Thursday, March 8, 2018

I had not expected this: Only 5 more Democrats filed for committeeperson in 2018 than filed in 2014!

Center: Steve Paul, Chair Democratize Philly

I had not expected this. In my book Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party, I predicted that the green shoots of democracy which emerged in the 2014 committeeperson elections would take root in Philadelphia neighborhoods and result in a revitalized ward system in 2018.

On January 15, 2018 a group of progressive organizations announced the formation of Democratize Philly, a coalition initiated by ADA to recruit and support progressive candidates to run for Committeeperson. In January and February organizations such as Caucus of Working Educators, Neighborhood Networks, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Moving Philly Forward, Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Philly for Change, Reclaim Philadelphia and 3.0 ran workshops on how to run for committeeperson.

The level of activity and degree of enthusiasm appeared to be much greater in 2018 than was the case in 2014, suggesting that discontent with the undemocratic Democratic Party may be finally reaching a tipping point.

However, the numbers suggest otherwise. Dave Davies reported that 3,267 Democrats filed to run for committeeperson, only five more than in 2014. And only 513 Republicans filed for committeeperson, down from 788 four years ago.

Davies turned to Jen Devor, who ran committeeperson trainings for an explanation of these disappointing numbers. Devor suggested that perhaps fewer incumbents were running and so the mix contained a larger proportion of newcomers. She suggested that longtime committeepeople might not be running because "it’s a more competitive race this time around.“ Maybe. But there are other reasons long time committeepeople might be retiring. I am stepping down after 32 years as a committeeperson in the 9th ward because I think old folks should not be hanging onto these positions for 30, 40 years but should make room for a younger generation to fill these slots. I know others in in my age cohort who are retiring for this reason. I am happy to report that an energetic young woman will be running for the slot I’ve held for decades.

We won’t know until we learn the number of incumbents who chose not to run(for whatever reason), just how disappointing the 2018 numbers are. We also need to know where the newcomers are concentrated. According to Davies' report, City Commissioner Al Schmidt said that the neighborhoods with the highest number of candidates appeared to be in the Northeast and South Philadelphia where there are contests for ward leader.

Are they candidates who are running simply to support a particular candidate for ward leader, which is likely to be the case in the Northeast? Or are they candidates with a vision of how the ward system should operate or a political philosophy they would like to advance—-as is more likely to be the case in South Philly? The numbers are not what I had hoped to see; however, there may be a significantly higher number of people with a deeper commitment to political change than we had in 2014.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Soon there will be daffodils!

Winter gets harder and harder. Each year I am more and more impatient for spring. The snowdrops were late this year but now they are in abundance

Species crocus are everywhere:

And witch hazel is in bloom. It's on its way out but still wonderfully fragrant.

It never really feels like spring has arrived until the daffodils bloom; unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to wait a week or so for the first daffodils to emerge.

Soon I will be out there working in my garden. Cicero said it all: "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

So impressed by the number of organizations running workshops encouraging their members to run for committeeperson!

A Philadelphia/NOW/ Philadelphia CLUWworkshop on running for committeeperson at Big Blue Marble bookstore on February 10

I have been so impressed by the number of organizations out there running workshops encouraging their members to run for committeeperson-- Philadelphia Chapters of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Neighborhood Networks, Philly for Change, Reclaim Philadelphia, the Caucus of Working Educators, Moving Philly Forward, 3.0 among others.

The level of activity and degree of enthusiasm is much greater than was the case in 2014, documented in my book Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party. And the activity in 2014 was much greater than in previous election cycles.

Discontent with the undemocratic party Democratic Party may be finally reaching a tipping point. Growing numbers of political activists and concerned citizens realize that our one-party town can no longer afford an undemocratic Democratic Party. The closed, top-down party structure, currently disintegrating into competing factions, is not working. 2018 provides an opportunity for real political change, with engaged committeepersons a powerful force, educating voters about candidates and about the democratic process. Something is happening out there!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The really good news from the Women’s March--the emphasis on voting!

I managed to attend part of Saturday's Women’s March and was encouraged by the large turn out. The March was diverse in age with many young women, including many who looked like they were high school age.

