As Joshua takes power let's thank the Moses of Montgomery County Democrats

On Wednesday, Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards will take office as Montgomery County Commissioners after winning the most important political race in the state in November. As you must know, this will be the first time in this history of the County that Democrats have controlled the County Commission.

At the same time Joe Hoeffel will be leaving public office, perhaps for the last time.

But everyone, from Josh and Leslie down, know that without the efforts of Joe Hoeffel, there would be no Democratic majority on the County Commission in Montgomery County. Without Joe, Allyson Schwartz would probably not be the member of Congress for the 13th Congressional district which includes a big part of Montgomery County and which Joe once represented. And many other Democratic public officials would not old the offices they do today.

The contemporary Democratic Party in Montgomery County is, to a very large degree, the creation of Joe Hoeffel. The “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” agenda Joe has been articulating for years is the platform of Democrats in Montgomery County. The reputation for rectitude and integrity that Democrats have in Montgomery County—and that was so important to the victory in November—is in large part due to the reputation of Joe Hoeffel.

Democrats were going to control Montgomery County sooner later. As Republicans embrace an ever more conservative stance on both economic and cultural issues, middle class people in the suburbs have been warming to Democrats for twenty years. But trends don’t win elections. Candidates who can articulate the ideals of a growing majority are needed to do that work. Joe Hoeffel figured out how to do that in Montgomery County. Joe did this and not just with regard to the political issues on which left and right divide. He also embodied the stance of political rectitude that was so important to winning in the suburbs, especially given the reputation of Philadelphia Democrats for ethically challenged behavior.

But Joe did more than win elections. Other politicians have moved suburban districts in other parts of the country in a Democratic direction but often by sacrificing some of the core ideals of the Democratic Party. Joe not only created a Democratic majority in Montgomery County, he became the embodiment of progressive ideals in Pennsylvania, as we saw in his unfortunately unsuccessful campaigns for Senator and Governor. That was no easy combination to sustain. But Joe did it with the force of his character and his ability to explain progressive ideals in a way that made them seem like commonsensical ideas that anyone, from the city or suburbs or rural parts of the state, should embrace.

This is not the place for a long review of Joe's efforts in office. But let me just say that whether in Harrisburg, Washington, or Norristown, Joe acted on progressive ideals. He supported government action that enhanced economic growth and economic opportunity for everyone. He defended the rights of women and minorities. I didn't always agree with everything he did--and given his almost unique ability to rethink his positions, he didn't always do so either. But once could always be confident that Joe's was acting as a thoughtful, reflective progressive would. He also showed how Democrats could work with moderate Republicans, as he did with Jim Matthews for the last four years in Montco.

Joe was not known for being an incredibly dynamic campaigner and his success may have come in part because his low key style fit with the commonsensical message he offered. But I hope there are some videos somewhere of the speeches he gave towards the end of his Senate campaign because I know that I was one of many who found Joe’s forceful defense of progressive politics inspiring.

I don't know if Joe will ever run for office again. But I’m sure Joe will remain a leader for progressives statewide. Still this is a good moment to remember that, as a Joshua takes power in the Montgomery County, he would not be there except for the work of the Moses who held many offices in which he did important work, but who never quite made it to the promised land that Shapiro and Richards enter this week.

"No Easy Combination To Sustain"

Marc's evaluation of Joe Hoeffel's career is right on target. I am proud to have known him for nearly 40 years and to have financially supported many of his campaigns. His combination of being a vigorous public leader, a strongly effective political organizer, and a hard working elected of official has rarely been matched in Pennsylvania politics.

It was inevitable when he entered politics that the inevitable demographic changes in Montgomery County would have led to inevitable Democratic gains: it was not inevitable that the gains would have been as sweeping as they have become. Had Joe Hoeffel not chosen to be active in politics, we might well be gloating that the Democrats got 45% of the vote in this or that Montgomery County district, and that someday they might actually get elected to something or other in Montgomery County.

It certainly was not easy to play as many political roles as Joe Hoeffel did, and to sustain all the public momentum and party unity that this required. It is tough to be deeply committed to meaningful change, and yet maintain a somewhat detached persona of carefully weighing each potential step. Sometimes the step by step playbook is not available, and leaders have act on the hope that bold unconventional leadership will be followed by bold unconventional supportive responses by the various interests involved.

My feeling is that Joe too young and too caring to stay retired from the public arena for long. He may never run for office again, but I hope he and others involved find ways for him to stay involved making Montgomery County a model county for using public resources and public leadership for important public purposes.

I admittedly don't know much about Joe Hoeffel

but I'm skeptical of anyone's ability to label themselves a "progressive" who helped put Allyson Schwartz in office. And this just seems to go back to the problem with the Democratic Party and elections in general in this state and country. I am not denying that Joe Hoeffel is a good, hard-working person. Congresswoman Schwartz, however, voted to uphold the Patriot Act, has voted many times to continue wars, voted for the NDAA, and has taken huge amounts of PAC and industry money over the years ( http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/pacs.php?cycle=2012&cid=N00001579... and http://thatsmycongress.com/house/repSchwartzPA13112.html for a bit of a source, other than just keeping up with the news)...which pretty much puts her right in line with the Democratic establishment and the interests that fund it. So I'm just pointing out how bizarre it is to have this woman's congressional career listed as some kind of progressive accomplishment, when she's really a force for the status quo of corporate corruption.

A Moderate Mainstream Democrat

Allyson Schwartz is a moderate mainstream Democrat. Calling her "a force for the status quo of corporate corruption" is a rather shrill way to attack a woman who has never claimed to be another Bernie Sanders or Cynthia McKinney: she represents her upper middle class district where support for a Democratic candidate or Democratic positions cannot be taken for granted. Her district, though, has shed some of its more conservative areas in redistricting, and her record may reflect that in the years to come.

It seems that no matter where you reside,

it's important to have a conscience and vote against things like indefinite detention of American citizens (a la the NDAA). I am aware, however, that Allyson Schwartz and the vast majority of Democratic politicians respectfully disagree.

The Democratic Party Is Not The American Civil Liberties Union

The Democratic Party is not the American Civil Liberties Union, militantly suspicious of governmental authority and disdainful of majority opinion when it conflicts with its principles. The Democratic Party is the largest mass organization in the United States and it is interested in winning elections, organizing federal, state, and local governments, and advancing the economic and social interests of American citizens and our country as a unit.

Indeed.

Overall you guys have done a piss poor job of that last part, and it's laughable to call the ACLU "militant" in any way, shape, or form. But I guess that's what you have to resort to when you're defending the actions of an organization that consistently supports war, corporate profits, and spying on US citizens over the actual interests of the citizenry, in the interest of "winning elections." And I guess that's what you get when your lens for viewing "American citizens and our country as a unit" is so obscured by corporate donations, in the name of "winning elections."

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