Can you spell Dan O-N-O-R-A-T-O?
It's spelled Tom W-O-L-F.
Four years after the Pennsylvania Democratic Party sleepwalked through the 2010 gubernatorial primary, the natural forces of wakefulness, if not sanity, have finally prevailed.
Four years after Tom Wolf was no longer needed at his family's multi-million business in York, he was finally free to lead a movement among Pennsylvania voters who seem clearly sick of being told who to vote for, what to think, what to expect, which has been very little.
The pied piper of change is a Democrat businessman from central Pennsylvania -- that red state swath that puts the "Tucky" in Pennsyltucky. It's hard not to conclude that finally, coupled with the federal judge's ruling this week that struck down the Gov. Tom Corbett-led ban on gay marriage, Pennsylvania's old-school, outdated politics and policy have been taken to the woodshed.
Under these new set of conditions, it's hard to know whether or not to profusely thank Tom Corbett for being one of the biggest flops in the Keystone State's high-stakes political pantheon. But first, it's important to re-state the fact that Tom Corbett's clueless, useless reign as the governor of the 6th biggest state in the country never should have happened.
How the Dems lost in 2010 will forever remain a testimony to Pennsylvania's somnambulance -- a brainless marching to the drumbeat of "Oh, every eight years we let the other guys have a turn at the trough." The entrenched interests who control all over Pennsylvania's power and resources are so closely aligned, and play exactly the same game, it's almost as if Ed Rendell was admitting as far back as 2008 and 2009 that it did not matter, ultimately, which party was at the top!
Heck, not only can you not spell Dan O-N-O-R-A-T-O, you can't find him. The presumptive leader of the state's Democratic Party is nowhere to be found.
Part of this blame for Corbett's victory rests at the feet of Rendell, who, inexplicably, was equally assuring of Corbett's ascension, all while giving lip service to the vague, passionless notion that Onorato should be the Democratic candidate in 2010. It continues to intrigue some of us as to whether or not Corbett and Rendell and their attending party bosses had reached some kind of agreement back in 2008, just as then Attorney General Corbett was wading waist deep into his selective prosecution of a few state lawmakers and legislative staffers in the "Bonusgate" investigation.
In between lunches with John Perzel, and the lack of attention paid to Senate Republican computers (Jane Orie: Guilty -- but not under Corbett's purview) Rendell seems to have gotten the message: Hands off this GOP Hair Apparent. (That's right, Corbett LOOKS good as a candidate, which is the main reason GOP bigwigs like Bob Asher and Rob Gleason chased off Pat Meehan and Jim Gerlach.) The fix was in. Everywhere. Which is why Rendell seemed to spend much of his final months in office delivering the KY jelly to Pennsylvania Democrats by pronouncing that Corbett would win.
Yet, no sooner did Corbett take office than did the polls start showing his approval ratings were abysmal. By April of 2011, a mere 34 percent of Pennsylvanians said they liked what Corbett was doing -- and it was only that high because with no taxes on hydraulic fracturing that turned Pennsylvania into a driller's free-for-all, 34 percent of Pennsylvanians were either drilling for natural gas or getting nice checks from Range or Chesapeake for gas leases.
No wonder that even Republican primary voters nixed Corbett on their ballots, casting votes 26,000 more times for Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley than for Corbett. In York County, a GOP stronghold, GOP voters appear willing to side with homeboy Wolf, as this voter breakdown report from Politics PA shows.
Corbett was never going to be a good governor for the people of the state, or the land or jobs or education. He is a prosecutor; a strict law enforcement guy with no creative thinking, just dogmatic and reflexive and, often, insensitive or just plain stupid comments about many issues that effect the real, daily lives of citizens. Heck, he couldn't even get liquor privatization, in part because he and his insular, defensive staff couldn't negotiate their way out of a paper bag. Not even the GOP controlled Legislature seemed able or willing to enable Corbett's agenda, in part because there was no real agenda, outside of protecting the drillers and the stalwart captains of industry.
To top it off, among all the staff shuffling and boondoggles associated with Corbett's failed administration, the people of Pennsylvania had to pay off a restaurant owner after Corbett's health secretary sabotaged a catering bid over .. AN EGG SANDWICH!
But Corbett doesn't have egg on his face. He has no face. He's a blank.
His tenure, his party, his people have given Pennsylvania nothing to hang onto and no vision. It's no easy task to push Pennsylvania forward, given the geographical quirks of the state, which is really like six states in one. Still, given the resources, given the proximity to powerful Northeast corridor; given Pennsylvania's prominence in national politics due to its "swing state" reputation, it is mind-blowing that this state has spent four years going nowhere.
Hence, the reason why Tom W-O-L-F was able to roll up one of the most impressive primary victories ever seen. As of last count, he was winning every single one of the 67 counties, taking three out of every five votes. It wasn't a win. It was a referendum.
Tom W-O-L-F ought to be happy now that, in retrospect, his family business needed him back in 2010. He had to sit that one out and let the zombie politics of the state have its last hurrah.
Now, the zombies have been exposed. They're dead weight. Dead wood. A useless hologram beaming out illusionary light about the way things USED to be.
If nothing else, the Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania not only said they didn't want Tom Corbett anymore, they also didn't want any of the same old crap they've seen before. This is no prediction about how good, or what, Wolf will do should he prevail in November. However, it is impossible to not notice that, finally, the voters that party bosses used to lull into sleepwalking mode have rejected the idea of having pablum candidates and empty campaigns foisted on them.
I have no idea where Dan O-N-O-R-A-T-O is or what he's doing. What we do know is that by the margin of votes earned by Tom W-O-L-F, a least a large portion of PA. voters are demanding a fresh start. They were incapable of that last time around, when Rendell told them Corbett would probably be their man, as if saying after the salad course there comes the appetizer. Ho hum. What does it matter?
Well, as we have now seen four years later, it mattered. The clarity of the state's current malaise has been recognized. The times, finally, have changed. Welcome to the 21st century, Pa. The rest of the country is glad you're here. We need you.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.