In terms of race/ethnicity, the March was once again a disappointment. Given the demographics of Philly, the crowd should have been much more diverse. I know the organizers worked hard to attract a multi-racial crowd but the fact that 53% of white women voted for Trump no doubt had some thing to do with the low numbers of women of color. We have work to do.
The president of Planned Parenthood called on white women to do more to "save this country from itself," acknowledging that women of color were responsible for with many of the recent political victories.

The really good news from the March was the emphasis on voting and on the critical need for more feminist women to run for office. Many of the signs conveyed the message that women must use the power of the ballot to get rid of Donald Trump. Marches can energize and galvanize but the only way to rid our county of this monster is to elect a Democratic House and Senate who will impeach him or, failing that, defeat him in the 2020 presidential election.

It will be a different electorate in 2020. Many of those young women at the March were too young to vote in 2016, but they will be out in force in 2018 and in 2020. I was especially heartened by the Las Vegas rally, which launched an effort to register 1 million voters and target swing states like Nevada in the 2018 midterm elections. Change is coming.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A potentially powerful new coalition:

Center: Steve Paul, Chair Democratize Philly

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day than to encourage citizens committed to racial, gender and economic justice to become involved in the political process. Today the members of Americans for Democratic Action Southeastern PA (ADA), the Caucus of Working Educators, Neighborhood Networks, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Moving Philly Forward, Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Philly for Change, Reclaim Philadelphia, and United Voices for Philadelphia announced the formation of Democratize Philly, a coalition initiated by ADA and chaired by Steve Paul. From the press release posted on the coalition’s website:
We are announcing the formation of Democratize Philly, a coalition of progressive organizations seeking to recruit and support progressive candidates to run for Committeeperson who are committed to the values of social, economic, racial, and gender justice. Our mission is to increase democratic participation, voter turnout, and transparency in Philadelphia’s political process.

We come together around this mission because we believe that a healthy democracy is built on the political participation of all its citizens. Unfortunately, voter turnout has continued to be dismally low in Philadelphia. Last November was a stark reminder of that reality with barely 20% of Philadelphia voters turning out to vote.

A consensus has emerged that our one-party town can no longer afford an undemocratic Democratic Party. The current closed, top-down party structure disintegrating into competing factions is not working. 2018 provides an opportunity for political change -- engaged committeepersons can be a powerful force, educating voters about candidates and about the democratic process.

Some highlights from the press conference:
Numa St Louis from United Voices for Philadelphia emphasized the contributions of immigrants to our society and urged recent immigrants to become engaged in the political process.

Amy Roat and Luigi Borda from the Caucus of Working Educators: We “encourage educators, parents, and public school advocates to do more by becoming an elected committee person this spring. With active members in every section of Philadelphia we are uniquely positioned to help make real change. Our goal is to do the work necessary to hold politicians accountable to provide the children of Philadelphia with the schools they deserve.”

Margaret Lenzi from Neighborhood Networks: “Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Democratic Party as it’s now constituted, is a failure at its core function of getting out the vote for candidates who have our back. That’s why it’s so important for progressive Democrats to become committee people in 2018, an opportunity that won’t arise again for four years. NN’s Committee Person Project provides training, resources and assistance to progressives who want to run for Committee Person in 2018.”

Grace Palladino from Philadelphia NOW: "2018 will be the Year of the Woman, and the National Organization for Women is thrilled to be a place where female candidates can come to get support, a platform, resources, and encouragement. I believe Donald Trump has awoken a sleeping giant, and the awe-inspiring potential of women working together is being revealed across this nation. If you are a female or feminist candidate looking for support, please reach out to NOW’s Philadelphia chapter today. We are here for you.
Grace Palladino from Philadelphia NOW

Many thanks to Emma Restrepo for a video of the press conference highlighting the speeches of Amy Roat, Luigi Borda, and Margaret Lenzi.

For decades progressives have worked to make the Philadelphia Democratic Party more democratic, more transparent. See my account of this activity in Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party. I think we have finally reached the critical mass of progressive activists we need for real change. Interest in the committeeperson races is far greater than I have ever seen with more organizations than ever working to educate their members about running for these seats. No doubt Donald Trump has something to do with this increased activity.

