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.

Let Camelot Rise Again

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Yesterday during the day, I heard Tom Brokaw seem to infer that the Democratic Party’s decision to have Rep. Joe Kennedy III give the Democratic response to the State of the Union as looking backwards. I have to admit, he seemed to have a point- JFK was elected President 58 years ago. Rep. Kennedy’s Grandfather was assassinated 50 years ago this years. Ted Kennedy has been gone from the U.S. Senate eight years now. The allure of Camelot, perhaps, is yesterday’s news.

Then I listened to Joe Kennedy III’s speech, and well, Tom Brokaw got it wrong. While 2020 may be a bit premature for Kennedy to run for President, but I saw the makings of a future national leader. He spoke with the moral compass of his famous grandfather, RFK, and with a strong grasp of policy issues facing our nation. They got the backdrop right, getting him out of Washington, DC to give the speech. He seemed to relish the moment of being the official response to the President’s first State of the Union.

The Kennedy brand seems poised for a solid comeback. Now far enough removed from the “dynasty” fears of the 1960’s, and far enough removed from some of the scandals that followed RFK’s death, the country is ready again. Congressman Kennedy’s uncle Chris is running for Governor in Illinois, and while his star might not be as bright as Joe’s right now, he would be the most significant victory for the famous political family in nearly a quarter century. Even if he fails though, Joe Kennedy appears ready to carry the flag for the family of President John F. Kennedy.

I, for one, am rooting for Joe. It’s not that I don’t want new names and leaders to emerge, it’s not that at all. I want the greatness that Kennedy’s represented to rise again. I want the hope, and the genuine positive feelings people felt in them to rise again. I want the moral, liberal leadership that Robert F. Kennedy to rise again. I want the sense of enchantment that the country felt from Camelot to rise again. America could use some leadership it respects to rise up. I have hope that Joe Kennedy III could be that leader.

The speech:

The State of Our Union is Bad.

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Tonight, Donald J. Trump will give the “State of the Uniom” to Congress. That seems a lot more fitting than it should be. To imply we are a UNION is to imply some level of unity. The hellfire that is American civic life has no unity. Our politics are resorting ever increasingly towards tribalism, our institutions failing to act, and the pulpit of our leadership being used to feed propaganda and lies to the public. One might imply Donald J. Trump caused this. I would argue he is the symptom.

Our institutions don’t work. Our Congress is incapable of addressing national issues, unless those issues benefit the wealthy in cash form. Tax cuts and spending cuts happen, but rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, raising wages, and guaranteeing access to health care are expenses that are “out of the question.” Our national debt is used as an excuse to not invest in our people, but is rarely an issue when it comes to paying government contractors and cutting taxes. Meanwhile millions of Americans face deportation after the expiring Dream Act, millions lack health insurance, and millions lack basic housing. Our Congress is broken.

Our courts show more interest in protecting the rights of capital than the people. They hoist freedom of speech protections on corporations and shadow political groups, while not always protecting access to the ballot. Our high court is predictably partisan, and is willing to protect their party any chance they get. Our lower courts are increasingly packed with younger, ideological, incompetent judges who lack experience. Our trial courts can’t be accused of fairness or justice, from a purely statistical view, towards people of color. Our judiciary is not fair or impartial, but increasingly it is broken.

Our press is under assault, from our President, no less. An institution that should be progressive, just by demographics (reporters are largely college educated), practices in false equivalency to give regressive voices “fairness” for lies about things so broad as trade, climate change, and even our justice system. In return for the unfettered ability to spew propaganda, Trump and his allies call actual news reporting “fake news,” and question it’s veracity next to paid mouthpieces like Tomi Lahren. Even under this abuse, even as the demagogue calls their legitimacy into question, they report lies as facts. This didn’t just start, by the way- just look back at the Iraq War.

