The Philadelphia Experiment

So, if US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) loses to Democratic challenger Katie McGinty on November 8, will he also claim that it’s because the election was “rigged”?

It can be argued that Toomey is the most cowardly Republican in the Senate (and boy, is that saying something), because he should be the one standing up most aggressively to Donald Trump’s trash. Toomey has to know that Trump’s rhetoric about stopping potential “voter fraud” in Pennsylvania has profoundly dangerous implications, but he continues to be cautious about the demagoguery of the Donald. Instead, last week he promoted the patently ridiculous idea that Clinton is more dangerous than Captain Claptrap:

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said on a Philadelphia radio show Thursday morning he believes Hillary Clinton is more of a national security risk to the country than Donald Trump.

Facing a tough re-election battle against Democrat Katie McGinty, Toomey has so far refused to endorse Trump, the Republican presidential nominee…

Toomey said Thursday he still has “a lot of concerns about Donald Trump” but he believes Trump would make the country safer than the former Secretary of State Clinton.

“I’ve said Hillary Clinton is completely, permanently unacceptable,” Toomey said on WPTH’s “Chris Stigall Show.”

“We have seen her in office. We have seen what she did. In addition to jeopardizing classified intimation that jeopardizes our security, we’ve seen the decisions that she has made, whether it’s in Libya, whether it is the incredibly failed Russian reset, whether it is, you know, lying to the families of the men who were killed at Benghazi.”

Appealing to the 13 Hours crowd may not be enough to help Toomey save his seat; wooing anti-immigrant racists probably won’t do the trick either. McGinty has pulled ahead of Toomey in recent polls; if she’s still in the lead on Election Day, it’s not beyond possibility that Toomey will engage in Trump-style whining about the outcome.

If he loses, it will not be because of “voter fraud,” but because he failed to pass the Janet Jackson test, i.e., the one where Pennsylvania voters look at his record and ask, “What have you done for me lately?” Toomey’s decline in the polls also suggests that Keystone State voters think the prospect of the US Senate remaining under Republican control is nasty, and don’t want to wait a while for change.

If McGinty defeats Toomey, it’s quite likely that the former aide to Vice President Al Gore (and the former head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the Clinton administration) will join Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Brian Schatz, Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley in calling for bold and aggressive action on human-caused climate change. If elected, it will be very interesting to see how McGinty reacts to pressure from Pennsylvania climate activists to be more forceful (both rhetorically and legislatively) against fracking, considering the economic implications of fracking in the state. McGinty’s views on fracking were somewhat controversial during the Democratic primary; as the anti-fracking movement continues to gain momentum, McGinty would be forced to choose sides as a Senator.

Speaking of choosing sides, will non-reactionary Republicans in the Keystone State who are disgusted by Trump, and are presumably peeved over Toomey’s failure to fully renounce the bigoted billionaire, cross the aisle to support McGinty? One wonders if Pennsylvania Republicans who remember the late Senator Arlen Specter’s departure from the GOP in 2009 now realize that he was right about just how perverse the party had become; it’s not too far-fetched to think that if Specter were alive today, he’d back McGinty. Will those who admired Specter do the same? It won’t be long before we find out.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.