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Feminist Activism across the Generations

I took a break from writing projects for the holidays and with my Elena Ferrante book now in the hands of McFarland publishers, I’m ready to tackle a new expanded version of Feminism in Philadelphia, tentatively titled Building the Feminist Movement, Building Feminist Institutions: Feminist Activism across the Generations.

Feminism in Philadelphia charted the growth of the second wave feminist movement with an emphasis on NOW, the major engine of institutional change. This is certainly not the complete story of the history of second wave feminism in Philadelphia. Many low-income women, disproportionately women of color, struggled in obscurity for racial and gender justice; their actions were not recorded by the local press, and they were much less likely to leave detailed records. No doubt, much of what occurred was not documented, or if documented, not deposited in libraries or archives accessible to me.

Although NOW may have been the focal point, it was certainly not the only locus of feminist activity in Philadelphia in the late 1960s and 1970s. NOW activists were focused primarily on changing the rules by which society was governed and opening up government, business and what had been traditionally male occupations to women. Some, like Philadelphia NOW founding member and psychologist Jean Ferson, were also involved in the consciousness raising movement, the feminist therapy movement and the emerging women’s health moment. There were other feminists focused primarily on creating feminist free spaces—book stores, clubs, music festivals—rather than building feminist organizations. There were feminists who did not belong to explicitly feminist organizations like NOW but worked tirelessly for gender justice in their unions, their professional associations, in educational institutions and religious organizations. There were those who wanted nothing less than total revolution and were impatient of and often contemptuous towards those trying to change existing social institutions. The energy and creativity was enormous.

When conditions are ripe, a handful of dedicated activists really can transform the world. The changes in the status of women in my lifetime have been enormous and some have become so much a part of the air we breathe that we no longer perceive the extent of the changes.

Feminism in Philadelphia focused on activism and advocacy, but a major strand of the story was left untold—the enormous energy put into building feminist institutions. The service organizations founded on a shoe string by committed feminists--the battered women’s shelters, the rape crisis centers--were beginning to receive significant funding from government and from private foundations. Yes, the funding came with strings attached and the radical edge of some of these organizations was blunted, but more women were receiving services and the women who had been providing them for free could now get jobs as service providers.

By analyzing the struggle to build these institutions, I intend to try to complete the story of second wave feminism in Philadelphia, to the extent that such a story can ever be fully told. The history of feminism in Philadelphia is a case study, a microcosm of the trajectory of second wave feminism, a story unfolding in similar ways in cities across the country. The dividing line between political activism and institution building is not always easy to draw, with many individuals and organizations involved in both. The resources available for building feminist institutions were for the most part available only in urban areas and hence their concentration in large cities like Philadelphia.

I intend my analysis of this history to be a springboard for an exploration of the very different approaches of a younger generation of feminist activists who reject the organizational model of the older progressive organizations with their hierarchical structures and elected leadership. As our society becomes increasingly mobile and use of internet technology more widespread, NOW’s geographically based chapter model with face-to-face meetings as its major organizing tool, strikes some younger members as an anachronism. Many younger feminists are creating more fluid, internet driven forms of feminist organizing rather than the hierarchical structures NOW’s founding generation developed. But can social change be achieved without the kinds structured organizations that fueled the second wave feminist movement?

Yes, the January 2017 Women’s March bubbled up from the grassroots. Established feminist organizations eventually signed on, but the initial impulse came from the grassroots. It’s too soon to tell if all that amazing energy will lead to real change. We’ll have a better idea after November 2018.

Friday, December 15, 2017

I have finally finished my book on the novels of Elena Ferrante!

I have been neglecting this little blog—and everything else in my life for that matter--to fulfill my commitment to deliver my manuscript, In Search of Elena Ferrante to the publisher by December 15. It’s now in the hands of UPS. I don’t know yet what the final title will be as the publisher has the rights over the title and unfortunately the price.

I am in state of exhaustion, and feel like some kind of cold /flu is coming on. This reminds me of what tended to happen when I was working—especially at the end of the fall semester. Right after I submitted my grades, I got sick, usually something minor; it was almost as if by sheer will power I was holding off the flu until my grades were in.

