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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.