The Philly response to Trunp

Sam Smith –  Reading the lusty responses of Philadelphia Eagles and their mayor to Trump disinviting the team to the White House, helped me realize why I find it so strange that the president has conned so many Americans.

As CBS reported, “Mayor Jim Kenney called President Trump a “tyrant” who “is trying to turn this country into a dictatorship.”

“He is trying to turn this country into a dictatorship by ignoring the courts and by saying and doing what he wants, by ignoring the Department of Justice … and in the end this will all come to a conclusion, and it won’t be a good ending for him.”

Trump “allies himself with strongmen around the world” and seemed to be “more comfortable” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

And it isn’t’ just Trump who’s gotten the Kenney treatment. When a sportscaster attacked one of his bills, Kenney responded,  “If we were regular people sitting at a bar and he was doing that to me, there would be a consequence, But because I am an elected official, I can’t do it.”

I grew up in Philadelphia from fourth grade to high school graduation and along the way early learned not to have anything to do with corrupt, thuggish jerks like Trump.  It was part of the culture that you had to deal with.  A city where a ward heeler went into the voting booth with my aunt to make sure she voted the right way. Where an FBI agent came to ask my father, part of the reform movement,  what he knew about a corrupt politician. Where, in elementary school, several bullies put a knife to my throat as I was walking home. Where, at the wedding reception for one of my sisters, I went out the back door to find cops loading a box of champagne into their patrol car.

But it was also where, at age 13, I stuffed envelopes in a campaign that ended 69 years of local Republican rule, in no small part thanks to the efforts of the liberal group, Americans for Democratic Action.

The stars of the Philadelphia ADA were Joseph Sill Clark and Richardson Dilworth. Though both were patrician in name and bearing, in Clark the quality went through to his soul. With Dilworth it stopped with his tailored suits. He was an ex-Marine who had fought in both World Wars, including Guadacanal. With a quick temper and a towny accent, he never ducked combat or favored equivocation.

After Clark and Dilworth had shaken the GOP regime by winning the offices of comptroller and district attorney, Dilworth got the first chance to run for mayor, with Clark succeeding him and then moving to the Senate.

Dilworth’s mayoral race remains a classic. His most notable campaign technique was the street corner rally, which he developed to a degree probably unequaled since in American politics. Using the city’s only Democratic string band as a warm-up act, Dilworth would mount a sound truck and tick off the sins of the Republican administration. On one occasion he parked next to the mayor’s home and told his listeners: “Over there across the street is a house of prostitution and a numbers bank. And just a few doors further down this side of the street is the district police station. . . The only reason the GOP district czars permit Bernard Samuel to stay on as mayor is that he lets them do just as they please.”

At first the crowds were small. But before long he was attracting hundreds at a shot with four or five appearances a night. One evening some 12,000 people jammed the streets to catch the man who would eventually become mayor.

Dilworth on another occasion got into a fist fight with a member of his audience. His wife once knocked an aggressive heckler off the platform with her handbag and, in a later campaign, his daughter picketed the office of the GOP candidate with a sign reading, “Why won’t you debate the issues with my father on TV?”

The Republicans responded with sneers, rumors and allegations about Dilworth’s liberalism and, in particular, his association with ADA. The GOP city chairman, William Meade, called ADA communist-infiltrated and `inside pink’ where “Philadelphia members of that radical and destructive [Democratic] party have gone underground and joined the Dilworth ranks.”

Dilworth’s initial reaction was to call Meade a “liar” and to challenge him to a debate. Said Dilworth: “The ADA acted and struck hard against communism while Mr. Meade and his gang created by their corruption the very conditions that breed communism.”

But that wasn’t enough for Dilworth. To make his point, he marched into the offices of the Republican City Committee and, with press in tow, brushed past the receptionist, and barged into Meade’s private office where the chairman was conversing with two city officials. Dilworth challenged Meade to name one Communist in ADA. When Meade demurred, Dilworth said Meade had accused him of treason: “If you want to debate publicly, I’ll go before any organization you name. I’ll go before your ward leaders. I challenge you to produce evidence of a single Communist or Communist sympathizer in ADA. I say this as one who fought for his country in the Marine Corps. That’s more than you did, Mr. Meade.”

“Maybe I wasn’t physically fit,” replied Meade.

Dilworth continued the confrontation a few minutes longer and then stormed out. The red-baiting subsided and the central issue once more became corruption. Dilworth won and as I read the big black headlines, I thought it was my victory too. 

Imagine if the Democrats had run someone like Dilworth against Trump. It’s the politics we need

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