Our social movements no longer unite us at all, but are used to further divide us. Yes, Civil Rights and the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era divided America, but our divides today are essentially walls between us. As Black Lives Matter rose to question the treatment of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement, they were called anti-cop. As MeToo rose to highlight sexual assault and harassment towards women in our society, questions have risen as to whether or not they are simply seeking revenge against all men. When Occupy Wall Street rose to highlight income inequality, many questioned if they were just anti-capitalist anarchists, intent to destroy American prosperity. American elections can easily be predicted now, based on demographic turnouts. Our ability to discuss our differences have been drowned out by cable news formatting. Gender politics are deepening every passing week. Open racism is more accepted than it has been at any point in my life. The idea of genuine social progress is actually a debatable thing. We seem hopelessly divided.

The haves are doing better than ever, our have nots are doing even worse. Our new tax code was better to those with yachts than those seeking to write off their state and local taxes. The corporate tax cuts were made permanent, the middle class tax cuts phase out. The pay roll tax declines in it’s ability to fund Social Security and Medicare with each passing year since President Reagan signed the current version into law. The minimum wage hasn’t been increased in over a decade, federally. Union membership becomes less common every year. Billionaires can increasingly buy elections through Citizens United. Our President brags of his pace in deregulating our economy. We are sliding towards oligarchy.

And yes, there is our President. He is ignorant on policy matters. He is a racist. He is most certainly a sexist. He is seeking to manipulate our Department of Justice into working for him. He calls entire continents “shitholes.” He equates Nazis with regular protestors. He pays off porn stars for affairs. He golfs instead of working. He attacks reporters on twitter. He wants to build a wall along our southern border. He breaks up American families. He bans religious groups from coming here. He insults entire regions of the world with inflammatory policy decisions. He supports pollution. He is a bad man. I could go on. And on. And on.

I’m not even scratching the surface here. I’m not mentioning Russia invading our democracy, our falling standing in the world, the protectionist scourge driving our economic policy right now, or the multiple wars we remain engaged in. This American carnage threatens our very quality of life, our way of being. It must end, we need leadership now. It is leadership we lack though. Our President, our Congress, our civic way of life is rotten right now.

This American carnage is killing us. The State of our Union is bad. Rotten. Terrible.

My Top Ten Phillies Prospects List

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At the end of each January, good news rings in my head- “Spring Training is coming!” There’s nothing better than the return of baseball to me, but sadly I’ve only once been to Clearwater for the Grapefruit League season (2011). This year, Spring Training fever has been delayed a little bit, in favor of Super Bowl fever, but baseball is my main love, in the end.

The 2018 Phillies should be a better team than the 2017 version. Some of the top young prospects in the organization have now arrived. Some are about to. Even so, the main intrigue in the Phillies universe, at least for one more Spring, is in the prospect world. Last year I went to 42 professional baseball games, and approximately half of them were minor league games. I expect that to be the case again. I spent a lot of time watching minor league games on TV too. With all that baseball, I was bound to have a top ten prospects list. Here is my version of that Phillies list:

