The Democratic Party Wasn’t More Progressive in the Time You Glorify

I was recently watching a special about President Woodrow Wilson and World War I and was struck by something awful- Wilson was a bigot and sexist. I knew this, but didn’t appreciate that quite enough until I watched this PBS Special. He did not want to give women the right to vote, and his feelings towards Jim Crow were regressive at best. It’s sad to hear how negative he was on the most pressing social causes of his day, because I generally regard Wilson as a good President, and he was overall, for his day. Remember, we mainly compare him to Taft and Coolidge, who were not so good.

There’s a real white-washing that we do towards American history, especially towards our Presidents and political figures. We tend to long for our heroes of times past, and often times we do so at the expense of some really important lessons we should learn from their experiences. This is obviously true among nationalists, who tend to see the world in “good vs. bad” terms. It’s also true on the progressive left.

It is true that FDR was the progressive of his time. You could also say that Harry Truman was more progressive in his time than most. You could argue that from 1930-1980, the Democratic Party dominated American politics, and that it was more economically progressive than the Republicans. The important word is economically though. Until 1964, the Democratic Party was socially a regressive political party. Only beginning in 1948 did the Democrats begin to take on the Dixiecrats, and no nominee made any real strong overtures to African-American voters until JFK in 1960. No real policy action on Civil Rights happened until LBJ. Democrats didn’t really take on the cause of abortion rights until after Republicans started beating them up on the issue in the late 1970’s. Democrats didn’t put a woman on the Supreme Court until the 1990’s. Democrats were better on LGBTQ rights as early as the 1970’s, at least compared to the GOP, but didn’t embrace marriage equality as a party until 2012. While Democrats have long fought for Latino rights and causes, we remain conflicted and confused on the immigration issue even today. We have long been an evolving political party, one moving towards social progress for quite some time, but we remain a work in progress, trying to strike the right balance between inclusion and becoming too narrowly based to govern.

It is true that Democrats have been the more progressive political party for over a century now, but that does not mean we have been truly progressive. When President Taft purged the GOP of the Teddy Roosevelt wing of the party, the carefully constructed alliance of northern capitalists and progressives in the party ended. The Republicans became the party of market capitalists, the wealthy, and Democrats embraced the working class. Candidates like Al Smith carried their banner, and lost, until the market crashed in 1929, giving rise to FDR’s New Deal. We consider FDR and Truman progressive for their time, but the only real politics of those times were economic. Women and African-Americans were very tiny parts of the electorate, and all you needed to do to be a progressive in those times was to be a populist. The Democrats became dominant in the union halls and work sites across the country, and mostly won. That stayed true until the 1960’s, when JFK embraced Martin Luther King Jr. in the closing days of a close election to boost his share of the African-American vote. LBJ carried that cause forward in signing Civil Rights legislation and picking long time Civil Rights advocate Hubert Humphrey as his Vice-President, and the Democratic Party’s share of the African-American vote began to jump in the Reagan era. President Clinton and President Obama enjoyed giant margins among African-American voters, decades later, but many of us forget that this trend is only about 50 years old.

Were FDR and Truman really that progressive though? Remember, they governed in a pre-Civil Rights era, before Roe v. Wade, before the Stonewall riots or the murder of Harvey Milk, when women and Latinos were a tiny minority of the electorate. Truman openly questioned JFK’s ability to govern as a Catholic. FDR had the internment camps for Japanese Americans. Truman dropped the atomic bombs (arguably worth it) and got us mixed up in the Korean War. FDR turned a blind eye on Jim Crow. Both men certainly had their faults. One could argue that President Eisenhower was more socially progressive than either of them.

None of this is meant to condemn either of their of their Presidencies in their entirety, as I think Monday morning quarterbacking former Presidents’ balancing of the constant struggle between social progress and a resistant public isn’t useful. My point is simple- no, the Democratic Party was not more progressive in 1945 than it is today. Not if you were a woman, gay, African-American, or a religious minority. The party is actually much more progressive today than it was then. Is it less so on economics? That’s not really true either, though it’s more arguable.

It is true that Democrats have won less and less since 1964, particularly Congressionally. That is to be expected for a party embracing minority group rights. There are structural disadvantages to being this party. That’s a choice Democrats have made. It’s a choice that makes them a more progressive party today than we were in 1933.

