18 April, 2006

Vague-a-ries: A Committee of Members

Ah, the Democratic process. I recently celebrated the arrival of my absentee ballot, and speculated in this forum as to whether to vote stategically, or obviously in my choice for Democratic Senator candidate to oppose Republican Rick Santorum in the Fall. I had thought that was the biggest choice on offer on the ballot.

Many of the other posts were unopposed within the party, Rendell, Sestak, Farrell, Lentz (Gov, US House Rep, PA Gen Assembly Senator and Rep). Lieutenant Gov Cath Baker Knoll is the incumbent and has three well meaning but as far as I could tell from their websites somewhat ineffectual challengers. Gene Stilp in particular seemed to me to be a malcontent with a web log, this could make a kindred spirit but despite his humor and self deprecating tone, I'm not won over. On the other hand I'd be hard pressed to tell you what the Lieutenant Gov does, at least until my ignorance evaporates, or they do a West Wing style series about Gubernatorial politics (I think I watched the first season of Robert Guillame's Soap spin-off Benson, beyond which my knowledge of the Governor's office fades as well).

For all these posts there is a reasonable level of info on the web, although I found that Google failed me in the specifics, but did lead me to:


which gave me links to all the relevant candidates down to General Assembly level. I was particularly pleased to read about Joe Sestak, who seems to be a strong contender to oppose US House Rep Curt Weldon, who I have detested ever since he took over Bob Edgar's seat when Edgar took a quixotic run at Arlen Specter's Senate seat. Weldon has frequently used the extreme Republican majority in his district as a mandate to push much of his agenda (example, anti-abortion in a more than marginally pro-choice constituency). Don't get me started on Weldon, I've considered him a slime from the first debate in his first race many many moons ago. Anyway, Joe Sestak, a retired admiral, defense policy aide in the Clinton White House, is just the ticket to knock Weldon, and perhaps regain the legacy of Bob Edgar who had a strong career as a Democrat in the House representing a Republican majority district.

Then I came to the list for members of the Democratic State Commitee. Fifteen candidates from my relevant districts, I can choose 4 men and 4 women. This seems strange off the bat. I'm all for equal representation, but there are no other minority or interest group criteria. And equal representation doesn't necessarily demand precisely proportional one for one as demanded here. I know this is just for the State Committee, purely the state level organization of the Democratic party, but it's as if they have a nuclear bunker to repopulate the world from when they have to start pairing off like that.

Unlike the actual public offices, for which there were reasonable sources of information, I could barely find out any info about these candidates. I thought at very least they'd have a class president style "why you should vote for me" blurb on a website somewhere.

You may ask why I should care so much. I've had much experience in the last few months of local politics surrounding the newly created New Forest National Park. This has been both a crash course in civics and recent history. Apart from the insights it has given me into issues which will be valuable in my writing, it has also given me more respect for the less glamorous, low level workings of local activism and representation.

However, with the lack of info my choices here are sadly reduced to the most spurious criteria. Five out of the fifteen are in Upper Darby, I resist their sub-Philadelphian power block, and so have eliminated them from my list (also, apart from identifying one or two of them as lawyers, and one as a delegate at the last Dem national convention, there's nothing about them on the web). Of those left I've identified one as the mayor of Lansdowne, one works for Swarthmore College, two possibly on the county council. None of them have a web-site, apart from one who writes for a blog for PA Progressives web site (PA Progressive Blog).

My only really positive choice here is to give the blog-guy some credit. I also give the Swarthmore person an up based tenously on my respect for academia, and my nostalgia for my childhood home. Beyond that I've used a combination of location and the mere info I have on the remaining candidates. I might as well vote based on tea leaves, or perhaps grass roots.

Well, at least I've made my primary bed and will lie in it until November when my choices will be so oversimplified, and dilemma free, assuming I get the ballot in time. My misgivings about Bob Casey Jr. have increased when I recently read that he would support the Alito nomination, despite many in the party against. From an ill-informed but blind choice, to a well-informed blind choice. Democracy, but perhaps not how it should be at any end of the spectrum.



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