Commentary

Politics: The Good, the Bad, and…

todayMarch 15, 2024

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By: W. Nick Taliaferro


Nick Taliaferro is a veteran Radio Personality, Minister, and the former Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. He is also a Contributing Editor of Message Magazine.


Governor Josh Shapiro, in the company of House Speaker Joanna McClinton and House Majority Leader Matt Bradford, did a really good thing last week. But in the interest of balance, I must add that the good thing that they did came in the wake of what many perceive to be a bad thing that they had done earlier. 

 

Allow me to explain, starting with the bad…

 

Back in December, a cabal of partisan State Senators from outside of Philadelphia decided that they would craft a Bill designed to undermine the District Attorney’s Office of the City of Philadelphia. This Bill (SB 140) was specifically aimed at disempowering Philly D.A. Larry Krasner; whom many of these legislators disliked because they disagreed with his policies. 

 

This effort came hard on the heels of a Republican-led attempt to impeach D.A. Krasner back in the Fall of 2022 – an effort that failed to pass legal muster in the State Commonwealth Court. But the spirit of this Republican-led coalition remained; and with steely resolve these partisans recalculated their plan, and determined to somehow accomplish legislatively what they could not do legally: and that is, “get Krasner”.  

 

Masquerading as lawmaking, this political hit job was then packaged as an initiative (Act 40) to save Philadelphia by increasing law enforcement in the form of a jury-rigged Special Prosecutor’s Office. The fact that the result of this measure would create an extra-Constitutional entity that would supersede the authority of the duly-elected District Attorney was to be viewed as sheer coincidence. 

 

But that’s still not the bad part.

 

In order to enforce the mandate of this Bill, the State Legislature would effectively act to nullify the expressed will of approximately 70% of voting Philadelphians, who had already determined the how and the who they wished to oversee prosecutions in the City of Philadelphia! They did exactly that when they voted in the last election (2021) for the current District Attorney. 

 

But that’s still not the worst thing.

The really bad part of this whole bit of chicanery, is that that these non-Philly legislators, in order to more effectively smear lipstick on this porcine political hit-job, went on to get some of our homegrown Legislative friends to hold their noses and go along with this scheme as a part of a complicated agreement.

 

That’s just the bad part; the ugly comes next…

After holding their noses, and tacitly going along with this plot, some of our duly-elected, Philly-based, legislator friends then went even further, and tried to convince their constituents (us) that this partisan plot would ultimately be good for us in Philadelphia! (I assure you; it is not.)

Let me reiterate; this is POLITICS – sometimes good, at times bad, and often ugly. I am not whining; and to be honest, I actually believe that these Philly-based legislators were doing what they believed to be best. I know now that their agreeing to this bad deal was a part of a bigger deal that would bring some good things to Philly, ultimately. That quid-pro-quo political horse-trading is sometimes a part of the brinkmanship that has to take place in the halls of legislation.

 

However, I assert, firmly, that there is a line – a line that stands as a clear Moral Imperative – that must not be crossed; and that is that every individual vote must be respected. The late John Lewis called this a “precious… almost sacred” right, one that must never be abridged – especially in the context of the seeming willingness on the part of many Republicans to nullify the votes of those with whom they disagree. 

 

So, no matter how good the intentions, nullifying the votes of Philadelphians is unacceptable. Full stop.

 

Not only do I believe this, but it appears that most Philadelphians agree with me. Accordingly, a group of Clergy civic leaders, in representation of this segment of our city, thought that the Governor, the House Speaker and others needed to hear this perspective from “the People”. 

 

Now comes the GOOD part of this story!

 

Last week the Governor and the Speaker, et al, met with us, thus allowing themselves to be directly addressed regarding what we believe to be a bit of bad governance on their part. Speaking what we believed to be TRUTH to the POWER that these elected officials represented, we gave them chapter and verse on where we believe they were in error. And they listened.

 

Admittedly, we did not come out holding hands, singing Kum-bah-yah; and frankly, I am not sure if they heard us with the same level of commitment with which they tried to convince us of the rightness of their actions. 

 

But the dialogue was held; and that is a GOOD thing. It is important that elected officials hear directly from civic leadership, and even more important that civic leadership push for that dialogue! The results will hardly ever be perfect, but in this delicate political space and time we cannot allow perfect to become the enemy of good.

 

Good government is not about finding perfect people who agree with you 24/7; good government is about daring to address one another at the nexus of disagreement – without having to demonize those with whom you disagree.

 

The Governor and company did a good thing last week by meeting with leaders who disagreed with him, sharply. The bad thing that had been done still leaves a sour taste; but the good thing just done suggests a start towards better things, hopefully. And if not, we will wash, rinse… and repeat.

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todayMarch 15, 2024

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