Democratic party

Another victory for democracy, transparency in the Democratic Party—this time in the Pennsylvania Democratic party!

Some friends of mine who are very disillusioned with the Democratic Party and see little hope for improvement ask me why I bother working within the Democratic Party. Every once in awhile something happens which makes me think it might be worth it after all.

Progress shouldn’t be this painfully slow, but the determination and persistence of Tracey Gordon and Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus has finally paid off. The Philadelphia Democratic Party finally acknowledged that Tracey Gordon won election as committeeperson in 2010 and seated her. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Pennsylvania Democratic Progressive Caucus, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is becoming more democratic, more transparent.

On June 9 a resolution initiated by the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus was passed unanimously by Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. The resolution stated:

Whereas, that in all 67 counties in the State of Pennsylvania there is
only one process in effect for the election of Democratic Committee
people and that the Committee person election process has guidelines
set forth by the Pa. Dept. of State and State election laws; and

Whereas, we recognize that that all 67 Democratic County Committees
are obligated to have rules and by-laws that are consistent with our
State Party by-laws; and

Whereas, it should only be practical, that in all 67 counties that
there is only one process in effect to remove an elected county
committee person from office within the Pennsylvania Democratic Party;

Philly Power Structure Screws Working Poor Again

Here's the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia power structure -- and the Democratic Party -- writ large. All 17 members of City Council voted last Thursday to delay the tax relief for low-wage working people that was pushed through by Councilman David Cohen before he died. It would have given the working poor a 2% cut in their wage tax, phased in over a six year period, starting in 2007. As a result of this new legislation, a maximum 1% cut will be phased in, starting in 2017. No one believes it will ever actually take effect since this is the third deferral of Cohen's tax cut. What is actually going to happen is that it will be deferred into infinity.

Not one word was uttered about any of this in the mainstream press. It's a total conspiracy of silence about a further trashing, mainly by elected officials of the Democratic Party, of the interests of those who are the backbone of that very same Party.

New City Committee Member Needs Help.

This will be a fairly short entry. I somehow got elected to the City Committee up in the 58th Ward with just my one write-in vote for myself. Needless to say, I'm collecting information and suggestions on how best to go about filling out my four year term. Any suggestions on how to move forward?

Lewis Thomas III for State Representative in the 181st Announcement

Please join me this Saturday along with special guests State Senator Shirley Kitchen, State Representative Frank Oliver, Bruce Crawley, Lana Felton Ghee, 37th Ward Chair Diane Bridges, 14th Ward Chair Virginia Wilks, 20th Ward Chair Renee McNair, Dr. Anthony Monteiro and many others THIS SATURDAY AT 1:00 PM at 2221 NORTH BROAD STREET as we ignite this movement for change and transformation for North Philly.

We have a great event event lined up featuring The Latin Dance Team of North Philly, North Philly Stompers and a spectacular African Drum Core. There will be great food and the great people of my district; not to mention you will get an opportunity to hear firsthand my vision for North Philadelphia moving forward.


Lewis Thomas III
Democratic Candidate for State Representative in the 181st\

Locked out: independent voters and the PA primary

On Monday night, I got this message on my machine from a friend:
I just got my new voter registration card though the mail. I am seeing that I’m not registered with either party, And I don’t know what to do to change it. And I thought maybe you would know.
Uh-oh. I called the Commissioner’s office, just to be sure, but the deadline for changed (as well as new) registrations was definitely Monday.

As of November of 2007, there were about 100,000 registered independents on the city of Philadelphia—about 10% of all voters. Because PA has a closed primary system, none of them is going to be able to vote for Clinton or Obama, or in any other tight local race in the April 22nd election.

Even though the city is majority Democratic (by far), the number of independent voters in the city has grown by about a third since 2001. (Source: PA State voter reg data). The growth of independent voters can be attributed, in part, to the fact that more and more people our age are registering independent as a part of their distaste for party politics.

Which means in local elections, we’re losing the ability to turn out votes from a natural constituency for progressive change (young voters) because of antiquated laws. In New Jersey, and many other states, you can vote in a primary regardless of primary status. You just decide which party primary contest you want to vote in when you get to your polling place on Election Day.

This is a real problem for progressive organizing in Philadelphia. So, shouldn’t we have open primaries here? Or maybe even better, same-day voter registration?

