Category : News

Never forgot where I came from and who we represent

This Guest Opinion by Chairman John Cordisco appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on February 13, 2017. Full text:

In columnist J.D. Mullane’s latest salvo, he resorts to personal attacks and the stark generalization that anyone living above Route 1 doesn’t have an appreciation for anyone living below Route 1. While his main grumble appears to be with Hillary Clinton’s messaging during the presidential campaign, he seems awfully preoccupied with my “upscale ZIP code” and the fact that we have a professional staff at the Bucks County Democratic Committee.

I don’t know how he makes the quantum leap from a national presidential campaign to the local Bucks County Democratic Committee, its chairman (me), and its staff, but in my view he failed to make any connection between the national campaign’s failures and our local committee. He also completely ignores the 2015 election cycle, the most success we’ve had locally as a party in decades.

So, once again, it looks like I’m not only required to educate Mr. Mullane on my “log cabin story,” but I also need to refresh his memory of the conversation he and I had prior to his original column. During that almost 45-minute conversation, I clearly outlined for him the flaws of this last presidential campaign.

I would be the first to agree that the Clinton campaign missed serious messaging opportunities. I told him about my conversation with Vice President Biden where we agreed that it was a mistake to focus solely on social progressive issues and essentially ignore working class, blue collar America. I told him that regardless of whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is elected president, the country faces a difficult task in providing a future for today’s youth — especially those who do not attend college.

The median household income in Bucks County is $76,000. There are people doing better and people doing worse. But even for those making the median, we should all appreciate how difficult it must be for those families who must decide between subsidizing health care or leaving their children with crushing student loan debt. I hope for their sake that President Trump can deliver on his promises. I’m not so optimistic given the reality of the task.

When I was attending Bucks County Community College, I was fortunate to work at National Can and earn a wage that allowed me to pay my own tuition and provide for my young family at the same time. But I still had to live with my parents.

Back then, there were several manufacturing companies in Lower Bucks County. Today, those employers no longer exist. During our conversation, I stressed to Mr. Mullane that our elected officials need to revamp our current educational models to expand curriculum at community colleges and vocational/technical schools to include training in the fields of tomorrow: robotics, technology, and energy. It’s no longer Pennsylvania vs. New Jersey vs. Delaware. We are now competing in a global economy.

Per Mr. Mullane, the out-of-touch sins I’ve so far committed are moving from Bristol, having a successful career, becoming one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” in Pennsylvania (thanks for the plug), and hiring an experienced professional to run the daily operations of the party. Every county party should be so lucky. Incidentally, our “affluent, college-educated professional” 32-year-old executive director will be 50 before he pays off his student loans. But I suppose he’s out of touch, too.

Despite Mr. Mullane’s assertions, he doesn’t know me at all. My parents, ages 91 and 85, still live on Lincoln Avenue in Bristol. Every time I visit, I stop at Mazzanti’s for a bologna and mustard on a hard roll. I still have a satellite office in Bristol. My main office is in Trevose, where I mostly see clients from Lower Bucks County. I just recorded a video urging people to go online and vote for Bristol to receive a $500,000 grant from Small Business Revolution (www.smallbusinessrevolution.org). I’ve never forgotten where I came from.

I’m just hoping Mr. Mullane finds something more interesting to write about other than my not-so-interesting personal life and my Newtown Township lawn, which by the way, is much smaller than when I lived in Bristol.

 

Context: The above Guest Opinion was written in response to this column by J.D. Mullane published February 7, 2017. FULL TEXT:

It’s not me who’s out of touch, Chairman Cordisco

Columnist for Calkins Media. Ex-bartender. Cut my own lawn.

Every American has a log cabin story. Start small, work hard, gain success, reap riches, and don’t forget where you came from.

John Cordisco, who chairs the Bucks County Democratic Committee, has such a story, headlined “Democrats are the best friends a ‘little guy’ has.”

A piece bearing his byline published Sunday says so. He took issue with my Jan. 29 column, in which I offered advice to Democratic elites who have abandoned the party’s white working class base, lost the presidency to Donald Trump, and then convened meetings in West Virginia to learn how to talk to ordinary Americans.

The Bucks County Democratic Committee shows signs of this historic disconnect, too. Bucks County’s affluent, college-educated Democratic poohbahs are far from the scrappy, working-class Lower Bucks County guys who ran the party a generation ago.

Chairman Cordisco writes, “I don’t know who it is Mr. Mullane is talking about when he mentions the ‘affluent, college-educated professional class from up county that now run the party,’ because the last time I checked, the party is run and represented by one of the ‘little guys’ from Bristol named John Cordisco.”

His log cabin story follows: Cordisco’s hardscrabble life growing up in Bristol Borough, eking out a living at a well-paid union job, and going to college, Bucks County Community and Rider. Elected as a state rep. For some reason, he leaves out that he’s a personal injury lawyer, that he has his own firm, and that he was named by the National Trial Lawyers Association as one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” in Pennsylvania.