I wrote this book to try to understand why the Neapolitan Quartet has had such a hold over me. The answer is no surprise; Ferrante has created truly memorable characters. Great novelists owe their place in the literary pantheon to the creation of characters such as David Copperfield, Anna Karenina, Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, Raskolnikov etc.; for many readers, these are real people. I was struck by novelist Jonathan Franzen’s response when asked by an interviewer what question he would ask Elena Ferrante if he had the opportunity. Franzen replied: “I might ask her what she imagines happened to the eponymous lost child of the fourth Neapolitan novel.” For Franzen, like many other readers, Tina is on some level a real person and we want very much to know her fate. I had a similar experience when I read that as the result of a 1986 prison reform law, life in prison was effectively abolished in Italy. My initial reaction was to think that just maybe Pasquale would not spend his entire life in prison, as if Pasquale were a real person rotting away in Poggioreale prison, rather than a fictional character.

As Ferrante herself has said, every book is a collective effort. I owe a great deal to the members of my feminist book club: Kathy Black, Gloria Gilman, Caryn Hunt and Beth Lewis. They went along with my suggestion to read Ferrante’s novels, although Ferrante was just beginning to be known in the United States, and at the time none had heard of her. The opportunity to discuss Ferrante’s novels with them certainly helped me to clarify my thinking and deepen my appreciation for Ferrante’s work. I owe a special debt to my good friend Kathy Black who read and critiqued an early draft of this book.

Most of all I owe a debt to my husband Rick, for his invaluable assistance in critiquing and proofreading the manuscript. I am especially indebted to him for his insights into the special challenges of analyzing a work in translation as well as insights into the process of translation itself. In a sense, this book was a collaboration between Rick and me, perhaps especially appropriate as Ferrante’s novels are I believe a collaboration between Anita Raja and her husband Domenico Starnone.

I have been living with Ferrante’s novels for some time now--reading, writing and rereading about Elena, Lila, Nino, Pasquale and the whole cast of characters. I can’t quite let go and am tempted to pick up My Brilliant Friend and immerse myself in yet another re-reading. But I have a stack of books I have put off reading until the Ferrante book was done and it’s time to shift gears for a while.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stockholm: The Scandinavia Diaries, Part III

Stockholm was a surprise; I had not expected such a beautiful city. Built on islands, there is water everywhere. It is no doubt best appreciated in high summer with the play of sunlight on all that the water. We decided to go in September when prices are lower and crowds thinner, but it was colder and grayer than I would have liked. We did have some sunshine, fortunately, but if we go again we’ll put up with the high prices and summer crowds for the long days of the midnight sun.

There’s a reason Stockholm is sometimes called the Venice of the North, with all those bridges and buildings right at the water’s edge:

I had also not expected such a rich architectural heritage. I realized when we visited Stockholm’s excellent history museum that I knew next to nothing about the history of Sweden. I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that Sweden was a major imperial power in the 17th and 18th centuries and that wealth means imposing architecture and museums with impressive collections.

We stayed in the picturesque, beautifully preserved old town, Gamlastan, with its narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous squares. Gamlastan has the reputation of swarming with tourists , and we worried that it might be a mistake to stay there. But we loved our apartment on a little street right off beautiful Stortorget Square and all the very good restaurants within easy walking distance. (However, it might not be a good idea to stay in Gamlastan in high summer.)

The Stortorget Square right near our apartment in Gamlastan

The cafe near our apartment where we had many an Irish coffee

Street scene in Gamlastan

Street scene in Gamlastan

Swedish food a can be very good; among the best restaurants are Fem Sna Hus and Gyldene Fredens. The bad news is that restaurants in Stockholm are very expensive. The bills have been coming in and they are a lot higher than we had planned to spend, but we don't regret visiting Scandinavia. Just hope we don't have major home repairs this year!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bergen: The Scandinavia Diaries, Part II

Bergen street scene

Norway is one of the most beautiful countries we have ever been to, Bergen one of the most interesting cities and the train ride from Oslo to Bergen as spectacular as the train to Macchu Pichu. (Many thanks to Emily Harting and her friend for recommending that spectacular train ride.}
View from the train to Bergen as we climbed above the tree line.

