Good riddence Arlen: lessons from Tuesday

If there is one thing that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on, many were happy on Tuesday to see Republican turned Democrat ousted by former Navy Admiral Joe Sestak in the Pennsylvania Senate Primary.  Folks of Generation Y vintage may be too young to remember Specter’s grilling of Anita Hill during the Confirmation Hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Well, the video above only gets more disgusting with age.  Good riddance, Arlen.

However, that was not the only surprise during the Tuesday elections.  In PA-12, the Democrats surprisingly held on to the seat of stalwart John Murtha, who died earlier this year.  The race between (D) Rep. Mark Critz and Tim Burns was a precursor to a rematch this fall.  The Democrats showed here that they are tactically superior to Republicans, and that they are the big tent party, as Critz opposed health care reform.

In Kentucky, Tea Party darling Rand Paul defeated Secretary of State Tim Grayson, the candidate selected by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to replace Jim Bunning.  McConnell favored Grayson, a former Bill Clinton staffer and supporter, because he fit within the box that the GOP would like to paint its candidates to appeal to the great center.  Rand Paul, the libertarian financed by supporters of his father, Ron Paul, is beholden to no political hack (at least not a GOP one).  His views definitely fit outside the box, however.  He favors the elimination of the Department of Education and farm subsidies, for starters.  He thinks businesses should be allowed to discriminate those who they serve, and that Medicare’s eligibility and benefits should be diminished.  Those positions all appeal to certain segments of society, but more importantly they do not appeal to the constituencies and interests that decide national elections.  While he hopes to pull Democrats onto his side in the fall, Joshua Green points out that the Tea Party support was overblown by FOX News, and may not have registered as much to actual Kentucky voters:

“There was certainly activity geared toward the GOP primary. But the Rand Paul rallies I attended in mid-sized cities like Paducah and Bowling Green drew crowds of only a hundred so, and they were far more subdued than the angry Tea Party masses portrayed on cable television. Grayson’s crowds were even smaller. What was most notable about a race that was captivating the national media was how little it seemed to penetrate the consciousness of most Kentuckians. It was a big a deal only to a small group of energized Republicans. But more Democrats voted (about 500,000) than Republicans (350,000).”

Looking closer to home, where I live in the Ocean State, local Tea Party leaders are now at odds with would be-environmentalist Republican Governor Don Carcieri.  They oppose the wind farms planned for the coastal waters off of Rhode Island, despite a personal plea in a private meeting.   Apparently, they prefer the daily deployment of the fleet of diesel trucks that now light up the generator on Block Island.  This conflict is symbolic of the inability of the GOP to harness the wild energy of the Tea Party movement, and the inability of Tea Party members to appeal to moderates.

UPDATE (5/24): Michael Steele, embattered head of the RNC, came out on Sunday against Rand Paul’s libertarian views on Civil Rights:

“I think his philosophy is misplaced in these times,” said Steele during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t think it’s where the country is right now. The country litigated the issue of separate but equal, the country litigated the rights of minority people in this country to access the enterprise, free enterprise system, and accommodation and all of that. And that was crystallized in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of ’64. And I think that the party stands very firmly behind its efforts then as we do now, to press forward on new civil rights issues… But I think in this case, Rand Paul’s philosophy got in the way of reality.”

In a separate appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Steele said: “I think it’s important to understand that Rand Paul has clarified his statement and reiterated his support for…pushing civil rights forward, as opposed to going backwards. Any attempt to look backwards is not in the best interest of our country certainly, and certainly not in the best interest of the party.”

At the same time, Sarah Palin made the point that Rachael Maddow was prejudiced for asking the question of Rand Paul in the first place.  I suppose, in Palin’s world, if only pre-scripted FOX News journalists existed, then she would be Vice-President.

If you see something, say something.

The Wall Street Journal, the thoroughbred of the Murdoch Media Empire, has some great photos of an abondoned, Columbus, OH AC Delphi factory being torn down so that a casino can go up in its place.   The article describes how in states across the country, voters are willingly “banking on vice” to refurbish the state coffers.  14 States are considering bills to relax restrictions on marajuana sales.  12 States are expanding gambling.  Even Sunday alchohol restrictions are being eased, in five states.

The reason that these steps are being taken, of course, is due to a projected $89 Billion debt in 2011 across 38 States.  Governments and citizens are willing to sacrifice moral objections in order to plug holes in the budget.  I am reminded of a scene at the end of the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor.  CIA Deputy Director Higgins is explaining to Robert Redford’s Joe Turner why it is OK to overthrow governments for oil:

Higgins: It’s simple economics. Today it’s oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?
Joe Turner: Ask them?
Higgins: Not now – then! Ask ’em when they’re running out. Ask ’em when there’s no heat in their homes and they’re cold. Ask ’em when their engines stop. Ask ’em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won’t want us to ask ’em. They’ll just want us to get it for ’em!

Alright, so marajuana, booze, and gambling are not the same as energy policy, right? Well, the bottom line is that in America we have become accustomed to a certain standard of living.  Today, when unemployment pushes already tight State budgets over the edge, governments willingly turn to vice restrictions.    Just consider, for a moment, what will happen if we find out that we do not have enough energy to continue to expland our economy.

A few years ago, the U.S. Military established AFRICOM, a speficic African military command, whose mission is to “in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners, conducts sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign policy.”  Now, until October 2008, we did not require a designated African command.  However, a look at this July 2008 report from the Council on Foreign Affairs is telling:

“China is intent on getting the resources needed to sustain its rapid growth, and is taking its quest to lock down sources of oil and other necessary raw materials across the globe. As part of this effort, China has turned to Africa, an oil-producing source whose risks and challenges have often caused it to be overlooked economically. Some reports describe a race between China and the United States to secure the continent’s oil supplies.”

Oil drives our economy, and it is a finite resource.  We are accustomed to consuming so much energy that we do not really understand what our consumption costs.  Take beef, for instance.  It takes a lot of fuel and water to provide you a Big Mac.  However, if you look across our economy, at everything we consume, at everything that is thrown away, energy is used to create those products.  We consider it our right as Americans to live in accordance with our standard of living, without taking a long term view of what future generations will inherit.

Well, what will happen when that standard of living becomes untenable?  The Department of Defense studied the National Security implications of Global Warming in 2008.  The DoD found that our changing climate could topple governments, create new terrorist movements, and destabilize entire regions, requiring our military to engage.

Politicians are often too willing to consider only what will happen during their time in office, and not consider the long view.  Just consider the career of Arlen Specter, Republican/Democrat of Pennsylvania (of course, Joe Sestak is now ahead of him in the polls).  However, the future now requires us to wisely step back and consider what the impact of our current practices will have on our grandchildren.

Sustainability means looking at the long view.  The Iroquois used a rule called the Great Law of the Iroquois, in which they looked seven generations ahead, about 175 years, whether the decisions they made would benefit that seventh generation.  Today, it is time for us to consider that seventh generation, when it comes to our energy policy, our development and use of chemicals, and how we develop the economy and impact the world. If we just consider living in the present, our decendants will suffer the consequences.