  1. J.P. Crawford-SS- Philadelphia- A tough first half of 2017 dropped Crawford from being nearly the top prospect in baseball to the 30’s in most rankings. I think they’re all getting it wrong. Crawford actually impressed me, even in his struggles, holding up his fine defense and gifted plate discipline. The Phillies probably moved Crawford along a little fast, but his second half in AAA was so good that he got a September call-up, and played well enough that he is the likely Opening Day Shortstop of the big league club now. I still a first division starter, if not better, in Crawford.
  2. Sixto Sanchez-SP- Clearwater- So this guy is basically the consensus arm to watch. He’s one of the few prospects I haven’t seen live, but I’ve watched plenty of him to see the talent. He has a legitimate power fastball, with movement. He’s got breaking stuff that is electric. He’s got stuff, lots of stuff. This Summer could be a lot of fun to watch.
  3. Franklyn Kilome-SP- Reading- So Kilome’s control and command might not be finished products. Even so, I see this Summer as the Summer he leaps forward. Kilome can throw a baseball very fast. He’s lanky, and deceptive. His breaking stuff is capable of being MLB stuff. At the least, I see a back end of the bullpen arm. At the most? He could arrive for 2019.
  4. Scott Kingery-2B- Lehigh Valley- So, Kingery is the top rated second baseman on MLB Pipeline. The guy I saw is a really, really good player. He’s a plus hitter, has a good glove, and has plus speed. Even so, I think some have jumped ahead of themselves in over-rating Kingery. Yes, he hit a bunch of home runs, in Reading, where everyone seems to hit a lot of home runs. His power numbers came back to Earth in AAA. Does this mean he isn’t the future at second base? Of course not. I just am not as completely convinced he’s a dramatic upgrade on Cesar Hernandez, let alone worthy of comparisons to 2008 Chase Utley. He’s absolutely a future MLB starter type, and maybe even a star, but I want to see how 2018 gets started before we crown him. Even so, be excited.
  5. Mickey Moniak-CF- Lakewood- So people were rating the 2016 #1 overall pick as the top guy in the system, in some corners. He got off to a good start in Lakewood, but then tailed off badly as the season went on. I haven’t given up on his sweet swing though. Moniak was playing his first full season of professional baseball. He was playing against mostly older players, players with college experience. Growing pains were to be expected. Expect Moniak to bounce back fine.
  6. Jorge Alfaro-C- Philadelphia- Alfaro tailed off after a fast start in AAA. He had some concerning splits in his slash line, especially in his OBP. Even with his plate discipline issues, Alfaro’s ability keeps him on this list. He has plus power and a great arm, the kinds of tools that could make him an elite starting catcher. Still though, since he’s out of options, he will have to improve his shortcomings in Philadelphia. If things work out though, he’s got elite talent.
  7. Adonis Medina-SP- Clearwater- He doesn’t throw 100 mph, and he’s not the kind of big frame you expect in a top of the rotation guy, but Medina has three pitches and guys don’t hit him hard. He probably projects in the mid-to-back-end rotation range, but he continues to defy expectations at each level.
  8. Adam Haseley-CF- Clearwater- Last year’s top pick out of Virginia could move fast this Summer. He went from Rookie League to Williamsport, and from Williamsport to Lakewood in his first partial year in pro ball. Like Kingery, he’s a top talent from an elite college program, so we may see very quickly if he is going to work out. His first year suggests he will hit his way to the majors in short order.
  9. Jhailyn Ortiz-OF- Lakewood- Ortiz was expected to hit for power when the Phillies signed him at age 16. He hit .302 this past Summer though at Williamsport, and the 19 year old seems ready to make the jump to full season. His talent still suggests special capabilities ahead.
  10. Jojo Romero-SP- Clearwater- The lefty throws four pitches for strikes, and he’s had solid success early. This is a big year for him to prove that his early success was real.

CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE- Enyel De Los Santos- SP- Reading, Thomas Eshelman-SP- Lehigh Valley, Cornelius Randolph-OF- Clearwater.

A Realist’s Ode to Hillary

Part of me wants to be happy for her. She appears at a Broadway showing of Hamilton, they give her a standing ovation. Her husband introduces her as a Grammy Winner at a Fleetwood Mac event, the crowd goes nuts. She shows up at the actual Grammys, reading “Fire and Fury,” and she steals the show. In some ways, it’s poetic- the woman who took 25 years of public ridiculing and shaming, on everything from her husband’s policies to her being “over prepared,” is finally being applauded and cheered. She’s finally the former First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and first ever woman nominated for President by either party, the woman who won the popular vote with an inspiring 65 million votes. The feminist movement we all hoped would push her to the White House, finally broke out in her political memory. Hillary’s finally the patron saint of a big chunk of American liberals, and that’s both cool and well deserved. We may even find out she was robbed of the Presidency by Russians, voter suppression, James Comey, and severely biased news coverage (oh, wait…).