Also, his listed address is no longer in Bristol Borough.

Where is Chairman Cordisco’s listed address? Let’s just say it’s a Bucks County neighborhood in which little guys could never buy into, and probably wouldn’t be wanted, anyway.

But those same little guys are more than welcome to arrive daily in the chairman’s upscale ZIP code to cut lawns, landscape gardens, wash, polish and detail the high-end cars, collect trash, and do all manner of home repair/renovation work that professionally manicured hands won’t do.

The hired help are the men and women who live where I do, Levittown, and in places like it.

They are the people the Democratic Party once proudly represented, but who were smeared by the party’s presidential candidate as “deplorables” and “irredeemable.” The people who the party elite are learning to “talk to.”

Cordisco dismisses this. Why, the headline I cited from Politico is “out of context.” Here’s the headline: “Democrats hold lessons on how to talk to real people.”

This is from the article: “Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), held a session on ‘speaking to those who feel invisible in rural America,’ according to the schedule. Other sessions were along similar lines: ‘Listening to those who feel unheard’ and ‘Rising America — They feel unheard, too.’ ”

If that’s not enough, then how about the words of former Vice President Joe Biden, who said the party has lost touch with the working class. In an interview on MSNBC on Oct. 25, he told host Chris Matthews: “… That person — the guy works on the (factory) line, the woman’s a waitress, they’re making 90,000 bucks a year (together), and they still can’t make it, if they have two kids. And we don’t talk to them any more. We don’t associate with their difficulty anymore.”

Chairman Cordisco said he doesn’t know who I mean when I refer to the “affluent, college-educated professional class” that runs the party in Bucks County. Really?

He should check the LinkedIn profile of Eric Nagy, the party’s executive director since 2014: “Named by PoliticsPA.com as one of the top 15 Democratic political operatives … Featured on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ … Completed Campaign Management training with the New Organizing Institute in 2009 and with the DCCC … Appeared on/in NPR, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Christian Science Monitor, etc. as a spokesman … Specialties: political organization, campaign management, communications, speech writing. Founding Partner … at Penn Blue Strategies, a full-service Democratic, political consulting firm.”

While Cordisco, a professional, is out raising dough from other deep-pocketed professionals, a college-educated professional is professionally running the party from up-county.

Which is why the Dems are so shrunken as a national party. The professional class did well taking over the party. The working stiffs the party claims to represent can take their work trucks and head back to Levittown.

With best friends like that, who needs Republicans?

Democrats are the best friends a ‘little guy’ has

This Guest Opinion by Chairman John Cordisco appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times on February 5, 2017. FULL TEXT:

John Cordisco.J.D. Mullane’s Jan. 29 column, “How Dems can get in touch with ordinary Americans,” completely missed the mark. His entire point about Democrats losing touch with the “little guy” was taken out of context from the headline of a recent Politico article, “Democrats hold lessons on how to talk to real people.”

Perhaps Mr. Mullane needs a reminder about which party is and has been representing the “little guy.”

When President Barack Obama talked about helping the “little guy,” congressional Republicans weren’t interested. Rather, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made clear that, for Republicans, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Now, Republicans in Congress have introduced a right-to-work bill, something supported by Republicans in Pennsylvania’s state House. How a right-to-work bill helps the “little guy,” I’ll never know.

As strong supporters of the insurance industry, I don’t remember any time Republicans were concerned about making health insurance more affordable for the “little guy.” Nor do I remember them discussing protecting the “little guy’s” pre-existing conditions. And I’ve never heard Republicans talk about how they were going to help the “little guy” afford to attend college.

I’m not sure Mr. Mullane really understands who the “little guy” is. Allow me to help him out.

I grew up in Bristol Borough. I think I have a pretty good understanding about the trials and tribulations the “little guy” faces. I was married at  age 19 and was a father shortly thereafter, a situation that caused my new family to reside with my parents — nine of us in a small row home in Bristol. I had a job at National Can, and I was a member of Steelworkers Local 4889.

I attended Bucks County Community College, where I received a great education. But it was also the only college I could afford at the time. I eventually graduated from Ryder University and taught at Bensalem High School.

At age 25, I was elected to the state House of Representatives, to the same seat once held by Milt Berkes. I served with Rep. Jim Gallagher for six years and worked with him side by side. Joe Catania was a mentor, a friend, and a constant supporter of my candidacies. I think it’s fair to say that my involvement and relationships with those esteemed individuals was a tad more significant than Mr. Mullane’s cursory covering of their political endeavors.

I don’t know who it is Mr. Mullane is talking about when he mentions the “affluent, college-educated professional class from up county that now run the party,” because the last time I checked, the party is run and represented by one of the “little guys” from Bristol named John Cordisco.

Furthermore, state Reps. Tina Davis and John Galloway also come from families of “little guys” from Lower Bucks, and they are constant supporters of the so-called “little guys.”

