For local Dems, party discipline is cracking

Will Rogers famously remarked, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Perhaps said in jest, but perhaps true today.

NonDemocrat Kendra Brooks (left) got Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro’s endorsement
One sign of an organized political party is its ability to maintain discipline among its members.

Democrats in elected office — from City Council to congress — are usually pretty good at that, especially since the Republican Party was taken over by Trumpsters with an aversion to facts. It’s hard to agree on anything with a party dominated by people who don’t agree that 2+2=4.

But that’s a column for a different time. I am a registered disloyal Democrat, which means I am with them most of the time, but not all of the time. I vote for the person who shares my ideals, and in the past that has been the occasional Republican and Libertarian.

As John F. Kennedy remarked, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” And Winston Churchill said some change their principles for party, while others change their party for principles.

I question the intelligence of anyone who always votes only for party. That includes a friend who is honest enough to admit that he’s sometimes embarrassed by that, but he’s genetically incapable of pulling a lever for anyone with an R next to his or her name.

So that means he — unlike me — voted for Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan, and Michael Dukasis over George H.W. Bush, two examples in which he was wildly out of step with the rest of America, which rewarded the R with a landslide. 

And, yes, to anticipate the comments of my true blue friends, that Republican Party was not today’s Republican Party.

Party disciple requires adhesion to the party, and that means endorsing only members of your own party.

In recent weeks, the Dems have allowed two of their biggest names to endorse candidates of the Working Families Party, sometimes called the Woking Families Party.

Gov. Josh Shapiro endorsed that party’s At-Large Councilwoman Kendra Brooks for re-election, while Sen. John Fetterman endorsed both Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke for City Council.

Of the two, Shapiro’s endorsement of the third-party uber progressive is the bigger surprise as he has been a self-proclaimed moderate throughout his political life, boasting of his ability to work across the aisle with Republicans. He and Brooks are not ideological bedmates, and his endorsement creates yet another reason for Harrisburg Republicans to not trust him.

Two earlier back stabs were his rejection of the death penalty, which he had always endorsed, as recently as when he ran for state attorney general, his springboard to the governor’s chair.

And also on his reversal on a promise to support school choice, a super important issue for Republicans. Gallup reports 59% of Americans also favor school choice.

One wonders if Shapiro is undergoing a radical makeover such as the one that transformed Jim Kenney from a blue-collar Democrat into a Woke progressive.

In a statement, Shapiro said he has worked with Brooks in the past. (Let’s not forget she endorsed him for governor.)

In a hilarious statement after Shapiro’s endorsement, Brooks released a statement that included this: “One of the qualities I’m most proud of is my ability to work with colleagues from all backgrounds.”

Except Republicans, of course.

Fetterman did one better, by endorsing two candidates from the Working Families Party, which had Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady both furious and handcuffed.

“The Working Families Party?,” he said derisively. “What does he think we are — the nonworking families party?”

In a June email to party leaders, Brady warned against treason and the consequences.

In bold type, this: “The Democratic Party rules prohibit Ward Leaders and Committee People from supporting directly or indirectly, any candidate or candidates on an opposing ticket in any election. Members of the Ward Committee and Ward Leaders shall lose their membership in the Democratic Committee if this is proven to have occured.”

It also said, “The rule applies to all Committee People and Ward Leaders, regardless of who makes the ask, who the nonDemocrat candidate is, or what nonDemocratic Party group they may be affiliated with.”

The state and national parties have similar language. That’s party discipline. 

Here’s the problem: Neither Shapiro nor Fetterman are members of such committees.

Brady pretty much shrugged off Shapiro, but was venomous when it came to Fetterman, whom he called “an embarrassment” several times.

“He just does whatever the hell he has to do,” said Brady.

Brady doesn’t come right out and say it, but the third-party progressives are a pain in his butt and he was relieved when Cherelle Parker, a traditional, Democratic Party machine candidate, knocked off the annoying progressive Helen Gym in the mayoral primary.