There is something absolutely maddening though about the cult of Hillary that still exists, especially for someone who was on the campaign. She was the best candidate running. In fact, I think she would have been the best President of my generation, even with my undying love for Bill and Barack. But she’s not the President, and that’s because she lost the election. Did the stuff I mentioned above perhaps tip the election against her- I obviously believe so. Did her campaign let it get so close? Yes. I keep going back through and asking myself the why’s. Why did she get that private server? Why didn’t she go to Wisconsin? Why did she think the only places that existed in Pennsylvania were Philadelphia and Pittsburgh? Why did Bill Clinton think it was a good idea to have a meeting with Attorney General Lynch on a plane tarmac? Why didn’t she hit Bernie earlier and try to knock him out before he could damage her? Why did she buy into myths about demographics being destiny, and that they were the reason Barack Obama won? Why was an algorithm setting her campaign schedule? Why did the field program skip persuasion? Why, why, and why? I could go on all day. I love the woman and think she would have been a great President, but the campaign left so many questions that I often find myself frustrated while I watch Donald Trump’s daily blooper roll that we call a Presidency.

I was not originally a Hillary Clinton fan in 2008, in fact I really questioned why she should be our nominee over more experienced people like Chris Dodd and Joe Biden early on. As the race wore on though, I became an admirer, and joined her campaign in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, basically for the price of food, gas, and a bed to sleep in. I then moved on to Ohio, where they gave me a real paycheck, and I served as her Deputy Field Director for Early and Absentee voting. The whole experience was draining. Our team in Horry County, South Carolina was the only team in the state that had a good primary day- it was the only county she won in the whole state against then-Senator Barack Obama. My month in Ohio came as Obama’s campaign dropped more than a dozen victories in a row on us, and every Tuesday was a nightmare, as we dealt with loss after loss, and I saw the long, sometimes teary-eyed faces of colleagues who had put their lives into her Presidential hopes. Ohio was an awful, grueling, gritty campaign experience, one that I must confess was not usually all that enjoyable. She did win the state though, and I celebrated election night right where one might expect an Ohio staffer to- a bar in Pittsburgh. I was done with the 2008 campaign, and I went home after that, eventually even working for President Obama. I loved Hillary, I wanted her to win, but it was just done for me. I would spend the next six years hoping she would try again, because I felt she would do the job well. President Obama did win, he did hire her as Secretary of State, and she did the job well.

So along came 2016, or should I say 2015, when she entered the race for President again. I wanted to work the campaign at first, but after seeing what was available to do at the time, I really wasn’t looking to run all over America again. So I stayed in Pennsylvania, and I raised money for the campaign. It was all small donations, and I’m betting was only a couple grand, but it’s what I could do. The campaign was frustrating to watch from the start, with negative coverage and questionable decision making. Even friends in Brooklyn seemed less than receptive to constructive criticism, and things just never felt right. I went to some primary states, most notably New York, to help with get-out-the-vote, and the outcome was never really all that close or in question, but things just never felt easy. The media coverage was negative. The campaign plan seemed like it targeted “too narrow” of a vote. She seemed to not even contest the places she had been winning in 2008– as though she was a different candidate.

I spent a couple of days of the convention in Philadelphia, and the bug bit me again. I didn’t care where I had to go, I was down for it. So I made some calls, and started interviewing with states, and by the time Labor Day rolled around, was going to North Carolina for GOTV. I ended up being brought on quicker for internal reasons I won’t discuss here and now, and off I went. The people I worked with were actually really awesome, talented, inspiring people. I met some people I really liked down there. The people I worked for were people I’d run through a wall for again in a future race. I made some deep, last connections down there, and got to spend the final seven weeks of the election in the Outer Banks. The campaign though, because of factors beyond anyone I was dealing with’s control, was a bit of a mess. The field program seemed to assume there were no persuadable voters, it seemed rigidly set to the plan, even if the data was contradicting it, and it seemed like the organizing principle was quantity- not quality. Despite the fact that my 15 counties had been a very close swing area in both 2008 and 2012, I never saw Hillary, and only got Chelsea in to campaign three days before the election (on the final day of early vote). Number crunchers were driving the ship from Brooklyn, rather than some of the amazing pastors, community leaders, and organizers I had on the ground telling me what they thought we needed to do. The entire experience was rather frustrating, and I guess I should have seen how the ending would go- a group of my organizers and volunteers crying or in shock, sitting in a hotel room in Elizabeth City. Things looked so good in the first week of early vote, but there were signs in the last two weeks of how things were turning. By the final days, the KKK was actively out campaigning, which should have been a sign of the changing mood in rural North Carolina.

