Democrats Need to Stop Fighting With Each Other if They Want to Win in November

Selfish moves made by Philly Dems risk turning off voters and inciting party rancor — a recipe for midterms disaster.

Two democratic donkeys square butt heads

Are Democrats wasting too much energy fighting with each other ahead of the November midterms? /  Illustration via iStockPhoto.

A wise woman once said, “When you do clownery, the clown comes back to bite.”

Someone should tell this to Democrats in Pennsylvania as their stunts ahead of the midterms backfire.

Earlier this week, State Rep Chris Rabb made the foolish decision to participate in an “invite-only” community panel alongside Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Oz in Northwest Philly. Rabb, a progressive Democrat who’s made a name bucking the establishment — Democrat and Republican alike — surprised his most devout supporters when he later claimed that he “repeatedly tried to speak during the program and make my voice heard but was never allowed to.”

“I was disgusted by what I heard at this event, which made clear that Oz does not understand my community and was only here for a photo op,” Rabb would later say in a statement issued by the campaign of John Fetterman, Oz’s Democratic opponent. “After the program ended and Oz began to address the cameras, I stood up, ripped up Oz’s pamphlet, and left.”

Rabb’s claim is now being disputed by some Black Republicans who were in that room, but a larger point has arisen: He shouldn’t have been there to begin with.

Rabb is an unapologetic progressive who has already made it clear that he wasn’t backing Oz in the Senate race. I’d argue that nothing was going to happen in that room, with less than two months until the election, to change his mind. So why did he go? I’d guess it was an attempt to distract from Oz’s campaign trip in Philly with what Rabb hoped would be a media-grabbing stunt (though sitting quietly on a panel doesn’t seem like much of a stunt). The upshot is that people (even his very own supportive elected progressives) have now spent more time questioning his appearance there than condemning Oz. More distraction than action.

The same could be said about what happened last week when a majority of Democrats in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives voted alongside GOP colleagues to hold D.A. Larry Krasner in contempt of the House for refusing to comply with legislative subpoenas. The startling 162-38 vote puts the GOP one step closer in its quest to impeach the progressive district attorney. Philadelphia-based State Reps Amen Brown and Danilo Burgos, who are Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, approved, with Republicans, the recommendation that the measure be voted on the floor. Other notable Democrats, such as lieutenant governor candidate Austin Davis, Mary Isaacson and others, joined the vote.

The reason? Many Democrats claim they’re simply following the law.

“The message was sent today that no one is above the law and it is not okay for any person in the state of Pennsylvania to think they can be above the law,” Brown told the press following the vote.

I call bullshit. If Democrats wanted to appear more moderate (and tougher on crime) before the midterms, there were other ways.

It seems obvious that Republicans are using Krasner to frame Democrats as soft on crime. And it’s easy to see political motives for some Democrats to pounce on him. (Davis’s running mate, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has history with Krasner, and in the primaries, Krasner backed an opponent against Brown.) So while the following-the-law defense might play now, the “dirty politics” and infighting within the Democratic Party just add fuel to the GOP’s fire.

The midterm election is on Tuesday, November 8th. I’d suggest a moratorium on stunts, antics, and beef between progressives and moderates until after that date. The stakes are too damn high right now for pettiness and ploys. Everyday voters who aren’t engrossed with politics don’t care about the partisan labels, name-calling and symbolic gestures — they want their rights protected and civility restored in our government.

Right now, I posit that Democrats — regardless of how far left they swing on the political spectrum — are a whole lot better in this regard than the party of Trump. November 8th needs to show that in Pennsylvania, we’re not headed toward the disintegration of basic rights. Right now, Democratic voters seem energized and united around these ideas. But party antics jeopardize the get-to-the-polls energy. In the 2020 presidential election, voters flipped the state from red to blue. That momentum can continue if Democrats stay focused on turnout.

Between now and November, I’d like to see more Democratic elected officials working in counties across Pennsylvania to make sure voters turn out. Democracy itself is on the ballot. Nothing else matters.