The highlight of our stay in Bergen was our trip to fiords. Much of our time in Bergen the skies were gray, but we had sunlight when it really mattered -–the cruise to the fiords. If I were a young person with many trips ahead of me, one of these would be a fiord cruise up to the Arctic circle and I would go during the time of the midnight sun. Our trip to Finland and two trips to St. Petersburg were in June and the long days were magical. I recall in Petersburg at 11:00pm it looked like late afternoon. It never really became dark and at about 3:00 AM the sun rose. All that sun light was exhilarating! As retirees, we’ve been traveling when the crowds are thinner and prices lower,but some times high season prices are worth it, and Scandinavia may be one of these places.
Sailing towards the fiords

View of the Norwegian countryside from our boat

One of the many waterfalls we passed on our trip to the fiords

In addition to the incredible scenic beauty, there is much of historic interest in Bergen and the surrounding countryside. Bergen is an architectural open-air museum with wonderfully preserved 16thc.houses and the Hanseatic Museumwhich gives the visitor a sense of what it must have been like to have been a merchant (or worse an apprentice) in the 16th c. Baltic world.

Another museum I recommend is the Grieg museumat Edvard Grieg's beautiful summer house outside Bergen. The vist to the museum also includes a piano concert. There was much that we didn't see and regret we had only four days in Bergen.

Our small hotel the Park Hotel was delightful: great breakfasts, excellent service in a quiet part of Bergen; however, the downside—and there’s always a downside-- there is no public transportation in the city center. When we asked about this, we were told by the hotel staff, that it wasn’t needed: “We’re Norwegians; we walk.’ This was not exactly what two elderly, out-of-shape Americans wanted to hear. So we took a lot of very expensive cabs.

Restaurants in Bergen were as incredibly expensive as those in Oslo. We found a traditional Norwegian restaurant, To Kokker, with fresh ingredients cooked perfectly. We liked it so much we went there twice. We also tried a restaurant specializing in the “new Nordic cuisine”—too austere for my taste. And as in Oslo, if you want a bottle of wine with dinner, you will pay a very steep price.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Oslo: The Scandinavia Diaries, Part I

Oslo on a rare sunny day

Rick and I put off going to Scandinavia for many years because it was crazily expensive. We decided that, since at our stage of life we don’t have too many trips left, it was probably now or never for Scandinavia. And we are so glad we did.

We flew first to Oslo—a sparklingly clean city with no graffiti in sight. It’s by all accounts a very livable city with lots of green space—but not the kind of city you fall in love with. At least I did not. I like more diversity, more of an urban buzz. However, I certainly enjoyed spending a few days there. My only complaint was I would have liked a little more sunshine.

Our hotel the Saga Hotel had its pro’s and con’s. It was located a bit off the beaten track in a quiet section just outside central Oslo. We enjoyed the relative tranquility but the downside was we had to take cabs everywhere. The hotel was not very helpful in providing information about the transit system, but we eventually learned how to get around. Moral of the story: we need to do research about public transport before we arrive in a city.

Our Hotel in Oslo

The main problem in Scandinavia is not so much hotel prices, which were comparable to other European cities, but restaurant prices, especially wine prices. I had been learning to like beer in preparation for the trip; when we were in Helsinki many years ago we discovered that in Scandinavia beer was affordable; wine was not. However, we found we just could not give up our nightly bottle of wine, so we resigned ourselves to the insane prices.

The best restaurant we found in Oslo was unfortunately the most expensive— La Brasserie. It could easily have been in Paris. Although it might seem a little silly to go to Norway and seek out a French restaurant, we did need a break from Norwegian food.

There is more to do in Oslo than we could manage in our four days. We have become real “slow travellers.” In our early years of traveling together we managed to pack a whole lot into a day. Now it’s at most two attractions per day and a lot of hanging out at cafes soaking in the atmosphere. We spent a lot of time at the Grand Cafe--as did Ibsen!

Among the major attractions of Oslo, my favorite was Norsk Folkemuseum, Norway’s largest museum of cultural history. The160 buildings in the Open-Air Museum represent different regions in Norway, different time periods.I could have spent days just wandering around the open-air museum
Gol Stave Church from around 1200

an 18th c. settlement in Southern Norway

Oslo then known as Christiana in the mid-17th century

The national gallery of Norway is also a must see-especially for lovers of Edvard Munch. I used to count myself among them, but tastes change. "The Scream" no longer speaks to me.

Oslo has a great deal to offer. It's not a city we're likely to return to, but I'm very glad to have visited Oslo.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2018 may be the year when we see real change in the Philadelphia Democratic Party.

