...in which I introduce a semi-regular (and really, don't hold your breath for Part II) series of posts on reflections on the Left Side Of The Pond vs. the Right Side.

I sit here on the eve of the mid-term general elections, in which, tomorrow today - November 2, 2010 - Americans will vote for all of their Congressmen, 1/3 of the Senate, and Governors in many states. There are also local elections.

In all of this, I'm a casual bystander - as a legal permanent resident (AKA "Green Card" holder), I can live here, work here, pay taxes here, but I can't vote, not even for the town garbage administrator.

"Casual Bystander" is perhaps the wrong term. "Civilian casualty of increasingly hostile political crossfire" might be a better way of putting it. Partly because of the two-party system, partly because of the funding and campaigning rules, and partly because Pennsylvania is seen as a key battleground, a barometer by which the rest of the country will be measured, I and the rest of the Commonwealth's TV viewers and radio listeners are being smacked by a constant barrage of mudslinging, name-calling, and scare tactics delivered by, and on behalf of, the candidates in the Senatorial, and to a lesser extent, Gubernatorial, elections.

Let's start with the race to become the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In the Red Corner, we have the Republican candidate, Tom Corbett. He's a former State Attorney General - the top lawyer - with about as much experience at governing as I have. He does have a bit of positive spin: in a very lawyer-ly manner, he's claiming he's going to cut out the perks from State government, trim the fat from the pork, as it were. Whilst he'll almost certainly have the Republican-dominated state legislature on his side, I'm not sure he understands how much Harrisburg's lawmakers love their kickbacks.

In the Democratic Blue Corner, there's Dan Onorato, formerly Allegheny County (that's basically the Pittsburgh metro area) Supervisor. He's balanced the books there - a big deal in Pennsylvania, with its usual chronically late budgets - and whilst his claims to have created 10,000 jobs need to be taken with a pinch of salt (over 20,000 were lost as well), he appears to have made what is effectively they best of a damage limitation exercise, whilst still keeping Pittsburgh at the top of the US cities "livability" surveys.

Obviously, the two (and their supporters) are firing barbs at each other over the airwaves. Corbett has "created zero jobs" whilst Onorato has "created 10,000". Onorato is the "second coming of [outgoing Governor with a dubious track record] Ed Rendell" and "hasn't met a tax he doesn't like".

My feeling here is that Corbett will win. He probably has enough support in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to swing the votes there he will need to back up what is likely to be a healthy majority elsewhere. (Pennsylvania, the two major cities aside, is a rural state that is heavily Republican. Philly and Pittsburgh provide enough population for the Democrats to get some swing in statewide elections - Pennsylvania voted for Obama in '08 - but at the local level outside the cities, the map is mostly GOP red.)

The Gubernatorial election is tame, though, compared to the all-out war that is the Senate race.

Joe Sestak (Dem) vs. Pat Toomey (Rep) has to go down as one of the nastiest, bitterest, most negative combination of election campaigns I've ever witnessed.

Sestak is a 31-year Navy veteran, a former Admiral who served in all of America's recent campaigns. He's currently serving as a Congressman. Earlier this year, he beat out Arlen Specter - the long-time incumbent, and one-time Republican - for the Democratic Senate nomination. (PA's other Senator is Robert Casey (Dem).) To be honest, I've not really noticed why he'd make a good Senator, other than a bunch of hoary old standbys of "standing up for Pennsylvania", "working hard", and "voting against party lines to get what's right". No doubt his Naval service will play well for him, and of course his ads use it to his advantage. His campaign has been more about scaring us into thinking his opponent is an evil man who will sign away every job in the country to China, if it will get him in better with his supposed Wall Street cronies. One particular ad tells the story of a factory whose workers stripped the place down, shipped the machines to China, and were then laid off.

I'm afraid I know little of Pat Toomey's background, and as I'm writing this entry without the aid of research other than what I can remember, I'll have to leave it at that. I know he has two kids, as they feature in one of his ads. Mostly, though, he's concerned that Sestak is a nasty man who likes nothing more than to spend every penny he can get his hands on and throw it down the drain, by voting in step with the Evil Witch Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, and as the Democratic party currently holds a majority there, she's a Democrat. Sestak is, of course, a Democrat. So what it boils down to is that Sestak's being accused of voting in line with his party. Er, hello?! One of Toomey's more vocal backers is the National Rifle Association who would have us all believe that Sestak is for eroding Americans' "Second Amendment Rights" - better known as the "right to bear arms". I could write an entire entry regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment, and my views on gun control laws, so let's leave it for now (hint: Hungerford, Dunblane, Lake District - 3 incidents in 25 years; compare that to 3 in the last two years that I can think of over here, and that's before you start on Columbine, the Washington snipers, etc.).

As for calling the Senate vote, it's tight. Toomey had an early surge, but recently Sestak's been coming back. Turnout will be key. If it goes over 40%, there's a good chance Sestak will get in (more of those extra votes will be in Philly/Pittsburgh than the rest of the state). If it hovers around the usual average of 35%, it'll probably be Toomey.

I imagine from the tone of this entry, it's clear who I'd vote for, if I could, but I'll still leave it as an exercise for the reader.

As a final thought, though, I'd like to leave you with my opinion on all the campaign ads:

Why do they keep advertising these politicians on TV? None of them seem to be any good. I really don't want to buy any of them.
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