Without commenting on the talent of the people I worked with, which I think was probably about a wash, I do think the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign would have smoked the 2016 one. It was more nimble, it was more flexible to the conditions on the ground, and it’s appeal was far more broad. In 2008, Hillary Clinton simply lost to a once-in-a-lifetime talented candidate in Barack Obama. In 2016, Hillary lost 101 electoral votes across Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona by a grand total of roughly 457,000 votes. Against a guy who had a skeletal ground game, a lack of message discipline, and less money spent on ads. There is no doubt that Trump marketed himself well, and understood his base, but I can’t help but feel like it should not have ended up this way. This brilliant woman deserved a better campaign. America deserved better, after all, more of it voted for her. Like I said, it’s majorly frustrating.

Let’s be honest though- “but her emails.” Did we ever really have a chance? Let’s be honest with ourselves…

 

 

I wish the above was a joke, I really do. These tweets pretty much tell the story though. Her opponent in the November Election was literally a racist, old, ignorant, incapable imbecile who literally bankrupt casinos (how?) and didn’t pay his contractors. He is somehow the candidate of the working class though. Part of this is the inadequacies of her campaign. More of it is the garbage you saw above. The problem is, that garbage is all from January 29th, 2018, over a year after her former opponent took office as President. It’s never going to change, which is why we basically have to move on.

This week’s controversy over a staffer (who I vaguely know) accused of sexual harassment not being fired in 2008, at Hillary’s discretion, is par for the course again. Should Hillary be getting this scrutiny from this? No, of course it’s being blown up. Her response though was somehow so inadequate that it left people on all sides being upset. Should she have just said she made a mistake in judgment towards a staffer who she knew and trusted? Yeah. Could she have done that? Look at the tweets above and tell me she would have been treated fairly. Seriously, look at that. If Hillary announced that she had the cure for cancer, that would be debated on equal par with Donald Trump being able to read complete sentences off the teleprompter tonight at the State of the Union. The false equivalency that was 2016 was totally mishandled by Hillary and those closest to her, but that also doesn’t change that she probably got the worst treatment from the press in the history of American electoral politics. I know though, but her emails…

My take on Hillary is that she was a giant of her generation, a figure for history that will be judged very kindly. As a Presidential candidate, she will be a far more revered version of Al Smith (the first Catholic nominee for President, by the Democrats in 1928), a trailblazer who lost, but who’s opponent ended up being a disaster in office, and a candidate who’s candidacy opened the door for a future woman to break the glass ceiling, in a similar way to the relationship between Al Smith and JFK, some 32 years later. She’ll get high marks overall for her time as Secretary of State, and history will be much kinder to her very progressive record as a U.S. Senator from the state of New York. I think she earned that positive space in history, as someone who America battered and blamed for everything from her husband’s infidelity, to the Iraq War, to our own ignorance in electing Donald Trump. Time will be on her side, history will be much more kind.

But hot damn, we’re all left her wondering “what if”…

Why Tom Brady Won’t Be Visiting the White House in 2018

A few years ago, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl over the Seahawks, Tom Brady turned down the opportunity to visit the White House, at the invitation of Barack Obama. That’s his right, so no one can blame him for that. He went when Donald Trump invited him in 2017. I don’t think he’ll get the opportunity to make that decision in 2018.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of his time, and maybe of all-time. His Patriots opened as one of the larger favorites in Super Bowl history, giving 5.5 points to the Eagles. The Eagles will play in this Super Bowl without the best quarterback in football this year, Carson Wentz, as well as without future Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman Jason Peters, electric return man Darren Sproles, and star linebacker Jordan Hicks, among others. If you’re lazy, you’ll assume the outcome from that. How in the world did this team get here?

