An hour with Joe Sestak

A few days ago I attended a fundraiser for US Senate candidate Joe Sestak. Sestak, you will recall, represented the 7th PA district (including part of Chester County) in Congress for 4 years. In 2010 he ran for US Senate, beat former Republican Arlen Specter in the primary, but narrowly lost to Pat Toomey in the year of Tea Party triumph. Now he is running again in a four-way Democratic primary to get another shot at Toomey.

I have been to many events with Sestak over the years, and each one is a new learning experience. He is a confident and gripping speaker who has given countless talks and made endorsement appearances for other candidates in Chester County (he is from Delaware county), and has also taught at Carnegie Mellon University, Dickinson School of Law, and Cheney University, among others.

I didn’t know this, from Wikipedia, but certainly am not surprised:

In 1974, Sestak graduated second in his class of over 900 midshipmen, with a Bachelor of Science degree in American political systems.

This I did know:

Between tours at sea, Sestak earned a Master of Public Administration and a Ph.D. in political economy and government from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1980 and 1984, respectively.

And this I didn’t: Upon being told of Sestak’s planned run for Congress, then Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Rahm Emanuel “told Sestak he was not ready for such an election.” Sestak ran anyhow in 2006 and won, faring better than other candidates whom Emanuel did not choose to support. Good for Sestak! Emanuel, now the unpopular Mayor of Chicago, was already at the bottom of my list as White House Chief of Staff (“Three welcome departures,” 10/2/10).

Sestak globe Lukens 3
from my photo in “Admiral Joe Sestak in Coatesville,” 3/10/15
What the country and voters need in 2016, in my view, is legislators who have integrity, an independent mind, and a deep knowledge of public affairs. Anyone who has heard Sestak can attest that he has those qualities. Here (with my own remarks in parentheses) are some notes from his talk and his answers to audience questions-at times more like a class conducted by the professor who combines real-life experience with academic credentials.

The military (which he knows well as a retired admiral) is a role model of giving equal pay for equal work. The US Navy developed sonar and now the gas extraction industry uses it for fracking. The Pentagon says the greatest cause of conflict will be global warming. Countries will be claiming resources under what is now North Pole ice.

Obamacare started in 1789: every sailor in the new country’s merchant marine was required to have insurance. (This is so interesting that I looked it up: the government deducted 20 cents a month from each seaman’s pay, to “provide for the temporary relief and maintenance of sick or disabled seamen.”) Today, the US still loses $100 billion a year in diminished productivity from the uninsured.

Sestak is supported by many veterans, environmentalists, and women’s rights activists. He had a 100% pro-union vote in Congress, supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act (facilitating pay discrimination suits by women, signed by president Obama in Jan. 2009), and favors a moratorium on fracking. He puts a high value on gun violence prevention and is proud to have a F rating from the NRA.

In 2008 he won reelection in a 56% Republican district by almost 20% of the vote; he knows how to work with R’s and helped pass 20 bipartisan bills in Congress. He was inordinately active helping constituents, including those under threat from the mortgage foreclosure crisis.

He favors an immediate rise in the minimum wage to $10.60 an hour (which, inflation-adjusted, is about where it was at its height in the late 1960’s); studies show an increase up to 50% of the average wage does not cost jobs. Money spent on alternative energy creates more than twice as many jobs as the same amount spent on fossil fuels.

He is happy to run on a ticket with either Clinton or Sanders (my question). He thinks he could help Sanders in PA; and he is grateful to Clinton for her help to veterans on Agent Orange issues when he was NSC Director for Defense Policy.

Others of his top issues include education, Social Security, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug costs, and banning pharmaceutical companies from paying generic drug makers to keep their products off the market.

“Leadership is about raising expectations to a higher level.” And “We the People” need to tell government what we expect from it. (His vision is collaborative: if leadership empowers the people to expect what we need, then we will set a higher standard for our leaders.)

That aligns with his favorite quote from Winston Churchill: “It is not enough that we do our best; we must do what is required.” (For sure, the US Congress needs a higher standard and needs to do what is required—especially the US Senate in acting on the current Supreme Court nomination.)

And that’s not all my notes. I’ve never seen a candidate with depth on a broad range of issues. For more, see his site and his 2015 book “Walking in Your Shoes to Restore the American Dream,” which is an even more thorough policy statement than the 46-page document “A Fresh Start” that set forth now-Governor Tom Wolf’s platform two years ago.

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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