What the Incredible Rise of the Independent Voter Means for Philly

Philadelphia Independent Voter

Voting booth photo: William Thomas Cain/iStock.

For more than half of the 20th century, the number of registered independents and third-party voters in Philadelphia didn’t change much. From the 1940s to the early 1990s, there were never fewer than about 20,000 or more than 50,000. (Stick with me through some math here — it’s important.) Things began to take a turn in 1997, though, when the amount of indies and third-partiers in the city rose to 52,600; five years later, it climbed to 70,400; five years after that, it soared to 92,600. Today, there are nearly 124,000 in Philly — that’s an eye-popping increase of more than 154 percent over the past 20 years.

During the same time period, the number of local Democrats has grown by 24 percent, and Republican registrations have shrunk by 37 percent. In fact, for the first time in modern history, independents and third-party voters are now only 1,600 people away from outnumbering Republicans in the city. That’s stunning.

The boom in independents in Philadelphia could have an impact on local, state, and even federal elections. It could threaten the few GOP-held seats in city government. It could also chip away at the power of Philly Democrats to swing statewide and presidential races. And maybe, just maybe, it could make room for Socialists, Libertarians or Working Families Party members in local elected office. Read more »

Why Do Philly Socialists See an Opportunity in the Age of Trump?

Bernie Sanders supporters protest at City Hall during the DNC on July 28, 2016. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Bernie Sanders supporters protest at City Hall during the DNC on July 28, 2016. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I left work on a recent Thursday and walked a few blocks to the First Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street, where a handful of socialist groups had convened a last-minute panel discussion on the topic of “Socialism Under Trump.

I guess I’d expected the signup sheets and the free literature on the folding tables near the doors. And I wasn’t too surprised by the sober discussions of strategy and organizing and coalition-building that unfolded over the next two hours as panelists diagnosed the collapse of Democratic centrism and discussed how to respond to the growth of right-wing xenophobia. I hadn’t thought so many people would be there, though. The room wasn’t overflowing, by any stretch, but it didn’t look empty either. Crowd estimation is a fraught affair, but suffice it to say that it was a solid enough gathering to complicate a deportation raid or shut down traffic on 676. Read more »

Trump’s Election Was a Bomb Dropped on a Calm Neighborhood

President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office on November 10, 2016. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office on November 10, 2016. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Almost exactly ten years after my family had left Guatemala — a country mired in a horrifically violent and bloody 36-year undeclared war waged by the government on its own people — I sat with my parents in front of the TV set in our home in a then-rural Philadelphia suburb and watched police helicopters drop a bomb on the MOVE house on Osage Avenue.

Silent and stunned, we watched as the fire the bomb ignited took out 61 houses and, ultimately, left 11 dead, five of them children.

It seemed to me that a bit of Guatemala had followed us to the United States — the country that, until that moment, I had believed was proof against unchecked institutional violation of the rights of its citizens.

I am writing about the MOVE bombing now because the recent presidential election has me thinking about the ways of political administrations, and of the ordinary people those administrations fear, or revile, or decide to target. Read more »

Meet Joe DeFelice, Donald Trump’s Hype Man in Philly

Joe DeFelice Donald Trump

L: Joe DeFelice (photo via DeFelice’s Facebook), left, and Donald Trump (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been a fantastic year for Joe DeFelice, leader of the Philadelphia GOP. He helped Republican state Rep. Martina White fend off a Barack Obama-endorsed opponent in her Northeast district, where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one. He made sure John Taylor, a Philly Republican who has served in the state House of Representatives for 31 years, held onto his seat. And, most significant, he helped turn out the vote for president-elect Donald Trump: Trump outperformed Mitt Romney in the city by almost 2 points. (And when you drill into Philadelphia’s predominantly black voting precincts, his surge was more impressive. “Among the city’s wards that are more than 75 percent African American,” the Washington Post reported, “Trump got about 1,300 — or 31 percent — more votes than Romney.”)

