Saturday, February 25, 2006

An Interesting and Eloquent Endorsement of Pennacchio, and Indictment of Democratic Machine Politics in PA

Democrat Charlie Crystle -- a software developer who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania in 2004 -- has issued a strong endorsement of Chuck Pennacchio over Bob Casey as the best Democrat to run against Ricky Santorum in November:

I am endorsing Chuck Pennacchio for Senate because he is a mainstream liberal fighter: pro-choice, pro-family, anti-war, and pro- universal healthcare. Bob Casey pales in comparison, a veritable clone of Rick Santorum on crucial issues. Like the progressive Senator Paul Wellstone in 1990, this time Democrats will vote for what we believe in, and that’s Chuck Pennacchio’s politics, not the politics of expedience.

I'm a political pragmatist -- pragmatic enough, anyway, to hope that backing Pennacchio is an act of BOTH pure heart AND political "expedience." I'm backing Pennacchio both because he's the better man and because, if he can survive the Democratic Machine's opposition and win the nomination, the better candidate to challenge Santorum. And Crystle is just one of several relatively prominent Pennsylvania politicians to support Pennacchio; his announcement isn't earth-shattering the waya change of heart by Governor Ed Rendell, for example, would be.

But Crystle, who was burned by Machine politics in his race (Gov. Rendell asked him to withdraw to ensure "a bloodless primary"), is angered and energized by the same anti-democratic tendencies in Pennsylvania's Democratic Party that have me exercised about the party nationwide, as evidenced by the Brown/Hackett debacle in Ohio and Hillary Clinton's premature and excessive support for Casey in Pennsylvania. And he has a wonderful way with words:

moral bankruptcy: Part of Speech: noun. Definition: the state of being devoid of morality and ethics, used esp. for business and political entities. Example: A complete lack of morals is moral bankruptcy.

Just so we're clear on what it means. Visit PA Dems and look for any statement on the values or principles it holds other than winning.... Then look at the behavior of the Party over the past few years, like the cramming of Casey down the throats of Democrats statewide prior to the primary, the endorsement by party leaders Rendell, Rooney, and Schumer prior to the primary, the clampdown on typical Democratic fundraisers top-down, guys who describe themselves as progressives like Buttonweiser, the top-down "enforced" call to Democratic politicians to "fall in line" and "clear the decks" so voters don't have a choice in the primary, pols like Hoeffel... and Hafer backing down at the request of the party, Hoeffel calling himself progressive but endorsing Casey and thereby Casey's non-progressive, non-liberal positions like endorsing right-wing judge Alito, the overturn of Roe V Wade, the denial of privacy and economic rights to women through statewide bans of abortion, the promotion of his religious beliefs about abortion over anyone else's--the Democratic Party in their endorsement of Casey and his undemocratic, right-wing positions, their public and private support of Casey's campaign before voters get to choose, and their consistent intimidation of candidates outside their inner circle, is to me, a pretty basic set of examples to support my use of "moral bankruptcy" as a descriptor. That could have been a longer sentence.

In his endorsement of Pennacchio, he lambastes the party politics that have apppointed Casey the presumptive nominee and explains, better perhaps than I have, what the Netboots movement to oust Vichys and reclaim the fealty of the fencesitters is all about:

The 2006 US Senate election in Pennsylvania is about choice. It’s about a women’s right to choose an abortion, about choosing peace over a foreign civil war, about choosing peace over violent gun crimes, and about choosing good local jobs over corporate welfare, about choosing to deal with the root causes of poverty and neglect over the politics of expedience.

And it’s about the freedom to choose a candidate: the Democratic Party must have an open primary so Democratic voters can choose their candidate, not party leaders whose actions undermine the very democracy they claim to represent. This Party has gotten so lazy and so far removed from real people that it has anointed the conservative Casey on the basis of his votes in a virtually uncontested, barely visible election in 2004. When confronted with Casey’s right-wing tendencies like support of right-wing judges and overturning hard-fought women’s rights, Democrats overwhelmingly favor Chuck Pennacchio.

Democratic voters in Pennsylvania voters deserve a true Democrat, a true liberal who fights for the mainstream causes of social, economic, and civil justice, just like Wellstone, just like Robert Kennedy. Like hundreds of thousands of other Democrats, I am offended by the top-down, Tammany Hall politics of the morally bankrupt PA Democratic Party leadership. We need real, open debate about issues that matter to people and candidates that will fight to make the lives of people better—issues of social, economic, and civil justice, and candidates like Chuck Pennacchio.

To demonstrate my disgust with the Democratic Party, I have requested that Senator Barack Obama and other “Casey politicians” to return my campaign contributions to them in the 2004 cycle. They have raised funds for Casey on the one hand, while campaigning as progressives on the other. Democratic candidates must act with the courage of their convictions to earn the support of Democratic voters, and I, for one, will no longer support candidates who do not walk the walk.

