In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama touched on a number of issues critical to Philadelphians, particularly the plight of the poor and downwardly-mobile middle class. But with Republicans likely to hold Congress this November, federal initiatives to help people in this city stand little chance.
Watching the Capitol Hill pageantry, nothing feels more distant than national politics.
Except sometimes, perversely, local politics.
Fewer than 40 percent of Philadelphians voted for governor in 2010, when Republican Tom Corbett rode a Tea Party wave to power. Democratic turnout was pathetic: 246,000 fewer Philadelphians voted for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato than voted for Obama in 2008.
This is the sort of voter disengagement that Corbett is counting on to win reelection in November. But over the last four years, thanks to catastrophic budget cuts to public education, state politics has finally attracted some local attention, and anger.
In May, registered Democrats will have the opportunity to decide who they want to challenge Corbett. Get involved. Decide who you want to rule Pennsylvania in 2015.
Philadelphians have proven similarly disengaged from city politics. Fewer than 25 percent bothered to vote in the 2011 mayoral election, despite the fact that most Philadelphians didn’t think Michael Nutter deserved re-election. Since then, his approval ratings have tanked amid his thumb-twiddling during the public schools crisis. Oh well.
We will elect a new mayor in 2015. Can we demand more?
Philly might respond to a grassroots campaign that spoke to critical issues: fighting for public education and continuing the reduction in violent crime, lifting up poor neighborhoods and stabilizing those in the middle class, investing in parks and rec centers and clamping down on police misconduct. But such a campaign would require a major citywide coalition, and it would also require a challenge to the city’s political establishment — though not one, like Nutter’s, that leaves a mayor isolated from City Council.
For all that seems impossible in Washington, we leave so much undone in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.
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