Vote Specter, Save Hoeffel to take on Santorum

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Perhaps disagreeing with your parents is what adulthood is all about, but for the first time, this November 2, I?ll be canceling out my father?s vote for a major elective office. Like me, he?s a tried and true Democrat, raised in an old mill town by very blue-collar, very poor parents. In fact, I grew up in the same house my father did, which is now home to his foul-mouthed rants while watching the news, specifically news about our current President. As you might guess, the current administration has not gone over well with my parents. And as a result, they?ll be voting ?the quick way? on Election Day, which for them means pulling the enormous lever marked ?D.?
I won?t. Joe Hoeffel?s commercials pointing out his opponent?s voting record (nine to one in favor of Dubya) have convinced my parents that Specter?s time is up. But not me. See, my father taught me the value of nuance, diplomacy and compassion, but he also taught me the value of the big picture. And the big picture is bleak in three major ways if Specter loses.
First, moderates are a rarity in Congress these days, period ? especially within the Republican Party. Specter himself nearly lost to the maniacal Pat Toomey in the primaries last spring. It is a comfort to know that some Republicans, even if it is only 10 percent of the time, are willing to stray from the party line. I can already count moderates on my fingers, and while I often disagree with them, they are an important part of holding this fractured nation together. If Hoeffel wins, it?s one stitch fewer in the already tattered cloth of bipartisanship.
Second, as signaled by the news of Chief Justice Rehnquist?s thyroid cancer, the Supreme Court is headed for a massive overhaul. According to various news stories, between two and eight of the nine justices will be retiring in the next four years. Obviously, either Bush or Kerry will have an absolutely staggering influence on the judicial opinions for generations. What does this have to do with the Pennsylvania Senate seat?
A great deal. Specter is widely expected to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, should the Republicans hold their Senate majority as expected. Just last week he pledged to the Post-Gazette?s editorial board that no extremists shall be appointed to the Supreme Court on his watch. One can only assume that this pledge specifically regards Roe v. Wade and that Specter opposes the President?s history of appointing pro-life judges. Should Bush get re-elected (or for that matter, if Kerry wins), having a moderate serve such a crucial role in the approval of a President?s judicial nominee is a huge plus for this nation. There are few other Republicans whom I?d trust to handle the job with any credibility.
Is Specter moderate? Yes. His positions on everything from stem cell research to the Lewinsky scandal have been anything but right-wing, if a little strange. While Specter has been quoted throughout the campaign as touting his ability to get Bush?s justices approved, his wordplay has been stealthy. ?President Bush was in Pittsburgh ... and said I?m looking forward to having Arlen Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee because he thinks I can help get his judges, justices confirmed,? said Specter not a month ago. But notice that he does not say that he will follow through, only that Bush believes he will. This seems like less a trick on Bush and more a trick on the Bush supporters Specter needs on November 2. Who knows? It may be the Post-Gazette (and myself) getting tricked. But his bipartisan efforts in the judicial arena aside the late Senator John Heinz speak otherwise, and if Hoeffel wins, who knows what Republican would stand between a second-term Bush and the Supreme Court?
Finally, and perhaps most abstractly, Specter is the senior Senator from Pennsylvania, a title of great honor and distinction. Should Hoeffel win, that title will be taken by the odious Senator Rick Santorum, who has campaigned on little more than ?family values? in the past, while comparing homosexual acts to bestiality in the present. Santorum is already among the most powerful men in Congress, so the fact that ?junior? precedes his title is little consolation. But perhaps it will keep his resume modest come Election 2006, or worse yet 2008, when he?ll surely make a bid for the Presidency against a field of Republicans and, hopefully, the incumbent John Kerry.
Which brings me to my final point: Pennsylvania needs a strong candidate in 2006 to get Santorum out. But who will be the man to do it? What Democrat has the name recognition, the reasonable platform, and the intact campaign to finish the creep off? You guessed it: Joe Hoeffel. If Hoeffel wins, who will beat Santorum in ?06?
So in two years, vote for Joe Hoeffel: a man whose name is not synonymous with sexual byproduct, a man who looks like the centrist of the year next to Santorum, a man who?s getting some good practice this year ? but not my vote.