Incurable optimist that I am, I think 2018 may be the year when we see real change in the Philadelphia Democratic Party. In 2014, I was among the members of Philadelphia NOW and Philadelphia CLUW who ran workshops encouraging our members and all interested citizens to run for Committeeperson. Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) conducted perhaps the most successful workshop, both in turnout at their event and in actually getting people to run and to win. All our efforts brought some new people into the ward system, but not enough to form a critical mass.

But we planted a seed. I described these efforts in my book Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party. I was cautiously optimistic that the green shoots that emerged in 2014 would take root and flourish. That clearly is happening with a range of groups planning to hold workshops/events to encourage participation in the 2018 committeeperson elections.

On Saturday, September 9th,
from 11-3, Philly Set Go, Philadelphia 3.0 , and Seamaac, Inc. , will sponsor a non-partisan, family friendly, voter registration and civics event at Mifflin Square Park (6th & Ritner). The event will include information about the committeeperson races. Nina Ahmad, the Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement and past president of Philadelphia NOW is among the speakers.

On September 14, John Kromer will introduce his very useful PowerPoint presentation on the ward system at an event sponsored by Weaver’s Way. He is making his presentation available to groups holding workshops on running for committeeperson.

On September 21 at Ladder 15, the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Committee will sponsor “Back to Business: Get Involved Happy Hour” to discuss ways of getting involved in politics, including running for a committeeperson in 2018.

On September 24, Neighborhood Networks will sponsor “Beyond the Resistance: Building a Justice Agenda in Philly,” which will include information on how to run for a committeeperson in 2018.

There will no doubt be many more such events. Americans for Democratic Action is planning a project to coordinate the efforts of progressives in the 2018 committeeperson races. Specifics are not yet available.

From conversations I have had recently, it's clear that there will be a lot of activity surrounding the committeeperson races and no one organization can coordinate it all. There apparently will be efforts by neighborhood groups independent of anything city-wide groups sponsor. The more activity, the better to achieve the long-term goal of opening up/democratizing the Democratic Party.

In 2014 there was nothing like this level of activity so early in the election cycle. Something‘s happening out there!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Some Thoughts on Women’s Equality Day

Last Saturday was Women’s Equality Day. It passed without much notice. In Philly there were only two events that I knew of, both sponsored by Vision 2020: The Toast to Tenacity to honor the suffragists who fought for the right to vote and the Women’s History Scavenger Hunt “uncovering little-known stories that give voice to women who made a difference.” There were commemorations on feminist websites, but Women's Equality Day has never really taken off as has International Women’s Day.

Women's Equality Day dates back to 1971 when Congress passed a resolution designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. The law, states that the president is "authorized and requested to issue a proclamation in commemoration of that day in 1920 on which the women in American were first guaranteed the right to vote."

Every president since then has issued a proclamation, and even Donald Trump did so although according to to Jezebel columnist Stassa Edwards, it seemed like an afterthought: “In what really seems like a last minute decision, Donald Trump has declared Saturday Women’s Equality Day.” Edwards noted that the announcement was sent just before the end of the workday.

The proclamation is hard to take seriously given Trump’s choice of a Supreme Court nominee who would strike down Roe v. Wade and his support for a Republican health care law which would defund Planned Parenthood.

In general I tend to be an optimist and ( for the most part) believe the arc of history bends towards justice. Since the early 1970s, I have been confident the trajectory of the feminist movement has been upwards and onwards. Yes, there were some major setbacks in the 1980s, but feminists have successfully fought back and Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.

This is the first Women's Equality Day when I am no longer so confident. Even if a progressive Democrat is elected in 2020, so much damage will have been done, so much damage control we will have to do. I am clinging to the belief that although the Trump victory does represent a step backward on so many fronts, we will be back on track in 2020.

