This is a re-run of something I posted at dKos in March; but I think it relates to PastorDan’s diary on the FP right now, as well as the issues we’ve been discussing this week.  And before you go any further, I DO have an agenda:  I like and support Chuck, and I like what he’s trying to do.  So for a little history, read on:

Lately, we’ve had quite a bit of interesting speculation here in PA about who will or won’t be running in the 2006 senate race against Rick Santorum (R-VA/PA).  More on that in a moment; first, a little review of recent dKos history.

In the past few weeks (months, maybe?) there has been a great deal of discussion here on dKos regarding the Democratic party’s pro-choice position on abortion.  Some diarists and posters have suggested giving up the defense of Roe v Wade-thus depriving the Republicans of one of their wedge issues-with the hope for political gain in future elections.  

My response to this has been horror at the thought that my own political party would even consider jettisoning my rights in exchange for a few votes from the other side. Of course, many people here at dKos were saying that the Democratic leadership would never do such a thing.  And I believed them.  After all, isn’t this the party that built its reputation on defending those who couldn’t defend themselves, such as the poor, the elderly, children, minority groups, and WOMEN?  

We were wrong.
 Here in Pennsylvania, the established Democratic party leadership has made the decision to back Bobby Casey, Jr (an anti-choice, anti-gay rights candidate-almost a Republican, isn’t he?), against Rick Santorum (R-VA/PA).  Worse, they have done their best to “clear the field” of any other candidates, with the intent of having an uncontested primary.  This approach has eliminated one of the 2 pro-choice democratic primary candidates that I am aware of, and leads me to believe that the Democratic establishment in PA thinks of women as second-class citizens.  Why don’t they think the voters here should have a say in who the best candidate would be to run against Santorum?  And why have they crowned Casey as their champion when he doesn’t even represent the Democratic party on the major issue of women’s rights?

Because one of my goals for 2005/2006 is to do anything I can to help get rid of Santorum, I spent part of my Saturday this weekend down in Philly at the first organizational meeting for the Pennacchio for Pennsylvania senate campaign.  For those of you who might not know this, there IS another democratic candidate running, his name is Chuck Pennacchio (, and he’s a progressive.

I have to admit, I was curious.  After all, this guy doesn’t have the “name recognition” some others might, and he’s a professor of American history at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, not a career politician.  As others on this site have pointed out, neither of these points are traditional strengths for a Senatorial candidate.  In fact, there have been some rather vitriolic comments directed against Pennacchio lately on this site, simply because he has the gall to be running against Casey, the anointed one.  

But as someone who often wonders whether our elected representatives even live on the same planet as I do, it was good to hear a political candidate from Pennsylvania voicing views and concerns similar to my own.  After introducing himself and giving us a short history of his previous political experience, which is admittedly limited, Chuck noted that the Democrats keep shifting away from their traditional base and towards the center in search of votes from the other side.  As I have often wondered, why do the Dems keep selecting and anointing candidates based on “name recognition” and “electability” when has been a losing strategy in the past?  After all, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is considered insanity, isn’t it?  

Chuck went on to say that the last 14 Democratic bids for PA senate seats have all been unsuccessful, and it’s time for a new approach.  I agree, and I actually think this is where his knowledge of American history is a benefit, as he spoke of taking the best parts of previously successful campaigns and incorporating them into his own campaign, making the best use of the grassroots/netroots and getting people to feel some ownership of the political process again.  He talked about how the Democrats used to stand for the protection of the people in our society who are least able to defend themselves (children, the elderly, etc), and how this has shifted to a situation in which politicians are beholden to corporate interests instead of the interests of the people.  While he was talking about the importance of the people in this process, he also pointed out that when people mobilize, they can win out against the monied interests, and start to take back our democracy.  Like so many of us, he dislikes where our country is heading, and feels a need to do something about it.  So he’s running for the Senate, and needs our help with the campaign.  Judging by the number of people who took some time on a weekend to attend the meeting, people are interested and getting involved, and there are more people interested in the western part of PA as well.

After meeting him in person, I can see that Chuck is sincere in his desire for change.  More than this being about who can beat Santorum (and YES, I am aware that that is the critical and ultimate goal here), it’s about the autocracy of the democratic party.  What is the harm in a contested primary, particularly if everyone seems to think one candidate has the money and connections to just steamroll the other in the primary?  There is an opportunity for everyone to hone their messages about what they stand for, and how to defend those messages.  As Pennacchio’s team said, they want to keep taking the fight to Santorum, putting the spotlight on what he’s doing to hurt our state and our country.  So far, they’ve been doing just that (as in the “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Social Security’s got to go” video and the screenshot of the unflattering social security poll results from Santorum’s website), and it ultimately benefits whoever wins the primary.  I think Pennacchio deserves some respect for what he’s doing, which is attempting to bring forth a change in the way politics are being conducted.  Yes, it will take time to change things, but if no one new ever runs for office and we are only allowed to vote for the candidates whom the democratic establishment has told us we must, we will continue to have the same problems we’re suffering from today.  

We all know that the PA senate race is a critical race for 2006.  Why is the PA state Democratic party hell-bent on running their own “Santorum Lite” candidate against Santorum?  Why are they afraid of a contested primary, when it affords them an opportunity to test their strategies prior to the real race in the fall? And why are the people here on dKos attacking a progressive candidate for taking the initiative and running for election?

Say what you will, but I will be helping Chuck Pennacchio with his efforts to run as progressive who believes in some of the same principles I do.  How about you?

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