Later in the same post, he emphasizes the discrepancies between the perfunctory Establishment party polls and the deeper, issue-oriented, often overlooked Zogby poll, which clearly shows Pennacchio as the candidate Pennsylvania Democrats favor once they know the candidates' positions, and the candidate Pennsylvania voters would prefer to Santorum in a general election:

the pollsters do a disservice to the public by failing to poll voters on the issues when comparing Casey and Pennacchio, and polling about the general election presumptuously. The recent Zogby poll is the only one that has actually asked voters who they would support once they knew where they stood on the issues. No wonder Casey's campaign won't let him debate.

He carefully explains what a truly democratic Democratic Party would look like:

We caused a stir with the endorsement, at least here in Lancaster. The executive director of the PA Democratic Party spoke, and deliberately (wisely) didn't mention Casey's name. But he also didn't say we'd have an open primary, debates of any kind, or what the Democratic Party stands for that Casey stands for as well.

We have a wide range of beliefs in this state. Primaries are supposed to be the place where you debate beliefs and issues as a party. We can all join together behind Chuck after the primary is over, and until then, the party should just promote open debate and stay out of the race, including Rendell, Schumer, TJ Rooney, and the rest of the establishment. But hey, if this were really a democratic party, that would already be the case.

So back to technology. You hear the one about the Blackberry addict...?


As I keep saying, we'll never be able to unseat Vichy, but strongly entrenched, Democrats if the Party won't permit progressive challengers to participate meaningfully in the primaries, and Crystle does a great job of explaining what we're up against in overcoming that inertia.

And I suspect, though I don't know much about him, that notwithstanding (OK, largely because of) his obvious longing to leave politics alone and be, in his words, just "a technology guy," someone needs to recruit Crystle to run for public office again. Even against his will. The Athenians, after all, would not allow anyone in their Senate who was so craven as to wish to be there. And I believe that America would benefit from having fewer MBAs and JDs in Congress, and more software developers who play guitar, run blogs, list Ghostbusters and Jaws among their favorite movies -- and actually give a damn about preserving a vibrant democracy.


Tim Abbott said...

Nice to see your profile of my friend Charlie. Let me offer a few words about him. Charlie Crystle's been a cherished friend since we we boys at school, when we both worked to get our trustees to divest from South Africa. He's got more hustle than Pete Rose ever did, plus the integrity to go with it.

Charlie can articulate a vision that inspires confidence and makes people want to get on board and pitch in. He is unwilling to accept a broken system to which others are resigned. He genuinely enjoys helping making connections among people working on different pieces of the same big challenge.

The Senate run in PA in '04 was an uphill race from the start and still Charlie gave it everything he had. The campaign was a heavy load to carry, even for his broad shoulders, and Charlie's energies today are dedicated to making his software company GiftWorks a great company serving the information management needs of the non-profit sector.

If there is ever a next time for Charlie in politics, it will require active and early support and the combined strength of a serious movement for democratic reform working on many fronts for a more just and equitable society. I think 2008 is the right time for such a national movement and the time to put the pieces together was yesterday.

Christopher said...

Pennacchio doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected in PA.

Is Casey perfect? Nope.

Is Casey better than Santorum? 1 million times yes.

Santorum says all gays are pedophiles and belong in jail. Nice.

Santorum must be defeated at all costs and he will be.

Frothy is already (according to my sources) lining up lucrative lobbying jobs after November.

Anonymous said...

Pennacchio doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected in PA.


Why not?

(And, FWIW, if Casey does win the nomination, I'll back him 100% against Santorum. But I believe Pennacchio would have a better chance of actually beating Santorum than Casey does, if only the party would get behind him.)

Christopher said...

Why not?

Read the polls.

Charlie Crystle said...

read the Zoby Poll. When voters know where the candidates stand, Casey can't win. Chuck would crush Santorum. Why? Because he would have both people voting against Santorum, AND people voting for Chuck and his progressive, justice-based platform. Finally--we can vote for what we believe in.

Anonymous said...

Charlie: Glad to have you here!

What concerns me, of course, are the polls that show that Pennacchio doesn't have enough name recognition to win the primary. His campaign is trying to run a low-budget grass-roots campaign, but my take is that such campaigns succeed only when they ignite mainstream awareness; they usually don't, by themselves, get candidates elected. That doesn't mean I'm a defeatist -- obviously, I'm backing Chuck 100%! -- but it does mean I'm aware of the scope of the problem.

So I'll ask you: what do you think needs to happen to break through that awareness gap? How much money would Chuck need? In the words of countless mob movies, who do we need to kill?

eRobin said...

Since we're talking electibility, let's look at Casey's grand strategy:

Lay low during the primary and hope that he can overwhelm the activist base with money and arrogance.

In the general, he's counting on two things:

1. that the base stays home and forgets how they've been thrown over the side in pursuit of the mythical Swing Voter.

2. that the mythical Swing Voter comes out huge for him. Of course they're going to look at someone who says he's anti-choice but will vote with the Dems when it matters so trust me and piss off everyone who's listening with that disingenuous reasoning. There go your Swing Voters, who above all else, value conviction and character.

Add in the very angry base - the people who are saying that they won't vote for Casey, but secretly mean that they are going to vote for Santorum to send the Dems the message that they won't allow this kind of hostile campaign to be run in PA, and Casey's sunk.

Nobody wins when his best hope for the base is that they stay home.