The media seems to have pledged their allegiance to the proposition that Arlen Specter lost to Joe Sestak yesterday because of a strong voter backlash. But it wasn’t a backlash against self-admitted turncoat opportunists — who made no bones about the fact that “My change in party will enable me to be reelected” — it was a fervent tide of anti-incumbent, anti-establishment anger.
The first rough draft of history that we have been offered since last night seems to show marked signs of collusion. Specter’s loss to Sestak is unanimously being portrayed as reflecting the same phenomenon as “tea party darling” Rand Paul‘s runaway victory over Secretary of State Trey Grayson in Kentucky’s Senate primary.
The AP offers us this profound analysis:
With the electorate’s intense anger reverberating across the country, this is all but certain: It’s an anti-Washington, anti-establishment year. And candidates with ties to either better beware.
Any doubt about just how toxic the political environment is for congressional incumbents and candidates hand-picked by national Republican and Democratic leaders disappeared late Tuesday, when voters fired Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, forced Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a run-off in Arkansas and chose tea party darling Rand Paul to be the GOP nominee in Kentucky’s Senate race.
If the same kind of intense anger that led to Rand Paul’s Tea-Party-fueled victory has also been reverberating among the Democratic electorate, it managed to hide pretty well till yesterday. In fact, it was only about two weeks ago, wasn’t it, that the polls even started to show Sestak with a fighting chance of closing the huge gap that Specter had enjoyed ever since Sestak announced his candidacy?
The Washington Post weighs in with:
Tuesday’s results were the most powerful indicator to date of the voter anger and dissatisfaction that has shaped the political climate all year.
The Detroit Free Press leads with:
A growing wave of discontent with government came crashing down on “establishment” candidates running in primary elections Tuesday as voters turned five-term Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter out of office and nominated a populist “Tea Party” candidate in Kentucky.
Few races represented the political backlash sweeping across the country better than Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary, in which Specter was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak.
Not to be outdone by anyone, the NYT produced this headline: “Specter Defeat Signals a Wave Against Incumbents“, and this analysis:
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who left the Republican Party a year ago in hopes of salvaging a 30-year career, was rejected on Tuesday by Democratic primary voters, with Representative Joe Sestak winning the party’s nomination on an anti-incumbent wave that is defining the midterm elections.
The outcomes of both contests (Specter-Sestak and Rand Paul-Trey Grayson), along with a Democratic primary in Arkansas that pushed Senator Blanche Lincoln into a runoff election in June, illustrated anew the serious threats both parties face from candidates who are able to portray themselves as outsiders and eager to shake up the system.
Funny how hard it seems to be for the US media to realize that some extremely idiosyncratic factors were at work in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. (Isn’t Kool-Aid wonderful?)
Even the Philadelphia Inquirer, for crying out loud, insisted that Specter lost because he was “standing for election in a year of voter hostility to Washington incumbents.”
Apparently, to see things clearly, you have to be viewing them from a considerable distance. From all the way across the pond, for instance, like the BBC:
Washington pundits were determined to see Tuesday’s primaries as the latest evidence of anti-incumbent fever in the US – but the results were far from conclusive.
Mr Specter’s situation was unique: he had served almost five terms as a Republican, albeit a relatively moderate one, and thus had a long history with Pennsylvania voters.
In changing to the Democratic party a year ago, Mr Specter fed voter distrust – a feeling the Sestak campaign capitalised on with advertising pointing to statements where Mr Specter indicated the switch had been motivated by his own political survival.