To resort to a Game of Thrones analogy, the North Wall was not breached Tuesday in Philadelphia.
I am talking about the Democratic Machine Wall, which left most “progressives” on the outside, hoisting their pitchforks and waving their victimhood cards.
Four years ago, Philly lurched toward progressivism, but was that an anomaly or a harbinger?
Jim Kenney won the Democratic nomination for mayor in 2015 as a progressive. In the same election, raging progressive Helen Gym was elected to City Council at-large, along with moderate at-large Council candidates Allan Domb and Derek Green. But a progressive beachhead was established.
In the 3rd District, Jannie Blackwell was defeated by Jamie Gauthier, not known as a progressive.
Rochelle Bilal beat incumbent Sheriff Jewell Williams, not because the retired police officer is a progressive, but because the incumbent was perceived as a lech. Register of Wills Ron Donatucci was upset by former deputy city commissioner Tracey Gordon, not running as a progressive.
What does it mean, anyway, progressive?
When they talk about justice and equity, I am on board, but way too often “progressive” acts like a microaggression locomotive pulling boxcars labeled Racism, Transphobia, Misogyny, Xenophobia, White Privilege, and Male Toxicity. Too many progressives are intolerant of differing viewpoints, and are transfixed by identity politics.
That’s my take, but I am open to others.
Progressives are defined by an agenda, says Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall University. “It is a huge expansion of federal government, a huge expansion of social programs, and major limits on capitalism. Their agenda includes the Green New Deal, reparations, health care, free public college of some sort,” he tells me.
I reached out to the Reclaim Philadelphia progressive group for a definition, but I didn’t hear back.
Two years ago, propelled by George Soros’ cash, the most progressive candidate ever for district attorney, Larry Krasner, won the race over six other candidates. Each candidate sounded like a social worker. Three words you did not hear in that race: “Law and order.” Two words you did hear: “Mass incarceration.” Also “restorative justice.” Also “end bail.” Major win for progressives.
Krasner right now believes that Meek Mill, the most entitled ex-con in America, deserves a new trial.
Also in 2017, running as a progressive, Rebecca Rhynhart easily defeated incumbent controller Alan Butkovitz, although she tells me she prefers to be called “reformer” or “pragmatist.” Moderate progressive win.
Adding to those victories, in 2018 progressive Elizabeth Fiedler took a South Philly state representative seat from the Democratic machine. I called to get her views on progressive thought, but the former WHYY reporter didn’t return my calls.
We sailed into the Tuesday primary with a boatload of progressives, some of whom seemed to be running on little more than their gender, race, sexual orientation, or disdain for immigration and drug laws. My fear was that a projected low turnout would result in another small, well-organized group pushing the city toward insanity.
Turnout was higher than expected, around 23 percent, exceeding the 17 percent in the 2017 general election. The most aggressively progressive candidates — Erica Almiron, Asa Khalif, Eryn Santamoor, Justin DiBerardinis — crashed and burned.
Progressives “didn’t win anything on their own,” Democratic City Chairman Bob Brady tells me, taking a pass on defining exactly what “progressive” means. “I think I’m progressive,” he says, “I like to move things forward.”