Well, that’s the point, and that’s been the point, going back to when I told you to not count the Eagles out, after Wentz went down. The Eagles lost several Pro-Bowl level players and still went 13-3 in the regular season. They still beat the Atlanta Falcons, the reigning NFC Champions. They still beat the Minnesota Vikings, who possibly had the best defense in football this season. Here they are, in the Super Bowl. What’s that tell you about this roster? What can you make of a team that is 15-3 and in the Super Bowl, with all of those injuries? That’s a pretty good squad, right?

Here’s some facts about this game:

  • From the start of the second quarter in the Giants game (Week 15), the Eagles defense has surrendered five touchdowns. That’s 5 TD’s in 19 quarters.
  • Jay Ajayi and LaGarrette Blount, behind an offensive line with two All-Pro first teamers, present one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the league.
  • New England’s defense has greatly improved since week one. It still gave up twenty points to Blake Bortles.

What’s all of this mean? Brady is certainly better than Foles, and Gronk is some sort of other-worldly creature, but if you stop there, you’re missing the point. The defense Brady and Gronk will face is one of the very best in the NFL this season, and the offense the Eagles will put out on the field probably has about the same number of question marks as the defense they are facing. Both teams have kickers who can steal points from far away at the end of a half. Both teams are reasonably well coached too.

The hottest unit on either team going into this game is the Eagles defense. They will carry that through the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’ll shut down Brady like they did Case Keenum, but I do think they’ll remain on a roll. Will their offense give them enough points to win? After watching what they did to the Vikings, my answer is yes.

The Intersection of the Indians and 2018

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The Indians announced today that they will no longer use the “Chief Wahoo” logo on uniforms after the 2018 season. From the New York Times:

The Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms beginning in 2019, according to Major League Baseball, which said the popular symbol was no longer appropriate for use on the field.

The logo has long been the source of anguish and frustration for those who consider it offensive, outdated and racist, but for many of the team’s fans it is a cherished insignia — a divide that has played out at all levels of sports in recent years with teams featuring such nicknames and insignias. Most universities have stopped using Native American nicknames, while other teams like the Washington Redskins in the N.F.L., for example, have resisted growing pressure to do so.

Chief Wahoo, a cartoonish caricature of a Native American that has assumed several forms over the years, first appeared on the Indians’ uniforms in 1948. In recent decades various groups across North America have appealed to the team to renounce the logo, to no avail. But over the past year the commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, has pressured Paul Dolan, Cleveland’s chairman and chief executive, to make a change.

The Cleveland Indians are not the only team with a Native American team name and/or logo in major sports. Obviously the Washington Redskins are the most famous and controversial, but one could also throw in such famous team names and mascots as the Atlanta Braves and the Florida State Seminoles. They have all faced varying levels of protest, and they have responded in different ways.

I must confess that I have a Native American aunt, who has never brought the issue up to me, and is ironically married to a Washington Redskins fan. With that said, I’ve also given the issue very little critical thought. On the one hand, I don’t think naming teams after Native Americans, or individual tribes, should be in any way offensive. On the other hand, that’s not what’s happening in many of these cases. The word “Redskins” is not a name of a tribe, it’s a derogatory term for Native Americans. The Chief Wahoo logo is not a depiction of an actual Native American, but rather an exaggerated cartoon. On the other hand, I don’t see any reason at all that you can’t name Florida State as the Seminoles, or Chicago as the Blackhawks, provided that you are properly depicting them from a historical standpoint. There’s obviously a fine line between paying homage to the first Americans by naming teams after them, and offensively depicting them in manners that don’t do them justice.

As for Chief Wahoo- I think the team probably got this right. It took pressure from MLB and Native American activists, but they got to the right answer. Chief Wahoo was drawn up in 1932, and frankly the stereotypes of that time are largely not acceptable today. I don’t put their hat on the same level as the Washington Redskins being named after an actual slur, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong to act on the matter.