Some Spring Training Observations on the Phillies

It’s February 25th, and MLB’s Opening Day is over a month away. Almost every team still has hope. Nothing matters much yet, and fans can still dream. That’s especially true in Philadelphia, where the Eagles just won the Super Bowl, the Sixers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and the Flyers are now tied for first in the division. Why can’t the Phillies young prospects surprise us this Summer? Here’s my early observations:

  • The NL East is really terrible. I know, the Nationals should contend for the World Series, but they typically come up short. The rest of the division is hot trash though. The Mets not only have to hope for good health for Jacob de Grom and Noah Syndergaard, but for a Lazarus level resurrection for Matt Harvey AND an offense that plays way over their heads. The Marlins just sold all of their talent flea-market-style this Winter in an effort to save money and lose 100 games. The Braves are supposedly going to improve from great prospects, but that’s true every year. So, the 96 loss Phillies, who promoted many of their prospects last year, have room to improve this year. Maybe a lot.
  • I’m taking the over on 75.5 Phillies wins. Not in an actual bet of course, but I see this team approaching 81 wins. Their offense should actually be relatively decent, and the bullpen should hold leads. Should. Don’t get carried away though and dream of more than 85 wins.
  • FFS, Sign a pitcher, Matt. I get it, “don’t spend money when you can’t compete.” A couple problems here though- the division stinks, they spent some off-season money on Carlos Santana, and many of their top prospects are here. Besides, carrying an eight or nine man bullpen will leave this team out-gunned in too many games offensively, and perpetuate the baby’ing of young arms. I’d like to get Arrieta and play for a Wild Card, but even just an innings eater would help.
  • Why is Tommy Joseph here? I like the guy, but what role can he possibly fill? Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins would both play first before him, he doesn’t play anywhere else, and he’s right-handed. He has an admirable story, but how is this helping anybody, particularly him? Same for Cameron Rupp, if they really love Andrew Knapp so much?
  • The Phillies rotation should be improved. Almost everyone is expecting a good year from Aaron Nola. Past him, it’s dicey. I personally think Jerad Eickhoff is more likely to look like 2016 than 2017- he had small, nagging injuries, and bad luck last year. The season may ride on whether Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta can figure out how to make their great arms pitch well, or a Zach Eflin or Jake Thompson finally harness their potential, or if Ben Lively can be consistent. The odds that one of them steps up with Nola and Eickhoff? They can’t be that bad.
  • I’m still with Cesar over Kingery. I know, he reminds you of Chase, but some of us go to a lot of IronPigs games. I think Scott Kingery can definitely play in MLB. Maybe even well. I’m just not sold that he’s better than Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez gives you a .294 average the last two years and gets on base at a better than .370 clip. He was a 3 WAR player last year, and his defense is much improved. I’m not sure Kingery is more than that at his peak. He’s fast, yes, but he’s not a game changing base stealer. He hit a lot of home runs at Reading, where everyone does, but slowed down at Lehigh Valley. Am I saying Kingery is not the guy at second base? No, not yet. I’m just saying he’s not there right now, and may not be that soon.

On this date, my projection on the Phillies? 81-81. More to come.

My First Term on the PA Dems State Committee Ends- I’d Like Another

In 2002, I returned home from Cross-Country practice one day to my dorm at Moravian College and saw a flier on the door of my building offering internships with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign for Ed Rendell for Governor and Ed O’Brien for Congress in Allentown. I called the number, and here I am 16 years later still in politics. A few Presidential, Senate, Gubernatorial, and Congressional races later, I can’t help but think the business of politics is important- peoples lives are changed for the better or worse because of who wins our elections, and what those people do with power. This stuff really matters. I think that more decent, honest people on both sides of the aisle should involve themselves in our politics. I think the rule of “don’t discuss politics and religion” is actually a really crappy thing we do in our society.

On Saturday in Harrisburg, we held the 12th and final meeting of the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee for my first term. In 2014, I was elected to represent Northampton County as one of three male slots. I didn’t campaign overly hard in 2014, I was out of state working on Election Day, and I only had a few more signatures to qualify for the ballot than I needed. Never the less, I did win, and I did serve, and I’m glad I did. I met amazing activists and leaders from all over Pennsylvania, people I never would have met otherwise. I made friends from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, rural counties, of every race, gender, and religion, and of all ages. I was one of the youngest people to actually serve as an elected member of the committee. I think the experience soberly aged my perspective on politics.

