An Electoral Participation Trophy

While the Democratic City Committee was one of the big winners in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Primary, it might want to do some soul-searching before the 2024 Elections.

One of the ways that you seem to be able to differentiate Millennials from their older peers is through something called a Participation Trophy.

Used mostly at such things as Little League baseball games and the like, it’s a way of giving a team or a child that didn’t win at something acknowledgement that they at least tried.

In theory, I don’t have a problem with this. Giving someone a certificate or a trophy to say “thanks for participating” isn’t bad on its face.

But bragging about getting one of these trophies, or worse yet, acting as if you are entitled to one no matter how badly you actually did? Well, that’s the kind of thing that might lead to a conga line of side eyes.

Usually, politics doesn’t lend itself to a discussion on participation trophies.

But when I got a press release from Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee on Thursday, the image of one of my former students at Temple demanding a good grade for just showing up popped into my head.

And because this is a family newsletter, I won’t quote my response directly. Just know that it was colorful, and that DCC chair Bob Brady probably would have been shocked by it.

That’s because, despite what I’m calling The Dinosaur Letter would have you believe, winning with only 26% of Philadelphia’s voters bothering to participate is nothing to stick out your chest about. Especially when you have a presidential election that could decide whether or not we still have a Democratic Republic around the corner.

Now, I can see why the DCC was crowing about Tuesday’s results. Despite not formally endorsing anyone in the mayor’s race, winner Cherelle Parker is a ward leader, so that was a win for them.

Everyone they endorsed for City Council At-Large emerged victorious. While Rue Landau, former head of the city’s Human Relations Commission was formally endorsed by the DCC, Nina Ahmad was also placed on the “ward leaders, check her out too” list.

Incumbent council member Cindy Bass had to bite her nails for a bit, but she won re-election. My guess is that Councilmember Jimmy Harrity will too.

Rochelle Bilal, despite all of the issues that have come up in the Sheriff’s Office during her tenure, is going to get another four years.

Even their endorsed candidate for Register of Wills, John Sabatina, managed to defeat incumbent Tracey Gordon, who I didn’t know had sued the DCC at one time.

The DCC has a lot to be happy about. I’m not begrudging them that.

But here’s the part of the Dinosaur Letter that inspired this column:

“For those who have written this party off as a relic of the past, a dinosaur no longer relevant to electoral politics in Philadelphia, let me say this: the dinosaur roared. This election underscores the opportunity for Democratic-aligned groups to invest more energy in working with the Philadelphia Democratic Party rather than write it off or try to undermine it, and the Republican nominees we face in November only serve to prove this urgency.”

So, I guess that this is the place where I remind folks that the reason why groups like the Working Families Party, Reclaim Philadelphia and Philly 3.0 exist.

They exist because, with very few exceptions, the DCC is a big proponent of the “That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It” school of thought. They’re not real big on change, and sometimes value incumbency over competence. Or do I need to remind folks of this group’s tendency to endorse ineffective incumbents over people with new ideas and the occasional soon-to-be convicted felon?

(That was former Congressman Chaka Fattah, by the way. While Dwight Evans won that primary, it wasn’t a good look.)

And let’s keep it 100. Despite millions of dollars being pushed out of your organization, which is supposed to get the vote out, you failed miserably. Not even in the land of the Participation Trophy is 26% turnout something to brag about. Even Parker, whose ward is called the Mighty 50th because of it’s voter turnout prowess, would tell you that.

So, when you get done bragging about how Tuesday’s results show that you’re not quite ready for the Museum of Natural History, Mr. Brady, you might want to start putting together a strategy that gets out more than 272,000 of the city’s million-plus voters to the polls come 2024.

Because while what you did this time around got the results you wanted, you’re not going to be that lucky when Donald Trump and company are on the ballot. And you don’t get a participation trophy for overseeing the implosion of our democracy

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