Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Midterm election 2014

It is the day after the 2014 mid term primary elections so I googled up some results to see how the candidates in my area fared, and if there was a national trend at work in races across the country.

In Pennsylvania, four Democrats were on the ballot to take on Governor Corbett in the fall.  As predicted, Tom Wolf won handily.  Wolf's decision to advertise early staked him to an insurmountable lead which none of the other three candidates had the resources to overcome.  Luckily, despite their loss, it appears that all three will put their full weight behind Wolf's attempt to unseat the unpopular Corbett.  If I heard it once, I heard it dozens of times; anyone is better than the current Gov. 

I was, and still am, a bit concerned about Wolf who clearly used his millions of dollars to buy this primary.  But I also had misgivings about his competition, Allyson Schwartz, Rob McCord and Katie McGinty.  McCord's controversial ad accusing Wolf of racism in the far distant past indicated the desperate state of his campaign, and smacked of sensationalism without substance.  As you may remember, I receive weekly emails which detail the votes cast by my reps in Harrisburg and Washington, and was disappointed to see that Schwartz had abstained from many votes in the past few months, my assumption being that she was too busy with this race to represent her constituents.  As for McGinty, she did not seem to have the experience to take on Corbett.

In the end, since it all comes down to removing Corbett, I am happy with Wolf.  Assuming the Dems can get out the vote in November, his business experience should attract some independent voters.  And, while I don't expect many Republicans to defect from the Corbett camp, there may be enough who have been less than satisfied and may just stay at home.  Let's just hope that, where Corbett may have chosen to sacrifice state services rather than seek additional sources of revenue, Wolf will walk a more balanced line by increasing revenue through some specific tax changes aimed at those who can afford it the most, perhaps get a bit more money from the natural gas industry, and find a way to make the business community understand that a strong education system creates more intelligent, motivated future employees and a strong middle class creates more customers with some money to spend on the goods and services.  Where some Dems are portrayed as anti-business, we need Wolf to use his business experience to show that Dems are not anti-business as much as they are anti-greed, and anti-selfishness as those traits apply to businesses that focus on tax loopholes over responsible tax payments, and paying employees a livable wage so less people are dependent on state and federal subsidies to pay for food, shelter and healthcare.

In other elections that directly effected me, the current state representative for my district, is not running for re-election.  While he was a Republican, he did not always tote the party line so there were times when I supported his votes.  He was very visible in the local community and seemed to have maintained his principles over the years.  I found him to be fair and honest, rare traits some might say in today's world of politics.  I will miss your service, Paul Clymer.  Still, I am hoping that the winner of the Democratic primary can muster enough local support to turn the seat to the Dem side, seeing that the PA House and Senate are currently Republican controlled. 

There was no "race" on the GOP side, only one candidate "chosen" by the local party.  This was also true of the Dem race to unseat the current state senator in my district.  And I am sure there were many of these uncontested primary races for state house and senate seats throughout the country.  Is there that much of a disinclination for public service that so many primary elections are "confirm-the- candidate-already-chosen-by-the-party" races as opposed to actual elections featuring two or more candidates?  Or is the system so closed that only those invited can play?

Perhaps it is merely an indication that the parties want to portray a sense of unity, as if the candidate doesn't matter as much as the party platform/ideology.  Which brings us to the current state of the GOP on the national stage.  As of this writing, it appears that the tea party has lost some influence; or perhaps that the GOP establishment has gained control back from its more radical wing.  In many GOP primaries throughout the country, tea party candidates looking to unseat established GOP incumbents lost to those incumbents.  This trend differs dramatically from the more recent GOP primaries where so many tea party candidates won, many over incumbents deemed not conservative enough.  Is this a sign that finally, the moderates of the GOP have realized that they cannot continue to win elections under the banner of not governing?  That the tea party was useful in its day to wield as a bludgeon against the Obama Administration, but its elected reps have become so enamored with the word NO, that they are using it in response to laws that would benefit America even when sponsored by other GOP representatives.

They say all movements eventually die of their own accord or are incorporated into the mainstream in some watered down form.  In 6 or 8 years, will last nights primary results be thought of as the day the tea party movement officially lost its allure?

It will be interesting to see if last night's tea party losers will join the GOP flock or pout on the sidelines in November.  If the latter, the historical pattern of the party in the white house losing ground in the legislature may be interrupted, or at least curtailed as compared to the swing that occurred in 2010.