I think I did a pretty good job, and so I’m running for a second term. Whether we measure my record on attendance, on who I endorsed, on my votes for the policy resolutions that moved the party, administrative votes, or how I helped our statewide and local candidates during this last term, I think my performance should make the cut. Among the highlights:

  • I supported a diverse lot of candidates, particularly when measured against Pennsylvania’s history. I voted to endorse Dwayne Woodruff, Maria McLaughlin, Carolyn Nichols, Debbie Kunselman, and Ellen Ceisler for statewide judicial offices in 2017. I supported Anne Lazarus and Alice Beck Dubow for statewide judicial offices in 2015. This was a radical departure for Pennsylvania, even among Democrats. During this term, Pennsylvania Democrats both endorsed their first African-American candidates for state judgeships, and elected our first African-American woman to the elected leadership of the committee. No one deserves a pat on the back for doing that in 2018, but it’s worth noting.
  • I obviously voted for some of the front-runners to be endorsed, like Senator Casey and Governor Wolf this past weekend, but I wasn’t afraid to vote for some long shots either. I voted for John Fetterman to be our endorsed candidate for the Senate race in 2016 on the first ballot. I voted for Judge Ceisler to be our endorsed candidate for the Commonwealth Court in 2017, when I was just one of two people in the entire Northeast Caucus to do so (Out of like 40 members. Also, as an aside- she won.). I supported very progressive candidates, and more moderate ones, depending on what I think fit the race best for us at the time. I’m proud of the thought I put into it.
  • I didn’t miss a meeting. I did have to give my proxy to a Northampton County Councilman for the second day of the Fall 2017 meeting, due to a family funeral. Even in that case though, I was there the first day and actively taking part.
  • In conjunction with the State’s Young Democrats, I started the Lehigh Valley Young Democrats during this term.
  • I voted for the policy resolutions that came up during this term to move the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to a more progressive place. For instance, I supported a resolution supporting single-payer health care. Obviously I take a more nuanced position than many others on health care, but I think our party should speak up in support of our values.
  • I made it a point to reach out to our statewide candidates and lobby them to visit Northampton County and the Lehigh Valley to campaign here. I promoted our endorsed candidates and personally set up visits to the area for many of our candidates over the past few years. It is an important, and often times over-looked part of our job on the committee, to promote our state candidates back home, where they are often unknown.
  • I also made it a point to help our candidates back home, in a capacity beyond my political consulting business, volunteering my time and expertise to our Northampton County candidates in their races.

With all of that said, today is the beginning of the petition period for the May 15th, 2018 Primary that will elect the new Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. If you are a registered Democrat in Northampton County, PA, you can sign my petition to appear on the ballot. You can also vote for me on May 15th. If you have any questions, comment here or shoot me an email, and I will try to answer them. I hope I can earn your vote for another term.

Yes, it Happened, Philadelphia.

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I took last week off from writing in the entirety, in part because I was busy, and in part because I didn’t have any fully formed thoughts to say. In the last piece I wrote, I predicted the Eagles would win the Super Bowl- just hours before they did. Even though that was my prediction, I still can’t believe it happened.

When the hail mary from Tom Brady landed incomplete in the end zone, I didn’t really have much immediate reaction. I was too shocked. I will be the first to admit it, I never thought the Eagles would ever win a championship in my lifetime. The last time they had won, 1960, my father was three. The Eagles had been a bad franchise in my lifetime to be honest, a franchise that hadn’t won a title. It wasn’t just that though- they always seemed to get close. This was their sixth NFC Championship or further in my lifetime. This was only the second time they were playing in the Super Bowl though, and they lost that time. You see, that’s the frustrating thing about the Eagles for a fan, they can’t just suck every year. We not only had to fail, but we had to do it in heartbreaking fashion. Basically, after the loss to Arizona to end the 2008 season, and then seeing my favorite Eagle (Brian Dawkins) simply cut loose, I had a negative view of the team. I didn’t ditch them and go cheer for another team, I just became extremely cynical. We aren’t supposed to win- until now. So when the Eagles did win, the shock over me didn’t make it all that real at first. There’s no way it happened.

The Eagles did win though. It happened. Nick Foles, a quarterback who I once said would never be good enough to win a Super Bowl (back in the Chip Kelly days), not only won the Super Bowl, but he won the MVP. They not only won the Super Bowl, but they beat Tom Brady, in all of his 500+ yard best form, to win that Super Bowl. By Monday, it started to set in. By Tuesday I was finalizing plans to be at the parade- on Thursday. The impossible had set in.

So, about that parade- I’m the most die-hard of Phillies fans, but was unable to go to the 2008 parade because of work. I was going to this parade. I took a pre-dawn bus down to Center City with a bunch of childhood friends, all of us witnesses to all of those heartbreaking losses, and drank and made merry on the corner of 15th and JFK and watched the parade with hundreds of thousands of our anonymous, closest friends. It was an amazing, amazing experience. Almost everyone was happy and decent towards each other (there are always a few jerks). It was a sea of green. When the team went by, it was euphoric. There was Carson Wentz, holding up the Lombardi Trophy, the moment every Eagles fan about my age never thought would happen. It was amazing. I have no other words for it. I couldn’t even come up with those words for days.

