Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chuck Pennacchio: A Voice of Conscience

"In me you will have a voice of conscience. I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting!" --Chuck Pennacchio

On Friday, I had the good fortune to hear Chuck Pennacchio speak in State College. About 100 people showed up to standing room only at the local municipal building--a pleasant turnout. Despite arriving expecting to hear what I wanted to hear, Pennacchio was really, really good. While Pennacchio spoke, I was struck by his passionate desire to change the status quo: to navigate around corruption and self-interest and vigorously preserve our civil liberties--much like Al Gore did recently (highlights, full speech). At first glance, he appeared mild mannered, and slightly resembled Steve Carell. While Pennacchio displayed an earnest, personal need to protect our constitution. He spoke out against the Bush administration's quest for absolute power and the crumbling wall separating church and state. Most importantly, Pennacchio stressed the need for people to engage in politics, lest we lose our power. To retain our fundamental rights against authoritarian government, we must be active citizens. This very much reminded me of Chomsky's point in Imperial Ambitions that no one can change society by attending one peace rally then returning to his couch full of good intentions. Social change requires perpertual action. Pennacchio quoted Jefferson to bring home the point that every generation much fight anew for our democracy.

He contrasted himself with Casey at great length (see my earlier post), but also identified himself as a principled individual with thoughts of his own. Pennacchio is running a publicly funded campaign and unlike Casey who has received large sums of money from the establishment, corporations, lawyers, and PACs that also fund Santorum, Pennacchio is not beholden to their interests. He stressed that Casey's support of Alito was a tipping point for many Pennsylvanians--that people become disillusioned with Casey when they find out that he mimics Santorum on so many critical social issues. According to a recent Zogby poll, when people hear Pennacchio's positions alongside Casey's and Santorum's, Pennacchio wins the hypothetical election. This is of critical importance, because it shows that Casey is ahead because of name recognition. If Ed Rendell and Harry Reid had not dubbed Casey as the man to beat Santorum--indeed, if the people are allowed to decide--Pennacchio suddenly shifts from non-viable candidate to Senator.

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