We talked to DeFelice about the media’s failure to predict a Trump victory, the president-elect’s conflicts of interest, Trump strategist Steve Bannon and more. At times, it got pretty heated, but along with his Trump cheerleading, DeFelice staked out a couple positions that surprised us — like saying the Republican Party should “review” its policies “against” working-class Americans. This interview was largely conducted on November 15th, though we asked a few follow-up questions last week. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Parts of Northeast Philly went pretty big for Trump. So did parts of South Philly. As someone from Northeast, why do you think a lot of that area voted for Trump?
Because they felt disaffected from the political class. And, plus, Hillary Clinton couldn’t connect. Donald Trump was talking to people out of work. And to be honest with you, people saw this as an opportunity. There’s a lot of Democrats that came over. Granted, were the numbers bigger in Northeast Philly and South Philly and the River Wards? Yes. But if you look at the citywide map, Donald Trump is better in like 50 wards in the city. Fifty. You have Republicans that went for Clinton and then came back and voted for Toomey, and voted for the rest of the Republicans down ticket. But in the blue-collar areas, working-class people voted for Donald Trump because they’re not working and they feel their life is not better off now than it was four years ago. Read more »

The Latest on the Pennsylvania Vote Recount Effort

Jill Stein with Pennsylvania recount logo

Jill Stein photo by Gage Skidmore (license)

Update, 1:40 p.m.: According to Jill Stein’s campaign, by Monday afternoon recount requests were filed in more than 100 districts.

“After a presidential election tarnished by the use of outdated and unreliable machines and accusations of irregularities and hacks, people of all political persuasions are asking if our election results are reliable,” Stein said in a statement. “We must recount the votes so we can build trust in our election system.”

Stein also said Monday she’d filed a legal petition with more than 100 voters seeing a recount in the state.

Earlier: Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein says she expects vote challenges to be filed today in Pennsylvania, the last day to request a recount of the state’s 2016 presidential election results.

Stein, who rallied with Cornel West under I-95 in South Philadelphia during the DNC, has raised $6.2 million for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The effort began after computer experts said they had found evidence that vote counts in those three states may have been manipulated or hacked.

But the process is complicated — at least in Pennsylvania. Stein can’t file for a recount for herself; instead, three voters from each voting district must request one. Per Billy Penn, Stein would need about 30,000 volunteers for this effort — and in some counties, the recount filing deadline has passed already. Stein could also file a lawsuit, but would need evidence that election fraud was “probable.” A lawsuit, then, seems like the likeliest avenue to force an audit of election results. But it seems unlikely to succeed barring evidence of fraud emerging. Read more »

This All Seems Very Familiar, Say Philly Holocaust Survivors

George Sakheim, a Philadelphia-area Holocaust survivor, places a message into a time capsule at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s "What You Do Matters" dinner on Wednesday evening. Photo courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

George Sakheim, a Philadelphia-area Holocaust survivor, places a message into a time capsule at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “What You Do Matters” dinner on Wednesday evening. Photo courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

He is 93 now, old enough to remember gleefully casting a vote for Franklin Roosevelt in the fall of 1944. But George Sakheim has no trouble calling upon memories from even earlier in life, revisiting his childhood with the ease of a man flipping through a photo album.

This one is from 1933. He and his mother were living in Berlin then, the two of them still wading through the grief of his father’s sudden death from a ruptured appendix a few years earlier. Sakheim was in the fourth grade, and on this particular day, he and his classmates were herded to an auditorium for an assembly. A special guest wanted to speak to the children.

And once Adolf Hitler opened his mouth and started discussing his vision for revitalizing Germany — and grousing about the things he believed were holding it back —  Sakheim knew something was terribly wrong. Read more »

What Philly Republicans Think of Steve Bannon, Trump’s Alt-Right-Hand Man

Steve Bannon, campaign CEO for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, looks on during a national security meeting with advisors at Trump Tower, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Steve Bannon, chief strategist and former campaign CEO for Donald Trump. | Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Sam Katz is a well-known businessman in Philadelphia who ran three unsuccessful campaigns for mayor as a Republican. He came within 8,000 votes of winning in 1999, an extraordinary feat in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans seven to one.

He says Steve Bannon, whom president-elect Donald Trump has just selected as his chief strategist, “is a disgrace.” Read more »

How We Became Me

Illustration by Vahram Muradyan

Illustration by Vahram Muradyan

When I was in grade school, I was a Girl Scout. To be in the Girl Scouts, you had to buy a uniform. You went to Sears and you bought your uniform and you wore it to meetings, even though it was bunchy and uncomfortable and weird (what was with that necktie?), because that’s what all the other girls in your Girl Scout troop did, and you wanted to fit in. You wanted to belong. As I recall my adolescence, in fact, it was all one mighty heaving haul toward belonging, toward deliquescing into the melting pot, slipping sideways into the streaming mass of humanity without standing out or sticking forth or even particularly being noticed. The goal was assimilation — being subsumed completely, without causing a ripple. Read more »

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