It’s just over a month until the 2017 election. The vast majority of Philadelphians will not vote in it. And that’s a big problem for all of us for at least three reasons.
The first is the damage it can do to Larry Krasner and everything he stands for. Yes, Larry Krasner will (almost definitely) be elected our next District Attorney. But if he wins with a small vote, it will make his life, and the lives of all those he has pledged to protect, more difficult. Krasner, his enemies will say, doesn’t actually represent Philadelphia, just a small sliver of radicals that came out to vote for him. We can ignore him at best, actively undermine him at worst, and there will be no political price to pay.
If we want Krasner to accomplish his goals, we can’t let those invested in the status quo discredit him before he even starts due to low turnout.
Second, low Philadelphia turnout will hurt the cause of justice because it threatens the ability of Democrats to increase their representation on Pennsylvania’s appellate courts. For some reason progressives don’t pay nearly as much attention to the importance of courts as conservatives seem to, and that’s foolish. Every single piece of decent legislation that we ever accomplish will go before courts. Important agency regulations will also inevitably come before them. They will be interpreted broadly or narrowly or, too often if they protect people or the environment, will be completely invalidated. Furthermore the civil rights of every individual are either protected or undermined by courts.
Currently, the Democrats have a majority of the Supreme Court justices, but are way behind on Commonwealth and Superior Courts. We can’t console ourselves with our Supreme Court majority because very few cases decided by the lower appellate courts ever get decided at the highest level. We need judges committed to justice, equal rights and robust government at every level of the Courts. Without strong turnout in Philly we won’t get there.
One particular impact of the Court battle came into vivid focus just a few days ago. That’s when the Supreme Court overruled a decision by Commonwealth Court and held that teachers, parents and elected officials had the right to a hearing on their claims that the State’s funding for public schools is so low, and so discriminatory against poor districts, as to be unconstitutional. That case will now go back to Commonwealth Court for a hearing on the facts and whether a remedy should be put into effect. This litigation is going to go on for a long time, and mostly in Commonwealth Court. For it to turn out well, we will need more Democrats on that Court.
There is yet one more reason why high turnout is imperative next month. It’s because we need to get our voters in the habit of voting before the November 2018 election. If we don’t re-elect Senator Casey and Governor Wolf, our state and nation will be in even more dire straits than it is now. These two staunch, even if imperfect, advocates for the 99% will have no chance to win without strong turnout in Philadelphia, the kind we normally do not get in non-Presidential elections. We need to start now talking to friends, neighbors, relatives about the importance of voting. That way, when 2018 rolls around, voting will be the new normal, we will run up the vote in Philly and the Republican tide will begin to be rolled back. Nothing could be more important at this perilous time in our history.
Please vote. Please get your friends and relatives to vote. And please respond positively when Neighborhood Networks or its allies call on you in the next few weeks to promote the voting imperative widely in your own neighborhoods.