Well, we could, but it'd require a change in state law. Rep. Babette Josephs, Chair of the State Rules Committee, is the one to talk to. Her email is While I think Jospehs is likely to be supportive of such an effort (I know there’s talk that she is working on a bill right now that would allow non-excuse absentee voting in PA), both Democratic and Republican leaders statewide may not.

As we all know from the special election process here in Philadelphia, some party leaders prefer to consolidate power by reducing participation in primary elections as much as possible.

What else can we do? Don't we all know people who have registered independently? The reality is many of them wouldn’t if they knew how much they were giving up in local elections.

Well, there are always the City Commissioners. There are three people elected in Philadelphia to oversee elections: Marge Tartaglione, Anthony Clark, and Joseph Duda. These folks have a staff and a budget. They could have been calling up non-profits and civic groups with a non-partisan message explaining the way a closed party primary election works. They also could have sent a mailing to all independent voters. They could have gone on Action News. Etc. Etc.

Their office is chartered, after all, to help by:
  • informing candidates, political party committees, the media and the general public of the voter registration and election process; and,
  • encouraging Philadelphians to register and vote.
Of course, we have talked about reforms the Commissioner’s office could implement before without much success, like:
  • The Commissioners could send a postcard in the mail or an email reminding voters about Election Day. It’s been done before, in 2004 and to some extent in 2006, but not in Primaries and not in the 05 General. That’s one way to drive up turnout.
  • Another idea: why don’t we take advantage of Wireless Philly and create a secure, online voter database so that Philadelphians could go to any polling location in the city rather than just the one in their ward and division? People live busy lives, and using technology to make tasks like voting simpler is a no-brainer.
  • Same-day voter registration is another concept that has helped boost voter turnout in other states. This will require a change in state law, but how can we ever expect a change in state law to occur if election officials in Philadelphia and other large counties don’t get more aggressive and ask for one?
  • Vote by mail, public advertising, partnering with utilities to print election info on bills (do you know how easy it would be to print your polling place location on your gas or water bill?), an updated website, and many other ideas are all available to the Commissioners to use to boost turnout.
So while it is important to hold especially Commissioner Marge Tartgalione accountable by calling her at (215) 686-3460, the reality is significant changes in Philadelphia’s voting infrastructure are not going to come from this office, or even the state.

Which like so many other problems for progressives means we need the Mayor and Council to invest some political capital in this effort.

Mayor Nutter has said he is committed to reforming not just government, but the political process in this city too, and implementing some of the changes listed above is a great way to start. We also have some “activist” members of Council now, and voting reform and voting rights issues seem like a win-win issue for all, especially as we are ramping up to a huge presidential election in the fall.

No matter where the solution comes from, fixing our voting system will create some increase in voter turnout. It won’t solve the whole problem, but when less than 50% of all Philadelphians are likely to come out and vote in April, it’s obvious that something must be done to make change.

My favorite/least favorite topic: the promise and pitfalls of the contemporary Democratic party

I've been all tied in knots about the party I want to see emerge and the DLC-influenced centrist one that I fear is sticking around. It's the "Clinton referendum" question, the worry that Obama's hope-and-unity just means more unproductive compromise. And all this at a time when the Republican discourse is kind of insane (one odd tax proposal after another, somehow following Bin Laden to the gates of Hell and shooting him there) and Paul Krugman has convincingly argued for a new constructive embrace of partisan-ism.

Anyway, this Thursday, Glenn Hurowitz is reading from his just-published book, Fear and Courage in the Democratic Party, at Robin's Bookstore.

The canned summary:

Coming just in time for election season, Fear and Courage in the Democratic Party chronicles the extraordinary stories of five politicians and activists: three "progressive heroes" who exhibited rare political courage - and through it found unexpected political success, and two "spineless weasels" who embraced The Politics of Fear and rode it to ultimate failure.

The book reveals how Senator Paul Wellstone used his courage to overcome a quirky personality, an occasionally hysterical style and, most of all, an ideology considerably to the left of his constituents, eventually becoming a national hero.

It tells the dramatic story of how the same foundations and corporations that engineered the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party used junk political science to move Democrats to the right as well. Hurowitz shows how the legacy of Bill Clinton, widely proclaimed his generation's greatest political talent, will actually burden the Democratic Party and the progressive movement for decades to come.

A work of astounding insight, Fear and Courage in the Democratic Party promises to transform political discourse in 2008.

Given how some people feel about Paul Wellstone around here, I thought maybe some of you would like to come out.

Robin's Bookstore, 108 S. 13th Street (13th and Sansom)
Thursday, January 17 at 6 pm

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