This is how you get to be a caller on Dom’s show: Disagree with him. Be female. Be a first-time caller. That’s per Eric Strain, the young Rutgers grad who’s been Dom’s producer for the past year. “We get some people—I call them the ‘comments section,’” says Eric. “They just say awful things and hang up. Dom likes to engage.”
Part of Eric’s job is answering the phone—“Hi, 1210, what’s your first name? Where’re you calling from? What’s your comment?”—and summarizing callers on a queue board in the studio, so Dom can choose among them:
PAUL/LANSDOWNE/CHRISTIE IS DOING THE RIGHT THING
LINDA/WESTFORD/LET’S NOT TALK POLITICS FOR 48 HOURS
MARSHA/PLYMOUTH MEETING/WHEN I NEED HELP I’M GOING TO THE GOVERNMENT
Today is Election Day—well, election night—and Dom has invited me to ’PHT’s City Avenue studio. He worked his usual 9 a.m.-to-noon this morning and now is back for 9 p.m. to midnight with Stigall. Tomorrow, when Stigall calls in sick, Dom will cover his 6-to-9 a.m. shift and his own 9-to-noon. “Dom does it alone,” Buzz Bissinger told me. “I do four hours a day with a partner and I’m beat. It takes a lot out of you.”
Not Dom. “I’m like what Philadelphia is,” he tells me on a break. “Look at Aaron Rowand. He ran into a wall and still held onto the ball. We admire effort here.”
Tonight isn’t looking too good for Team Dom. Fox News just called the Senate race for Bob Casey. “I’m absolutely shocked!” Dom cries. Michigan falls to Obama. Massachusetts does, too. “If Romney wins this election,” Stigall snipes, “we’re not going to see murals with his portrait in schools. He’s not a god we worship.”
“Mitt Romney,” Dom says, “is a Jeep we’ll ride to economic prosperity!”
At 9:20, though, Pennsylvania is called for Obama. “I’m waiting to see the numbers,” Dom says stubbornly. But Eric, going for a coffee refill, laughs: “We just had a one-hour election special!”
“What are you seeing in the collar counties?” Dom demands of pollster James Lee. “What about the women? What Chris and I saw out in Bucks County at the Romney rally, the women, the young women … ” Those are his constituents. He listens to them when no one else will. How could they turn against him now?
I damn near feel sorry for him.
But the party’s over. On the studio TVs, CBS is showing Democratic victory celebrations. Dom takes a call from Paul in South Philly: “Do people not know Democrats are for gay marriage?” Paul wails.
Eric cues up the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Fox projects Ohio for Obama. “People are saying—Dom, Chris, you were idiots,” Stigall says, “standing in that field in Bucks County, thinking Pennsylvania could go for Romney.”
“It was a great moment!” Dom counters. “It was the most exciting moment I’ve ever had in radio, standing in the freezing cold with snot running out my nose. … ”
Other cities might not be so tolerant—so embracing—of Dom’s “I contain multitudes” contradictions. But here in Philly, we’re comfy with public figures’ dual natures: Ben Franklin’s gossamer diplomacy and plain talk, Grace Kelly’s ice and fire, John Street’s austerity and iPhone lust. We’re used to inconsistency—look at our sports teams. Hell, Arlen Specter held elected office here for more than 40 years.
Stigall heads home early. I do, too. Not Dom; he’ll finish his shift. The studio elevator spills me out into a vast, empty lobby. Dom may not appeal to my better nature, but I’m a true Philadelphian, just like him. I’m ashamed and I’m not as I hurry toward my car. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.