One final note.  If you didn't vote, be advised that your future opinion on the topics of the day may not be heeded, at least not by me.  I am advising that all conversations that lean to the political should begin with the question, did you vote?  A no answer without a compelling reason, may disqualify one from opining on the problems of the day.  I had predicted that 2 of 3 voters would not go to the polls yesterday; it appears it may be more like 4 of 5.  What a disgrace!!  Disregarding the fact that our elections take place on a Tuesday as opposed to some more practical and longer time frame, and that there were so many rubber stamps races with only one name on the ballot, it is extremely disappointing to see that upwards of 80% of Americans couldn't exercise their right to vote.  It is especially indicative of the state of our apathy when one reads about people dying in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq as they stand in voting lines.  They risk their lives while we can't risk a few minutes.  Hopefully, November's election will feature a higher turnout so that our elected officials are actually representatives of the people as opposed to public servants who are accountable to a vocal, one issue minority, or worse, a super wealthy group or individual. 



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Celebrating a Milestone and the Future

This past weekend my wife and I travelled to Meadville, PA to celebrate the graduation of my son from Allegheny College.   It was a glorious day!  The weather stayed dry so the ceremony was held outdoors.  The event featured the reading of the names of every graduating senior, but did not feature any long, drawn out speeches, so the proud parents and friends were not nodding off in their chairs.

As the time for JW to walk to the stage approached, Nora and I moved towards the front to get a closer view and take some pictures.  Of course, it was hard to focus the camera through the tears of joy, but we cheered loudly when his name was called and we managed to click off a few shots as he walked to receive his diploma then returned to his chair.  I yelled his name as he moved down the row back to his seat.  His look and his wave to us will forever stay in my memory as one of the greatest moments of my life.

Afterwards, we had twelve at dinner including my son's girlfriends' family.  The next day we helped move JW to his temporary digs as he will be staying with a friend and his family while he looks for an apartment, and a job.  After saying a tearful goodbye, my wife and I headed home, full of concern, anxiety, love and pride.  And, more tears.

Before leaving however, I spoke for a while with JW to gauge his perception of the job market.  He was extremely optimistic, almost on the verge of arrogance.  He had spent some time in the past few weeks testing the market and had gleaned from these contacts that there were many jobs to be had, he just had to decide which was the best fit for him.  While I am sure he must have been nervous about the tasks at hand, he did not convey this uncertainty to me.  What do they call it?  The ignorance and exuberance of youth?!

I guess I am a bit jealous of his confidence but would certainly not wish him to reflect the negativity and hopelessness that I have heard in other young people.

Since arriving home, I spoke to him on the phone once and he remained positive.  Additionally, I read an article in the May edition of the Smithsonian.  (How I wish that everyone could read this magazine - I truly believe that if they did, we would be working, both collectively and individually, much more effectively on solving the problems of the day).

Here is a link

The focus of the article is the incredible technological breakthroughs that are in progress which may revolutionize the medical industry (and a few others as well).  Forget about all the political games being played in Washington over the Affordable Care Act, all the hand wringing over the insurance mandate, all the doom-saying talking heads who predict bankruptcy if the United States tries to provide health insurance for its citizens, the real progress is being made in the labs and basements of America's innovators who are creating hand held devices and apps that will provide access to health services, medical test results, and perhaps even basic diagnosis and treatments without ever visiting a health professional.  If even one tenth of the possibilities of this technology work as predicted, our grandchildren will look back on all the partisan bull crap exhibited in our discussions about health care and shake their heads in wonder as to why we didn't stop arguing and start cooperating. 

Have we become that concerned about who solves the problems, who gets credit, who is proved to be wrong, that we can't see that we need to work together to solve our problems? 

In the 60's, America was all about the future, how great it would be, how great America would be, how our leadership and example would improve the world.  We were a younger country then, literally 20 years younger on average.  Perhaps that is the root of our problem, we look at the future through the eyes of the middle aged, as opposed to the dreams of the young.  We cower at what may come as opposed to rushing to the future with eyes wide, ready to experience, ready to live.

So, thanks JW!!  Thanks for reminding me that life is to be lived, regardless of one's age or circumstance.  That life is about taking chances, moving to a new place to find a job, living in a basement as the first stop on that trip, experiencing life, the ups and downs, rather than fearing about what life might bring.  

May we all remember and embrace the ignorance and exuberance of youth!!!