Now excuse me while I go hide my “Palmer Indians” little league hat.

Sorry- But if You Want a Lasting Democratic Majority, You’re Going to Have to Engage Republican Voters

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In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President, along with solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Congress had been solidly Democratic basically since FDR, and Clinton went about governing the first two years, as he had been elected to. His approval was actually very good throughout most of the two years, and he would go on to a commanding re-election, but in 1994 the Democrats lost both chambers of Congress with a dramatic thumping. In the years since 1994, Democrats have held the House of Representatives for just four out of twenty-four years (4 of 24). The Senate side has been slightly better for Democrats, with them holding control for 9.5 years out of 24.

For the better part of the last quarter century, Congress has been a Republican institution. Democrats have shown they could win a couple of wave elections during a very, very unpopular war and economic crash, but that’s about it. The result has been that for just two years each in the Presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats were actually able to govern. While Democrats have won the popular vote for President in every election since the Cold War ended, except for 2004, it has been the Republicans who have presided over the actual business of governing this country. Presidencies are great, but Congress is where governing happens.

As a veteran of the Hillary campaign, one of my chief beefs with our leadership from that campaign was the geography of our campaign- that is, that our candidate continuously visited the large metro areas, and did not spend as much time out in the suburbs or in small cities as past Democratic nominees. Hillary Clinton never stepped foot in northeastern North Carolina, the traditional swing area that I worked for her, and neither did her husband (he was quite popular in the area). She never went to traditional Democratic strongholds in Pennsylvania like Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, State College, Reading, or Bethlehem. There is the whole Wisconsin story, which is pretty famous now, about her not going at all. How much do candidate visits actually matter? More so when you don’t do them, especially when the opposition’s line against you (in both the primary and the general) is that you are an elite who doesn’t care about the everyday people in these places. That sentiment did Clinton in with some of these swing state voters. While Hillary carried all of the suburban Philadelphia counties, and carried a traditionally unbeatable 400,000 vote margin out of Philadelphia itself, she lost Pennsylvania. She saw a 40,000 vote swing against her in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre), a 15% swing against her in Lackawanna County (Scranton), a fall from a 15% win to a 900 vote win in Monroe County (the Poconos), and became the first Democrat to lose Northampton County (Easton and Bethlehem) since 1988, by 5,000 votes. All of those counties have a Democratic Congressman. All of those counties voted for Barack Obama. And John Kerry. Three of them were for Al Gore. And Bill Clinton.

There is a certain comfort for Democrats in the urban core, particularly in national races. The fact of the matter though, is that Democrats do better when they get beyond their safe havens. While Hillary lost North Carolina by under 200,000 votes, Roy Cooper was elected Governor, and Josh Stein Attorney General- both campaigned across the state. While Hillary lost Pennsylvania by just over 40,000 votes, Josh Shapiro was elected Attorney General, Eugene DePasquale as Auditor General, and Joe Torsella as Treasurer. Our obsession with our “blue” enclaves has a serious impact on our ability to win statewide elections, but it’s even more pronounced in Congressional and state legislative races, where the governing actually gets done. Democrats have close to maxed out the cities for seats in Congress. You can find one or two seats left in the New York Cities of the world, but you can’t find the 24 we need to win back the House in 2018. The road to the majority does not go through the places where our base vote lives.

Fortunately for the short-term Democrats, 2018 is shaping up as a potentially good year. The President has several senior aides under indictment or headed to jail, his approval has consistently been below 40%, and we have an enthusiastic female base that might just barely give us back the House on their own, organically, if we don’t stop them. There are 23 seats that Hillary won who have a Republican House member (and about 5-10 she lost with a Democrat), and an increasing list of retiring Republicans in somewhat vulnerable seats, which should give us an opportunity to win the House, this year. Suburbs in Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama gave Democrats solid wins in 2017, fueled by disapproval of Trump. The short-term is good for us, thanks to just being on the wrong side of 2016.