I keep reminding my self that Hillary won the popular vote by a margin of three million. In the words of Michael Ignatieff: “A different outcome was only narrowly defeated…our present situation could have turned out very differently. We need to remember this if we are to recover the faith in ourselves that we need in order to shape the future in the direction of progressive ideals.” I’m trying to take his advice.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Democratic Party must honor its pro-choice platform

My initial reaction was disbelief when I read that Bernie Sanders and new leadership of the Democratic National Committee Tom Pérez and Keith Ellison took their “Unity Tour” to Omaha to rally for Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate with a record opposing abortion rights. As a Nebraska state senator, Mello co-sponsored some of the worst restrictions on abortion rights in the country. According to Jodi Jacops' post in Rewire: “Those laws remain in place, and Mello has neither denounced them nor made clear whether he now understands why they are so damaging." For an in depth analysis of the anti-abortion rights legislation Mello sponsored, see Jacobs' article in Rewire.

The pro-choice community denounced the Democrats' support for Mello, with Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, calling it a betrayal, especially of the women who have fueled the resistance against Trump.

Faced with an onslaught of criticism from pro-choice activists, Pérez apparently backed down from his previous position that “that the Democratic Party should not “demand fealty” on every issue, including abortion.” Perez issued a statement affirming the Democratic Party’s unequivocal support for the party’s pro-choice platform:
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” the chair said. “That is not negotiable.” He added: “We must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice."
I thought the Democratic Party had come to its senses but then the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Ben Ray Lujan announced that the Party would not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights. In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) said “there will be no litmus tests for candidates as Democrats seek to find a winning roster to regain the House majority in 2018.”

The Hill also reported that Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer have both argued against party litmus tests, saying there's room for people with different opinions on abortion.” Nancy Pelosi?

Pro-choice advocates continued to push back, insisting that abortion rights are a fundamental human rights issue and an economic issue. Leila McDowell, a spokeswoman with EMILY's List, told The Hill:
"At the core of the Democratic Party is our commitment to a better economic future for the working people of our country. Reproductive choice is fundamental to our platform. One of the most important financial decisions a woman makes is when and how to start a family…Democrats don't need to choose between coal miners in Ohio, nurses in Georgia, or home healthcare workers in Arizona. This isn't a choice Democrats need to make. It's a coalition we need to win."
Katha Pollitt in The Nation says it best:
Imagine if Democrats, sick and tired of losing white votes in Mississippi, decided to nominate a segregationist for governor. Imagine if they found that LGBTQ rights turn off voters in Tennessee, so they ran one of those anti-same-sex-marriage Christian bakers. Imagine if they found that plenty of Oklahoma voters didn’t believe in climate change, so they ran a denialist. After all, why get hung up on one item in the long list of good things we all support when the important thing is getting back into power? Everyone has to take one for the team sometimes, right?
Don’t worry, Nation readers. These scenarios aren’t about to happen. Only women are expected to let history roll backwards over them. Only women’s rights to contraception and abortion are perpetually debatable, postponable, side-trackable, while those who insist on upholding the party platform—and the Constitution—are dismissed as rigid ideologues with a “litmus test.”
Incoming National Organization for Women President Toni Van Pelt in her press release “Urgent Message to Democratic Leaders: You Can’t Have Economic Justice Without Reproductive Justice” has called on “grassroots activists across the country to march into their Congressional Democratic offices and make their voices heard, and to work at the local Democratic party level–as individuals, or with their NOW chapters. … The Democratic Party cannot and should not take us for granted. Party leaders must think again, and get it right this time.” As a longtime feminist and committed NOW activist, I intend to heed Toni Van Pelt’s call to action.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I can’t believe this was my first visit to Chanticleer!

Chanticleer in August

I can’t believe this was my first visit to Chanticleer. For years I have been planning to go, but somehow never got it together.

When my husband and I travel, I always make sure we make time for the great gardens of the places we visit. I can’t imagine a visit to London without going to Kew Gardens or to Berlin without the Botanical Gardens. But somehow I didn’t get it together to visit this incredibly beautiful garden right here in my own backyard.

This is not a garden where I get ideas to introduce into my own garden. Chanticleer takes advantage of abundant sun and space, which I do not have. My wild garden is so crammed with plants that it would be a challenge to find room for something new and I sure don’t have the energy or inclination to rip up what I have.

What I love about Chanticleer is the tranquility. The number of visitors is limited by the size of the parking lot and the website states:” Our parking lot holds 120 cars and can fill on weekends and Friday evenings. Please car pool and understand once we reach capacity, we will ask you to return another time.” There are no hordes of visitors disrupting the serenity at Chanticleer. I plan to become a member and visit as often as I can!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Why was Bob Brady so concerned about getting Judge Jimmie Moore out of the 2012 congressional race?