Had Mr. Mullane bothered to ask me, he would have been told that the annual Jefferson Dinner has moved to various parts of the county. And because he was so focused on price, it should be noted that committeeperson tickets are always about $25 — less than it costs the party per person — to allow the “little guy” to attend. Over 320 Bucks County Democrats attended our dinner in Newtown in October.

We have had our dinners recently in Bensalem and Bristol Township. When Berkes was chairman of the committee, we also had dinners rotating between Bristol and Doylestown. That hasn’t changed. Chairman Berkes never had a beef and beer and called it the Jefferson Dinner. The price for those tickets was $50 in the 1980s.

Raising money is the burden of modern campaigning. It would be very difficult to run a campaign on one beef and beer. We estimate that this last congressional race, after all campaigns and outside groups are considered, cost in the ballpark of $20 million.

I want Mr. Mullane to know that this “little guy,” age 19, a married father of one, was laid off during National Can’s slow season. Because of that layoff, this “little guy” was required to stand in a welfare line for food stamps. It is a memory I will never forget.

I was fortunate to have a family that was so supportive. My father was an auto worker for 42 years and never took a sick day. My mother worked late nights and early mornings at a bakery so her children had a roof over their heads. I don’t need Mr. Mullane to tell me what it’s like to be a “little guy.” I lived it, and I’m very proud of it.

And if anyone has been fighting for the “little guy,” it is neither Republicans in Harrisburg nor in Washington. You’re better off betting on this “little guy” from Bristol.

 

Context: The above Guest Opinion was written in response to this column by J.D. Mullane published January 29, 2017. FULL TEXT:

How Dems can get in touch with ordinary Americans

Dispatched to the political wilderness for the foreseeable future, Democrats gathered last week in W. Virginia to talk with ordinary Americans to learn why they voted for President Trump.

The headline in Politico, a D.C.-insider journal, was stark: “Democrats Hold Lessons on How to Talk to Real People.”

Good grief. It has come to this for the party of FDR and Truman and Steelworkers Local 4889. (The last one is the union that represented thousands of men who worked at the Fairless Works in Falls, most aligned with the Party of the Little Guy.)

The Democrat estrangement from ordinary Americans arose in 2008, when candidate Barack Obama called little guys in rural Pennsylvania “bitter” and people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The disrespect was sealed last September when President Obama’s would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, smeared about one-quarter of the American population being “deplorables.”

Even in Bucks County, Democrats have distanced themselves from little guys.

For decades, the Dems held their annual Jefferson-Jackson Day beef-and-beer shindig in Levittown, when Lower Bucks County was the beating heart of little guy politics.

Now run by an affluent, college-educated professional class from up county, the Democratic Committee held the 2016 Jefferson Day dinner at a chic Newtown winery. Attendees were charged $100 for general admission, and $500 “VIP admission.”

Those aren’t little guy prices. I bet they didn’t even raffle off a basket of cheer. (With tickets purchased by the arm length.)

What would old-time Dem leaders like the late Milt Berkes (former high school teacher) and the late Joe Catania (former steelworker) say about this new, coiffed and cuff-linked party of cultural elites? I knew Berkes and Catania pretty well. I would not be able to publish their reactions, probably.

It will be a long road back. In a nation comprised mostly of little guys, the Democrats have, during the Obama era, been reduced to a regional party clustered in affluent white enclaves on the coasts, and within impoverished big cities, like Philadelphia.

Nominally the party of the little guy and the middle class working stiff, it has turned millions of natural Democrats into Trump voters.

After all this, the party poohbahs want to talk to us little guys? OK, four points of advice.

First, get better candidates. Jim Gallagher, a bus mechanic, turned state representative, turned Democrat mayor of Bristol Township, said politics is uncomplicated.

“Good candidates win, lousy candidates lose,” he said. (Though he did not use the word “lousy” when he told me this.)

Hillary Clinton was a (lousy) candidate. Did anyone expect a woman who has been chauffeured for 20 years to be in touch with the ordinary I-95 American?

Second, stop calling us names. From “bitter clingers” to Hillary’s infamous list: “Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”

This will drive you farther away from we, the great unwashed.

Third, back off the “white privilege” b.s. If you believe that white automatically presents privilege, let me take you to one of the many church-sponsored shared meals for the homeless and poor held in Lower Bucks County on any given night.

Most of these poor souls are white. I would love to hear a college-educated Democrat lecture a man who is struggling to survive the winter on how his white skin has privileged him to live in a tent in the woods. He will have the biggest laugh of his life.

Or, I could introduce you to the people who live in the trailer parks along Old Route 13, a place where no up-county Democrat dare tread. It would be interesting to hear a progressive explain to these people how their skin tone has privileged them to work two or three jobs, so they can pay a mortgage and lot rent, which keeps them in the ranks of the working poor.

In America, only one thing gives you privilege — money.

Fourth, set down the pinot grigio and move the Jefferson Day dinner back to Levittown. Raffle off a basket of cheer.

Offering a stiff drink is the least you can do after eight years of an economy that, for the little guy, was mired in mortgage foreclosures, McJobs and food stamps.