If we do win the House in 2018, standard logic is that we should be able to hold it in 2020. The GOP was able to hold their new majorities in 1996 and 2012, even as they lost Presidential elections, and Democrats held their majority fine in 2008 after the 2006 wave. Of course it’s worth noting that Democrats then lost their majority in 2010, and 2022 could be a similar election if we are successful in defeating Trump in 2020.

Here is the simple fact: whether it’s beating Trump in the electoral college in 2020, or building a lasting Congressional majority, the road to doing so is not bleeding more votes out of our base. This doesn’t mean stop registering new Democrats in our strongholds, this doesn’t mean throw the base under the bus on policy issues, and it doesn’t mean to talk about some new message that we don’t have yet, that will supposedly change voters minds. First and foremost, it means be present in more places, in more communities. Second, it means running authentic candidates for the communities they are running in. Third, it means centering the conversation at a district level, not a national, one-size-fits-all approach. Finally, it means talking about more, if not all, of our platform, and not just the things our insiders want to see. You see, you have to offer people things they are interested in, if you expect to get their vote. We have stuff for suburban voters to like.

There is a resistance to some of these ideas though. There are Democratic activists (just look at my Twitter) who are both absolutely opposed to bothering with any Republican voters at all, but also to trying to embrace the Bernie-left. They have a math problem. Democrats are almost assured of 48% in national elections, going back to Bill Clinton in 1996, every Democratic nominee has received at least 48%, and we’ve won Congress just twice. Our base of votes can’t build us a durable majority right now. It’s not big enough.

Their response usually centers around people who are not voting now. End voter suppression, register more people, cater to our base, they say. Those are all good things, I don’t oppose a single one of them. There is a chance that if we do that, we win in 2020, although it is not an absolute lock- again, Hillary hit her metrics in the Philadelphias of the world, while still losing. Trying to expand the base more could win us back the White House, so it’s good, but it’s also the right thing to do. I support it. It will not build us a durable, lasting majority.

If you bring in a bunch of new voters in Democratic areas, they will probably be Democrats. If you bring in a bunch of new voters in Republican areas, they will probably be Republicans. Voter registration is great, but it’s not magic. Demographic trends tend to stay true with new voters, as they are with existing ones. Unless there is some magic way to only bring new people in from one area (it’s called targeting), there’s not a real advantage to it. If we target right, we can add tens of thousands of new voters- in already blue districts. There are about 190 solid Democratic districts in this country, and this strategy will make them even more solid. That doesn’t get us to a lasting 218 seats in the House though.

In the end, the way forward for Democrats is we have to persuade someone. The Berners say this should be the white working class voters who began leaving us after Civil Rights, but frankly, that’s not workable. You’re not going to bring in people diametrically opposed to your base and think that coalition can last. White collar suburbanites main issue with us is taxes, but they are bothered by the blatant racism coming from our President. The truly poor white voter, making under $30,000, voted for Hillary in 2016, and could be a group with targeting for growth, but it’s not entirely that simple. Not persuading any group to come over is not really an option for Democrats though, if winning a majority in the majority of the seats is the goal here.

The solution is probably in the portion of the electorate who voted for Trump but had misgivings. His low point in approval was 32%, he’s currently sitting around 37%, and he got 46% in the 2016 Election- so there is a small pocket of people who picked him because they didn’t pick her. There’s no love there for either party, probably just opposition to taxes that out-weighed concerns and dislike for Trump. For a lot of Democratic activists, targeting these people is sacrilege. In reality, they’ve yet to show a better idea.

Regardless of who, in the end the point is that Democrats must grow beyond their existing base. A nation in which we are assured 48% and they are assured 46% yields consistent Republican majorities in Congress, which has lead to a consistent chipping away at the values Democrats hold dear. Being willing to lose, just so you can hold purity in your views, is the height of privilege. People who are suffering don’t get that option. As the party who is supposed to represent them, neither do the Democrats.