The text from my sister, who moved away almost 25 years ago, came before the definitive vote dump this morning: “The tweets about Philly may be what gets us all through this week.”
It confirmed what’s made the end of this election week — during which Philadelphia’s amazing, diligent election workers have meticulously counted every vote inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center — so sweet for us.
It’s that the rest of the world gives Philly credit for finally delivering what so many have been dreaming of for four years. At 8:48 this morning, the city commissioners uploaded the vote count that finally put Pennsylvania in Joe Biden’s column, and put the Electoral College count on track to go above 270.
It feels right that this should come from Philly, which has always been a kindred spirit to our almost-president-elect. For years you could hop on the Northeast Corridor train and spot Amtrak Joe, known well to every worker on the line. Biden spends enough time here that he’s got a favorite restaurant (the Saloon in Bella Vista).
The glorious tweets about Philly shining through are too numerous to count. But whether it’s turning a vote-counting counterprotest into a marathon socially distanced line dance while McFadden and Whitehead blared on the speakers, or the ever-maligned Philadelphia Parking Authority ticketing the QAnon Hummer that drove up from Virginia to fight us, the city’s done us proud this week, and we showed the world.
That’s not exactly typical. So often, when Philly is doing good, it’s doing good for Philly.
This was finally our chance to say, “We did this for you. You’re welcome, world.”
That used to be our calling card. Sure, there’s the whole America’s birthplace thing, but that just scratches the surface of our rich history. From the Civil War to the Great Depression, we were known as the Workshop of the World, and what started here spread everywhere. Baldwin Locomotives were built in Spring Garden, and then helped open the Great American West. In Port Richmond, William Cramp & Sons built the ships that turned the U.S. Navy into a formidable international force. During World War I, textile firms from Frankford and Manayunk and Kensington and Germantown manufactured the materials to clothe American troops in our nation’s first global conflict.
But that was a century ago.
Our recent victories have felt more for us. Eagles ’18 and Phillies ’08. The 2015 papal visit and 2016 DNC. Population growth for the first time in 60 years. Those were great, but still, no one liked us, and we didn’t care.
Then came Election Day, 2016. After voting for Democrats in every presidential election since 1992, Pennsylvania’s blue wall crumbled under Trump. That year Philly’s turnout was only 64% — lower than 2008 or 2012. Everything felt awful, but the fact that we might be somewhat responsible made it so much worse.
This past summer might have been the low point. I was heartsick thinking that outsiders might see footage from the streets of Fishtown or from Marconi Plaza with the Gravy Seals (or Wooder Isis, or Veal Team 6, or whatever) and think that these armed-to-the-teeth domestic terrorists represent my city — especially the South Philly I call home.
Because at the end of the day — all love to Jason Kelce, but — we do care. We can do it on our own, but there’s no escaping the human sense of satisfaction that comes with the rest of the world looking in and being not just impressed, but grateful for what they see.
They saw us do this as a city. We know there’s so much more work to do. But for the moment, let’s dance.
Jeffrey Barg lives in South Philadelphia.