I was never all that interested in politics until George W. Bush took eight years out of my life. I hated having to do Current Events reports in school, and I always skipped the political news section of Time. My theory was that it was all going to change anyway, so why try to figure out what was going on at any particular moment?
But then the election season of 2006 rolled around, and it seemed like the Democrats might have a chance at taking back Congress, even in our Republican-machine-run Pennsylvania district. I decided to volunteer for Joe Sestak’s campaign, and my political junkie career began.
No one had ever heard of him at first. “Joe who?” they’d say. But he was a former admiral, worked for Clinton, and was pretty smart. He also had an attractive wife and a kid who’d overcome brain cancer that he never stopped talking about, both of which helped.
He has a weird whispery Mr. Rogerish way of talking when he speaks in public, maybe put on to compensate for the “poor command climate” reputation that continues to haunt him, probably because it’s true. He’s very hard to work for, but he gets a lot done. He was a terrific first-term Congressman, voted the most productive by his freshman colleagues.
Early in his second term he decided to run for the Senate. I was dubious. Why would he want to leave Congress, where his workaholic nature is a perfect fit, for the very difficult climate of the Senate where relationships are all-important? Why was he abandoning our district, which may be leaning even more Republican now, after all our hard work campaigning? I decided not to work for him.
Then Specter switched parties, because Pennsylvania Republicans who tend to vote in primaries love nutcase Toomey, who believes in no taxes, no abortions, no gay marriages, and lots of guns. And Obama needed that 60th vote, and Joe Sestak was supposed to bow out.
Joe doesn’t bow easily. He’s still running, and may even win.
I’m still irritated at him because, even though I’m working for the Democrat who’s hoping to take his place in Congress, I believe the Republicans are going to take his seat back. But vote for Specter? No way. Here’s what he was doing during those long eight years of my apolitical life: