Meet the Candidate 2020: Joe Sestak

Admiral Joe “walking the walk.”

Admiral Joe “walking the walk.”

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what Joe Sestak says or does because he hasn’t qualified for a single debate and his platform is indistinguishable from every other generic white person on the trail anyway. See: Tim Ryan, Michael Bennet, and John Delaney. Or actually see none of them because even finding out about Joe Sestak second-hand isn’t worth it. But fine, if you insist…

Depending on the source Sestak was either the 24th or 25th candidate to enter the presidential race (seems like this should be a knowable fact but okay…), and either way the point is that he entered too late. There is one thing that’s special about him, however, beyond the fact that he was once the highest ranking military official in Congress (he’s a retired three-star Navy admiral) and has a reputation for being kind of a dick at work. “Admiral Joe” is a moderate with a platform nearly indistinguishable from most of the white male field, but he has the distinction of being one of the DNC’s most-hated politicians for a stunt he pulled back in 2010. That’s kind of an amazing for somebody most of us still couldn’t pick out of a lineup who has the same hair as Michael Bennet and the same platform as noted nobody John Delaney. 

Sestak won this impressive DNC hate because he primaried incumbent Pennsylvania Senator and late-career Democratic convert Arlen Specter in a Tea Party style blaze of glory and won, creating a toss-up Senate race out of thin air. We don’t blame him - the race was confusing and Specter was meaningfully still a moderate Republican who was sucking up all the Democratic air in the race - but the move gave the GOP an opening that led to the election of annoying-person Pat Toomey, who still holds the seat. Rumor has it that Obama even sent Bill Clinton to try to persuade Sestak to drop out in return for a vague position with the administration, but Sestak refused. In 2016 he again tried to challenge Toomey, but this time lost in the primary to state EPA Secretary Katie McGinty. (McGinty, for the record, also lost to Toomey in one of the Democratic Party’s more embarrassing non-presidential defeats of that cycle. That seat is cursed.)

Beyond being annoying to the DNC establishment, Sestak is perhaps best known for a campaign stunt he pulled during his 2010 bid in which he walked across the entire state of Pennsylvania to “walk in [voters’] shoes.” Sestak reportadly walked roughly 14 miles a day, apparently always heel-to-toe, military style, and naturally he parlayed that into a book: "Walking in Your Shoes to Restore the American Dream." (Fun Fact: Sen. Chris Murphy does this every year in Connecticut. No comment on how military-approved his walking method is.)

On the issues, Sestak is...Joe Biden. He wants to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, vaguely strengthen antitrust laws and curtail the influence of lobbying, set a fee for carbon emissions and rejoin the Paris climate accord, lower taxes on small businesses, encourage colleges to limit their tuition increases to below the inflation rate and adjust interest rates on student loans, and is generally pro-choice and pro-LGBT people being allowed to work and serve in the military. He’s another person who seems to think he uniquely positioned to understand healthcare because he’s related to somebody with health - his daughter was diagnosed with a serious cancer quite young and relapsed a couple years ago. Because of this trying experience he’s...in favor of continuing with our current system with the addition of a public option. Why rock the boat too much, you know?

Fortunately he won’t get the opportunity to sail us to calm shores or whatever navy joke a person might make here because he’s not meaningfully in the race for president. But hey, he’s outlasted some actual politicians so anything is possible!