Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

Primaries: Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and the Rise of Ideology

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“Most important Primary until Next Week’s Primary”

Sajed Bhandari

I have been in Minnesota since Monday.  I had actually forgotten there were some very significant primaries that were to take place this week.  There were Republican and Democratic primaries in Kentucky for the Senate, as well as Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas.  Primary season and mid-Term elections are always interesting.  The media always makes a ruckus about if it is a referendum on the President, or if it is a protest against incumbents running in those particular races, or if it is a referendum on the party in power.   The important winners for the night were Rand Paul (R) in Kentucky, Joe Sestak (D) in Pennsylvania and Senator Blanche Lincoln (D) being forced into a runoff by Lt. Governor Bill Halter (D).  What is important to understand from these results is that it was not a referendum on President Obama or necessarily the Democrats.  It was a protest against the status quo, it was a vote for change, and it can be argued that this is a continuation of the spirit that the then- Senator Obama evoked during his campaign for the Presidency.  The results highlight the increase in ideological differences of the American electorate as opposed to established party ideals.  The results highlight an increasing importance of libertarianism/classical liberalism and progressivism/social liberalism in American politics.  It is a move away from traditional Democrat v. Republican battle schemes.

Kentucky had both Democratic and Republican primaries with the Republican winner being Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul.  Rand Paul was the Tea Party candidate in this primary.  His opponent, the establishment candidate, was Trey Grayson.  Grayson enjoyed the support of the Republican machine in Kentucky as well as prominent Republican leaders in state-wide elected office.  In spite of this machine support, Rand Paul defeated Grayson 2:1.  What was even more significant was that Paul was able to bring more Republicans out to vote in a Primary than any other Republican in Kentucky’s history.  These voters came out to vote against the Republican establishment and showed that they were not going to vote for candidates they saw as entrenched in DC Politics.  Rand Paul is an extension of his father’s movement.  The movement highlights how different the Tea Party is as for as its rhetoric goes.  Both, father and son are known to be libertarians, holding views that favor greater civil liberties, greater market autonomy, and less governmental intervention.  They are contrasted to other Tea Party leaders, such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who in their rhetoric are much more controversial and combative.  Rand Paul and Ron Paul are two men to watch because it is not necessarily the ideas of the Tea Party that is holding the Tea Party back.  Rather, it is their rhetoric of hatred and irrationality that turns off many voters.  Ron and Rand Paul are emerging leaders in the movement who will be the more sober flag bearers of the Tea Party.  In this process, they will directly challenge the established Republicans in DC and elsewhere.

Pennsylvania saw an upset with the victory of Joe Sestak over 30+ year Senatorial veteran, Arlen Specter.  Arlen Specter was the Senator who had left the Republican Party for the Democrats in 2009.  He was instrumental in President Obama’s healthcare reform and stimulus projects.  President Obama was nominally in support of Specter, taping calls and officially endorsing Specter over Sestak.  Specter also enjoyed the support of all the elected Democrats as well as major Democratic Committee members.  He was the establishment candidate in this primary.  Sestak was a Rep. but ran on a platform of taking on politics as usual Democrats.  Specter was prey to this attack because his move to the Democrats was seen as transactional and opportunistic.  It did not help that Specter had mentioned as such on more than one occasion.   Specter, by the people, was seen as untrustworthy and not enough of a Democrat.

Arkansas will have a runoff election in a few days between Senator Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Governor Bill Halter.  Blanche Lincoln was one of the four Democrats who had voted against healthcare reform.  She was the first of those four Democrats facing any level of election.  Lt. Governor Bill Halter was seen as the progressive Democrat who could answer the needs of the people and take down the conservative Democrat, Blanche Lincoln.  He was aided by many progressive groups outside of Arkansas.    Not only did he prevent her from getting 50% of the votes, but he tied her in percentage of votes received.  This was a substantial attack on a conservative Democrat who was not seen as progressive enough because of her lack of support for healthcare reform.  What is most important to understand is that, progressive groups played a pivotal role in undermining Senator Blanche Lincoln.  Blanche Lincoln was seen as not listening to her constituents; however, what is in question is her ideology.  Is she progressive enough to be a Democrat or has she become too conservative?

In conclusion, the primary results indicate an attack on the status quo and politics as usual.  In Kentucky, the Tea Party candidate, Rand Paul defeated the establishment candidate.  Pennsylvania saw the establishment candidate, Specter lose to Sestak.  Finally, Arkansas had their Senator forced into a runoff by the more progressive Democrat, Bill Halter.  In each case, the voters came out and protested the wishes of their party leaders.  It is a sign of things to come in November when voters take to the polls another time.  What is important to consider is will the mid-Term elections be an effort to take out the Democrats, or will it be a continuation of the spirit of change?  It seems as though that voters are become disillusioned with mainstream Democrats and Republicans.  Instead, they are turning to the philosophies that supposedly underlie each of these parties.  The Tea Party represents the libertarianism and classical liberalism side of the American electorate, while the victories in Pennsylvania and Arkansas show a rise of a grassroots progressivism and social liberalism.  The mid-Term elections are sure to be a showdown between these two philosophies more so than it will be a battle between Democrats and Republicans.


Written by sajedbhandari

May 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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