Everybody knows I love characters. I'm lucky because Philadelphia is the land of characters. You won't find people like Frank Rizzo, Joey Vento, Stu Bykofsky or Patti LaBelle anywhere else. While I've had some big skirmishes with the leader of IBEW Local 98 over the years, I see Johnny Doc as one of the great Philadelphia characters.
Johnny Dougherty is smart, tough and in the center of all the big issues in Philadelphia. He also doesn't do a lot of interviews. So, it was a sort of Christmas miracle when Frank Keel, his very capable communications guy, tracked me down over a weekend and told me I had to read a letter he sent to his members.
The letter was an eye-opener and something that certainly needs to be more widely discussed. I invited Dougherty on my radio show to have that conversation. It was quite an interview.
Dougherty's main contention in both the letter and the interview was that the national Democratic Party has lost its focus on economic issues and a better way of life for the middle class.
"The Democratic Party has become almost solely based on cultural liberalism," he said.
He blamed this for Hillary Clinton's loss in the presidential race to Donald Trump and was very disturbed that Democrats re-elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California to the position of House Minority Leader. Dougherty said he much preferred Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who lost to Pelosi and thinks the Democrats must get back to emphasizing jobs and economic issues.
I don't think the Democratic Party can change its focus. It is the party of Black Lives Matter, and I'm convinced Clinton did not fill out the pre-election survey from the national Fraternal Order of Police about key issues because she couldn't have the cops' back. The FOP endorsed Trump, and this helped with other unions.
Dougherty echoed a lot of this. In his letter, he wrote: "Although we were all disappointed that our endorsed candidate didn't win, we will work well with the Trump administration. In fact, we will look forward to working with the Trump administration. In fact, we look forward to working with the Trump administration on issues like infrastructure, energy and undocumented workers."
Twice in his letter, he mentioned problems with undocumented workers. You never hear the Pelosi wing of the party address this issue because it can't.
I don't think the national Democratic Party can or will hear or act on the lessons in Dougherty's letter. It will be interesting to see whether Republicans will listen.
Before Trump's emergence, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum complained that Republicans were overly concerned with business owners and not enough with workers. I'm not sure they've gotten the appeal of Trump and the hope he has generated among American workers through his deal with Carrier and his plans to go after trade deals such as NAFTA that have been disastrous for many American workers.
The opportunity to address the needs of American workers is there. Consider what Dougherty wrote: "Here are the facts: The Democratic Party has consistently gotten its butt kicked. The party has not been this weak since 1928, a year before the Great Depression. This election revealed a stunning lack of energy, resources and commitment. There is little to no middle class, and there is little unionized labor. I'm not even sure how many Democrats are still squarely in the Democratic column. The significant Democratic crossover vote for Trump confirmed my doubts. If all of this bleak news doesn't scream for an uprising in the Democratic Party, I don't know what does."
2017 will be a fascinating year to see where all this leads. Dougherty's letter and his interview with me are hopeful signs. It should be the year where we come together to push back against unfair trade deals, illegal workers undercutting the wages of American citizens, and the lack of will in believing we can keep manufacturing jobs in America.
In his radio interview, Dougherty blurted out that he's no fan of the giant rat that unions use to intimidate companies they have a dispute with. Apparently, in the Chinese calendar, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. Maybe the rat can take a well-earned vacation.
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com