It’s finally election day here in Pennsylvania. I’ll head to the polls soon and cast two difficult votes. The one most people care about is for the presidency, but there is also a hotly-contested Senate primary today between John Fetterman, Katie McGinty, and Joe Sestak. I’d like to say that I’m pleasantly surprised to have five candidates to choose from who all have real strengths.
There was probably never any chance that I’d vote for Clinton over Sanders, but she’s run an excellent campaign so far, she’s running much closer to an Obama Democrat than a traditional New Democrat in the mold of her husband, and I’ve grown much more comfortable with her over time. The main reason that I’ll vote against her isn’t anything she’s done poorly in the campaign. It’s simply my inability to trust her foreign policy instincts. I could get past her Iraq War vote. I got past John Kerry’s Iraq War vote twelve years ago. But I can’t get past her policy recommendations for Syria, Libya and Iran while she was Secretary of State. This remains the chief reason why this election season has made me so miserable, because I haven’t been able to endorse or wholeheartedly support anyone.
My vote for Sanders is really a vote for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and a vote for a more restrained and cautious foreign policy. I don’t actually think Sanders is well-suited for the office of the presidency, and I think he’d probably be an enormous failure in the job. In fact, if I actually got to choose one of them to be president, I might choose Clinton. But my vote is for a delegate to the convention, not for president, and I want my delegate to be a progressive.
In the Senate race, I really support John Fetterman, who I think would be an absolutely fascinating senator. If elected, I think he’d quickly become one of the most compelling progressive voices in the country. Unfortunately, he’s polling 25 points behind McGinty and Sestak who are in close to a dead heat. McGinty was trailing until very recently, but an endorsement from Barack Obama seems to have boosted her into a small lead. This is an easy choice for me, and I’ll be going with McGinty. A lot of progressives are concerned that she facilitated fracking in our state when she served as the Environmental commissioner in Ed Rendell’s administration. They also point out that she seems to have benefitted financially from building relationships with the energy industry. Against that, she got started working on the environment with Al Gore, and she’s worked to promote clean and renewable energy. She’s endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters and by Oceans Champions. She’s also endorsed by every major labor union in the state, including AFSCME, the SEIU, United Steelworkers, and the state AFL-CIO.
Joe Sestak has a lot of strengths, too, and I’d say that most progressives I know who aren’t supporting Fetterman are supporting Sestak. My main objection to Sestak is a little quirky and personal, but he’s a tyrant with his staff. Maybe it’s his background as an admiral, but the people who tried to work for him have nothing nice to say about the experience. That’s a character flaw for me, and it makes me disinclined to vote for him. Having said that, if you care more about how a politician votes than how he treats his staff, you might like Sestak better than McGinty. I think Sestak would be a slightly more reliable Democrat, although McGinty might make up for it by being a much better coalition builder. I think she’d get along with her colleagues very well. I can’t say that I believe that about Sestak.
To be honest, I won’t be 100% sure who I’ll vote for in this race until I get in the booth. I just know that it won’t be Sestak.