How Pennsylvania Could Save America

Published: The Good Men Project (April 16, 2016)

If you’re a liberal Democrat and want cause to hope, take a look at the Pennsylvania Senate race right now. Even as the Democratic Party establishment frustrates progressives with its tendency to support bland moderates over inspiring idealists (see: the Clinton-Sanders presidential primary), my home state is giving Americans a sign that local leaders can actually listen to their voters.

Some background: Right now Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is up for reelection. Three candidates are competing on the Democratic side to oppose him – Admiral and former congressman Joe Sestak, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and former Secretary of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty. Because McGinty is widely regarded as the “smart” choice, she’s been heavily pushed by former governor Ed Rendell and endorsed by President Obama and Vice President Biden. This is in spite of the fact that McGinty has a very problematic history of being linked to fracking interests, which if nothing else calls into question her credentials as a legitimate advocate for environmental protection. read more

No One Can Afford To Sit It Out!

Published: Network (October 1, 2015)

Though the 2016 presidential field gets most attention, Pennsylvania voters should elect well-qualified Democratic nominees Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty, and David Wecht to Pennsylvania’s highest court this November to block partisan attempts to neutralize our impact next year. Likewise, prospects for a responsibly managed Northampton County depend on electing Democrats: Sam Murray judge and Lori Vargo Heffner to county council, and re-electing Controller Steve Barron and County Councilmen Scott Parsons, Ken Kraft, and Bob Werner. read more

Everbody hates Rick Santorum

Published: Salon (April 9, 2015)

How the former GOP heavyweight became a political irrelevancy

2016 is heating up. Indiana’s anti-gay law dominates the headlines. And nobody is paying attention to poor ol’ Rick

As Americans brace themselves for Rand Paul’s just-announced presidential campaign, it is appropriate to take a quick look at the increasing political irrelevancy of another likely candidate, one who less than four years ago nearly wrested the Republican nomination from Mitt Romney.

I refer, of course, to former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who made headlines earlier this week by coming out in support of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the controversial law that would allow business to discriminate against gay customers — this in spite of the fact that even a large number of Republicans have joined Democrats, independents, and the general business community in denouncing the bill. read more

Observations from the primary campaign trail

Published: The Morning Call (June 16, 2014)

After more than two years as a political columnist for PolicyMic and other publications, I made the decision last month to undertake a career hiatus and work as the Northampton County field organizer for Tom Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign.

Although I knew this would probably be a temporary position, I embraced it not only to help the Democrats nominate the strongest possible candidate for governor but also to learn more about what it’s like to work at politics at the ground level — locally, where our elected leaders have the most immediate and direct impact on our lives. read more

Why Even Some Liberals and Independents Are Refusing to Sign Up For Obamacare

Published: mic (March 31, 2014)

The Obamacare deadline is Monday, and a flurry of reports, headlines and talking heads are weighing in its success or failure. But sometimes politics cannot be understood without a human touch.

One of the most devastating aspects of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) implementation, flying under the radar, is the unwillingness of Republican-led states to accept the Medicaid expansion provision included in Obama’s legislation. This, and not the law, is making health insurance cost prohibitive for many — forcing people to choose the annual fine rather than accept the costs of even the cheapest plans. read more

This Tiny Corner Of America Can Predict If Democrats Will Win In the Next Election

Published: mic (September 30, 2013)

While it’s easy enough to talk about politics in terms of any given immediate cycle, Democrats should always try to keep the big picture in mind by asking themselves the most important question: How can we win the next election, the election after that, and other elections into the future?

The answer, I believe, can be found in the Lehigh Valley. In my 16 years as a Lehigh Valley resident, I have heard time and again the term “key swing district” used in reference to my little corner of Pennsylvania. Generally defined as the region in eastern Pennsylvania comprising Northampton and Lehigh counties, the Lehigh Valley has long been thought of as a bellwether for the rest of the state in presidential elections, with Northampton County supporting the commonwealth’s choice since 1952 and Lehigh County doing likewise since 1980. Similarly, it remains one of the target regions in Pennsylvania gubernatorial and Senate elections, with its penchant for ticket-splitting frequently giving its voters’ preferences decisive weight in a state once described by James Carville as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the east and west, and Alabama in the middle.” read more

Pennsylvania Desperately Needs Rick Santorum Right Now

Published: mic (April 15, 2013)

Here are eight words that I doubt have ever come from the pen of a liberal columnist:

“Where is Rick Santorum when we need him?”

This thought comes to mind as soon as one looks at PA HB683, a new bill introduced in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania that would outlaw whistleblowing on factory farm cruelty. Sponsored by Representative Gary Haluska (D-Cambria) as a companion to a similar measure proposed by Senator Michael Brubaker (R-Lancaster), the potential new law is careful to include every conceivable scenario in which a concerned citizen, journalist, or employee could record and publicize animal abuse on agricultural operations — and then criminalizes such actions, placing them under the same title of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes that covers “arson, criminal mischief, and other property destruction.” read more

There’s Nothing More Pathetic Than a Pennsylvania Bigot in 2013

Published: mic (March 23, 2013)The Express Times (March 23, 2013)

From neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan to the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers, there is nothing more inherently pathetic than a bigot in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This isn’t to say that bigots aren’t a pitiful sight as a general rule. As the philosopher Eric Hoffer noted in his classic monograph on mass movements and fanatical ideologies The True Believe, “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race, or his holy cause.” Although this insight was meant to apply to all forms of political zealotry, it had special relevance for those based on hate. “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life,” he explained later in his book. “Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.” read more