Why was Bob Brady so concerned about getting Judge Jimmie Moore out of the 2012 congressional race? Given his campaign war chest and long standing ties with ward leaders and elected officials in the district, Brady should not have been too worried. However, if Moore had stayed in the race and done reasonably well, he would have exposed Brady’s vulnerability as a white congressperson representing a largely African-American district and encouraged future challengers.

It’s likely Brady was as threatened by the issues Moore was raising as by the electoral threat he posed. Moore was the lone voice publicly and repeatedly attacking Brady for his role in the 2012 redistricting battle and wrote an open letter reprimanding Brady for his collusion with Republicans.

Moore’s challenge to Brady received little attention from the local press, but did garner some state and national coverage. PoliticsPA’s Keegan Gibson, reported that in “An Open Letter to Robert Brady, Honorary Chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party,” Moore accused Brady of supporting the Republican Party’s agenda. From Moore’s letter:

Despite the new map’s overwhelming favorability to the GOP, it seemed that Republicans in the General Assembly would not have enough votes to pass the redistricting plan—that was, until you stepped up and started rounding up votes in support of the GOP plan.
It has been widely reported that Republican leaders in the General Assembly turned to you to secure the necessary votes for passage. Some speculate that you agreed to do this in exchange for a favorable re-drawing of your own congressional district. While the Democratic Party as a whole was the big loser in the redistricting process, you were among the biggest winners.

The national blog POLITICO noted that Moore made Brady’s support for the Republican redistricting plan a central theme of his campaign to unseat Brady in the 2012 primary. From POLITICO:
In a letter to Brady posted on Moore’s website, the former judge wrote: “Watching you sell out your party for your own benefit, I felt as I imagine [Philadelphia] Eagles fans would feel if Michael Vick, in his Eagles uniform, was caught in the back of a bar sharing game plans with [New York Giants quarterback] Eli Manning…He’s not just a Democrat. He is the head of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia. When the head of the party teams up with the opposing party, what does that say?” Moore told POLITICO. “I think it’s major.”

Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s political leaders looked the other way. Very few were willing to criticize a powerful and well-funded incumbent congressman.

After Moore dropped out of the race, Brady released a joint statement with Moore in which he pledged “to support Moore in the future,” Despite making this commitment, Brady refused to accept the results of the 2014 ward leader election which Moore narrowly won. In 2015 I interviewed Moore for my book on ward politics, Green Shoots of Democracy in the Philadelphia Democratic Party. According to Moore, immediately after the election Williams conceded, shook his hand and congratulated him in front of the assembled committeepersons. On June 11, 2014, two days after the ward leader election, the Inquirer reported that the only successful challenge against an incumbent ward leader was in North Philadelphia, where retired Municipal Judge Jimmie Moore defeated 32nd Ward leader Gary Williams.

A few days later, Moore received a letter from Party Chair Bob Brady stating that Williams had contested the ward leader election. There was no explanation as to why Williams was challenging the results of an election he had already conceded, arousing suspicion that the impetus for the challenge came from Brady rather than from Williams. Moore responded to the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s decision to declare Gary Williams the winner of the ward leader election by filing suit in United States District Court on June 20, 2014.

Brady certainly derailed Moore’s political hopes to revitalize the 32nd ward, but he did far worse damage to the Democratic Party. As a result of the Republican redistricting plan which Brady supported, we now have a congressional delegation with thirteen Republicans to five Democrats—despite the fact that in the 2010 general election 2,701,820 Pennsylvanians voted for a Democrat for Congress, compared to 2,626,995 who voted for a Republican.

According to 
Azavea, the firm that developed the Redistricting the Nation project, before redistricting Brady’s district was 31.8% White and 48.0% black. His new district will be 46.9% white and 35.5% black. (The Asian and Latino percentages have changed very little).

Brady must have hoped that his role in redistricting would be forgotten and given the response of most Philadelphia elected officials and political reporters, he had every reason to believe that it would. Then Judge Jimmie Moore made Brady’s shameful role in redistricting the center piece of his campaign. No wonder Brady wanted to get him out of the race.