In the Suburban Philadelphia Primaries, the Democratic Establishment Embraces Progressivism
In January, the Times reported that Pat Meehan, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania’s Seventh District, had used taxpayer money to settle a sexual-harassment claim brought by a young woman who had worked for him as an aide. In the days after the story broke, Meehan, a sixty-two-year-old married father of three, appeared to come unwound. Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Meehan denied that he had sexually harassed his staffer but called her his “soul mate” and said that he had been jealous because she had a new boyfriend. Two days later, he announced that he would not seek reëlection. There are more registered Democrats in Pennsylvania than registered Republicans, but the Republican Party’s gerrymandering efforts have been so successful that thirteen of the eighteen representatives that the state sent to Congress this term were Republicans. (And all eighteen were men.) The heart of Meehan’s former district is on the Main Line—the suburbs outside of Philadelphia—and the story of the petulant Republican Congressman’s unrequited crush on a young aide served to concentrate the local progressive revulsion of the Trump era. On Tuesday, when Pennsylvania held its primaries, the Seventh District—which like several others in the state had recently been made more amenable to Democrats by court-ordered redistricting—had ten Democrats on the ballot, six of them women.
For Democrats to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November elections, they will have to win twenty-three seats that are now held by Republicans. At least three vulnerable Republican seats exist in the Philadelphia suburbs—where Hillary Clinton won all four districts in 2016—a concentration that has given the races there a special charge. The primaries on Tuesday were, in theory, a good gauge of suburban Democrats’ political mood this year, and in the leadup to the vote, the lack of space between the party’s moderate candidates and its progressive ones suggested that members of the party have shifted more or less together to the left—a wedding party, doing the electric slide. In Bucks County, where the Democratic primary for the first congressional district featured a millionaire businessman, a Bernie Sanders acolyte, and a female former fighter pilot who had until recently been a Republican, there nevertheless was, according to John Cordisco, the Bucks County Democratic chair, “a tremendous amount of similarities between the candidates on the major issues.” In Meehan’s posh Main Line district, the Delaware County Democratic chair, David Landau, told me, nearly the entire field of ten Democratic candidates supported touchstone progressive issues such as a fifteen-dollar-per-hour minimum wage and Medicare for all. “Almost nothing separates these candidates,” Landau said. “It’s nuances. Minutia.”
When I spoke to Landau around 4 P.M. yesterday, with evening votes still to come, he was eyeing the weather. “If we get a real thunderstorm no one will come out,” he said. Within an hour, that storm had arrived, a great cloaking torrent of rain that meant only the very determined voted. By the end of the evening, when the storm had passed, a very limited kind of revolution was afoot, in which political power was passing to the people—mostly professional women—who in other ways already basically ran the place. In Meehan’s old district, the winner in the Democratic primary was Mary Gay Scanlon, a partner at a prominent Philadelphia law firm and chair of a local school board, who had helped coördinate legal aide for foreigners caught up in the attempted implementation of President Trump’s travel ban. In the state’s First District, in Bucks County, the former fighter pilot, Rachel Reddick, lost to the businessman, Scott Wallace, an attorney and one-time Senate staffer who inherited his fortune and had spent years helping to run a social-philanthropy. (An activist named Steve Bacher, who ran in the Sanders mold, got less than ten per cent of the vote.) In the Fourth District, in Montgomery County, state representative Madeleine Brand, who has emphasized the need for gun control during her campaign, routed Joe Hoeffel, a former congressman who had been out of politics for a decade and who entered the race a bit eccentrically just two months ago. (“My wife said to me the other day, honey you’ve got to stop yelling at Donald Trump on the television—you’ve got to run for office,” Hoeffel told reporters.)
The race in Pennsylvania in which the differences between the candidates were largest and the stakes highest developed a little farther out from Philadelphia, in the new Seventh District, centered on Allentown—territory which, since 2010, had been represented by Congressman Charlie Dent, the leader of the declining moderate Republican faction of the House, who abruptly retired recently after spending the first year of the Trump Administration in a spiralling lament. In the Republican primary, the two candidates each ran as Trump allies. On the Democratic side, the front-runner, John Morganelli, the district attorney of Northampton County, seemed something like a Trump ally, too. (Morganelli opposes sanctuary cities, and just after the 2016 election he tweeted at Trump volunteering himself for a role on the President-elect’s transition team.) But Morganelli lost on Tuesday night, in something of an upset, to a sixty-year-old attorney named Susan Wild, a progressive down the line.
Many of the districts where the fight to control the House will take place this year—the rich commuter towns outside of Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities—superficially resemble the Philadelphia suburbs. These are establishment places in which, for now, few candidates want to run as members of the establishment. To watch the returns from the Philadelphia suburbs last night was to notice the tension between the small-c conservatism of these towns—their preference for social order and stability—and their increasingly progressive politics. You wonder which one will win out.
via Everything https://ift.tt/2i2hEWb
May 16, 2018 at 04:35PM