All week, friends of mine and I have debated if this is better than 2008, and all I can come up with is that this is different. The Phillies are my #1, period, and their win in 2008 seems unmatchable. On the other hand, it was also more of a relief than anything. No Philadelphia team at all had won a title since I was one month old in 1983 (The Sixers). Had the Phillies failed to win that World Series, I think I might have given up all hope. This Eagles win was different, in that I really felt like it was going to happen all along, and I have no idea why. Before the season, I thought this Eagles team would win seven to nine games and be entertaining, on paper, and yet when they started winning games early on, I didn’t feel all that shocked. Perhaps it was because I liked these players, perhaps it was because I always had more confidence in Doug Pederson than I ever had in Chip Kelly, or perhaps it was just because I was so certain I’d never see a title that I never actually got nervous about them blowing it. I don’t know. I obviously was really happy about both the Eagles championship and that last Phillies championship. I really can’t draw a distinction between the two though, because they were so different for me. Nothing can ever top that moment in time that was the Fall of 2008 for me, because the entirety of my life was in a special faze, but this is just such a happy moment as a fan that I can’t really put it down in comparison to anything else.

Perhaps the happiest thing about the Eagles championship is the happiness it seems to have brought the entire region. I saw grown people at that parade, smiling from ear to ear, who were just so happy that their Eagles had finally given them that championship. No more abuse from New York, or Washington, or Boston, or Baltimore, or Pittsburgh, or especially Dallas, about how Philadelphia never had a Super Bowl ring. No more expectations of losing. No more wondering if this team was good enough. The Eagles are champs. Yes, the Eagles are champs. I could say it all day.

 

The Most Unlikely of Moments: Buck Foston, Go Birds in Super Bowl LII

The day has arrived. Super Bowl 52 is here. The Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots, a generation after Super Bowl 39. The day after Terrell Owens and Brian Dawkins were voted into the Hall-of-Fame. This is some high drama TV.

This is not Super Bowl 39. This is a new day. It’s ok though, as an Eagles fan you should embrace it. It’s fun. Here’s my notes on today, followed by the prediction.

  • Justin Timberlake is back at the Super Bowl. He’s the true GOAT at this game, no matter what Brady does. With that said, this can only be right if Janet Jackson makes a cameo. America demands it.
  • Tom Brady has come into the Super Bowl as MVP one time- 2007. The Patriots famously lost to the New York Giants.
  • Hand this to the Patriots- Belichick took a rather average looking team in week one and put them in their third Super Bowl in four years. In fact, both of these teams took a convincing early loss to Andy Reid’s September champion Kansas City Chiefs. Andy, who coached the Eagles in Super Bowl 39.
  • No NFL MVP has ever won the Super Bowl the same year. Matt Ryan lost last year. Cam Newton the year before.
  • Howie Roseman should be the executive of the year for taking a 7-9 team that last won a playoff game in the divisional round of the 2008 season to the Super Bowl. He cleaned up Chip Kelly’s mess in literally a year. Give him props. Former ChipBots, be humble.
  • On the Chip Kelly sucks bandwagon, just imagine if the Eagles had traded Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, and something like four top picks to Tennessee so they could draft Marcus Mariota. Just imagine. Chip Kelly should be out of all football.
  • The only player in this game who played in the last Eagles-Pats Super Bowl is Tom Brady. This is his 8th Super Bowl. He’s 5-2 through 7. His AFC Championship record is just as impressive. His divisional round record would win home field most seasons. He’s got nothing to prove today.
  • The Patriots will not blowout the Eagles today. The 4.5 point line is too high. At least according to history. The final spread of the previous seven Patriots Super Bowls? Three, three, three, three, four, four, and six points in overtime.
  • Assuming Lane Johnson gets to the field this evening, the Eagles are 20-4 in his last 24 games. The All-Pro lineman is probably the most important player on this Eagles offense.
  • The hottest unit coming into this game? The Eagles defense. They’ve given up 5 touchdowns in the last 19 quarters they’ve played.
  • The Eagles defeated Minnesota and Atlanta to win the NFC and make Super Bowl 39, in Jacksonville. They defeated Atlanta and Minnesota to win the NFC and reach Super Bowl 52. New England beat… Jacksonville this year. Strange, just strange.
  • This game will sound like an Eagles home game.

So, prediction time… The Eagles win 23-21 on a walk-off kick. Fletcher Cox wins the MVP.