Had Gym won, the Dems would have faced massive desertions in the general election. 

In 2019, Brooks knocked off a Republican, who held an At-Large seat, leaving only David Oh, as a Republican At-Large Council member. He resigned to run for mayor.

Under the City Charter, two At-Large Council seats are reserved for the minority party, to provide a brake, no matter how small, on the majority party.

I’m sure the reformers who wrote it didn’t imagine the two seats going to a party more extreme than the majority party.

But that’s what Shapiro and Fetterman are supporting, and there’s not much Brady can do about it.

14 thoughts on “For local Dems, party discipline is cracking”

  1. As an outside observer, I will only speak for Shapiro, and to me, it sounds as if he’s playing both sides to position himself for a run for the Presidency in 2028. Obviously I can’t be sure of this but if my conjecture is right, well, it’s never too early to start.

    1. Excellent analysis, Mark. We both know Shapp II 😆 is thinking about 2028. But, he only Beat Cro-Magnon Man to be elected Governor. It was still a monumental task. The Next Logical Step for then Lt. Governor Fetterman, would have been to run for Governor in 2022. It is likely that a backroom deal was engineered to get Featherman out of the way so Shapiro had no primary opposition. IS THIS DEMOCRACY IN PENNSYLVANIA OR RUSSIA? Eliminate the competition.

  2. It’s comical to me that the Philadelphia Democratic Party kinda reminds me of the national Republican Party, from your description anyway. Party loyalty is getting kinda insane, but I believe this is the sad result of one party having gone stark-raving mad. I mean, how can ANY Republican continue to associate with the insanity of Trump & Co.? Can you even imagine being connected to those lunatics? I’d have to leave the party just to NOT be associated with those nut-balls.

    I did vote for Reagan in 1980, and I would certainly consider voting for a sane Republican rather than an insane Democrat. However, I do regret voting for Reagan now given what has followed, which was the total demonization of government, an attempt at reversing everything FDR did for the country, and a mad, 40-year rush to protect the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. In my view, this was Reagan’s legacy. Though I’d certainly take him over Trump or DeSantis 1,000 times over.

    Middle-of-the-road competency is what is needed, what has ALWAYS been needed in American government. Be nice to see that show up again.

  3. I’m a Republican and I like Shapiro. In fact, I wrote to him a letter of praise immediately after he took charge of the I-95 fire fiasco. Shapiro demonstrated what a leader should do: LEAD. He got the workers to dig in 24/7, and made fools of all the hand wringers who were saying it would take a year to fix the road. And I got a nice thank-you letter from the gov. A nice touch on his part.

    Would that we had more Shapiros running for oiffice.

  4. This is awesome that you have the courage to report the facts and utilize your personal courage to do so. You are factual and apply your decades of accurate interpretation without pushing a personal agenda. I became politically engaged at the age of 17. I have served my community as a Committeeperson for some of the time since, spanning several decades. I have been allegedly “fired” by both Republican and Democrat Ward Leaders, EVENT THOUGH I WAS ELECTED BY MY PEERS AND VIOLATED NO PARTY BY-LAWS. When I bragged about this to THE GREATEST CITY CONTROLLER IN
    PHILADELPHIA HISTORY, JONATHAN SAIDEL, HE said “OF COURSE YOU WILL HAVE PROBLEMS BECAUSE YOU CAN 🤔 THINK”. So, now I have learned from from athletes. I am a Free Agent and pick and choose who I will support not based on party nor t.v. ads, but merit and record.

    1. In addition to being a great Controller, Saidel was the funniest pol Philly ever produced.
      I, too, was a committeeman for a while, and it doesn’t really take a lot of courage to tell the truth.

  5. “And, yes, to anticipate the comments of my true blue friends, that Republican Party was not today’s Republican Party.”

    Corollary: That Democratic Party was not today’s Democratic Party.

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