the Democrats last year. Depending on whose story you buy, it’s either that he got tired of the smell in the contemporary Republicans, or he realized that so many moderate and liberal Republicans switched parties during the Obama-Clinton primaries that his voting base among pure Republicans in Pennsylvania was much smaller than it ever had been. Probably a little of both these excuses—that’s how it is with most things.

Specter is also the man who served on the commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, and who came up with the theory that one bullet among the couple of shots had caused several wounds. It was derided as the “magic bullet theory” until a new motorcade tape surfaced that showed Kennedy’s shirt collar was riding high. So maybe he was right all along.

It’s nice to see that Specter bowed out gracefully in the concession speech.

Also in Pennsylvania, there was a special election for a House seat that was vacated when longtime Congressman John Murtha died. The Democrats held on to this one, which challenges the notion that this is supposed to be a big year for the Republicans. I think it’s really going to be a big year for the pissed off voter, and whoever the candidates are that can situate themselves the best will win.

One of these Tea Baggers won in Kentucky, the son of the best known Libertarian in Congress. He is Rand Paul, so I guess we’re going to be hearing more about that wacky element of Republicanism and the South. Kentucky is a state that receives massive amounts of federal tax money from Washington, more than their taxpayers pay in. So if these people really believe in “freedom” and are “against socialism!!!” then I will be happy to hear about how Kentucky proposes to give the extra federal money back.

In Arkansas, there is a three-way primary in the Democrats for a seat held by Blanche Lincoln. The firedoglake gang has been into this, because they feel Senator Lincoln really screwed around when it came to supporting a strong health care reform, and that she is in the pocket of big business. So forcing a runoff is one way to show that the left side of the Democrats is not happy.

Ironically, that whole run-off system in the South was really put there to prevent black candidates and desegregationists from winning nominations. If there were more than two white candidates, and a black one, or if there was a desegregationist against two or more segregationists, the black or the desegregationist might win with just a plurality. (I am writing as if all black people were desegregationists of course. But then, during the Politically Correct Years that I went to college, that wasn’t always a safe assumption, because there were some Nation of Islam guys running around Penn.)

So a voting system that was put in to keep a less favored political point of view or racial group out of a victory in Arkansas is being used this time for a liberal protest against an incumbent who people feel has forgotten the base of her party.

A runoff would be in June, and it would be interesting to see if the challenger can someone get a win in the runoff.