Progressives make gains in Pa.’s biggest counties – despite establishment Dems | Michael Coard

In Philly and Allegheny County, progressives seized the moment on Primary Day. We’re here to stay

June 2, 2023 6:30 am
Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall (Adobe Stock/The Philadelphia Gay News)

Despite the delusional and obnoxious press release that Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady, in collaboration with his local Democratic leadership, posted on Twitter on May 19 (which they sheepishly deleted shortly thereafter), progressive Dems in the city are not shaking in our boots from the “roar” of establishment Dems. 

Yep. Brady said, “roar.”

(Twitter screen capture by Michael Coard)

In fact, here’s exactly what he said in that post regarding the city’s two major progressive organizations, “Reclaim Philadelphia lost 8 of 10 endorsements against the Philly Democratic Party” and the “Working Families Party lost 6 of 8 endorsements against the Philly Democratic Party.”

By the way, progressives in Philly won several Council and judicial positions.  

But Brady didn’t stop there. He incredibly went on to add, “for those who have written this party off as a relic of the past, a dinosaur no longer relevant to electoral politics in Philadelphia, let me say this: the dinosaur roared.”

Um, I hate to tell you, Mr. Brady, but dinosaurs don’t roar. They never did.

As documented by University of Edinburgh paleontologist Dr. Stephen Brusatte: “Dinosaurs didn’t roar … [Instead], they were likelier to chirp like birds.” And University of Texas paleontologist Dr. Julia Clarke described the sounds as “closed-mouth vocalizations.” 

Oh, as an aside I must mention that dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago.

But enough about dinosaurs. Let’s get back to Brady’s misguided and premature championship battle cry. 

In 1983, three years before he became chairman, 625,201 persons voted in the Democratic mayoral primary. This year, with him at the helm for 37 years, the number was down to 281,463

That’s not a roar, bro. It ain’t even a chirp. It’s more like a choke.  

Furthermore, as noted by the voter tracking service at, only about 25-30% of registered voters cast ballots during this Philly primary. And that approximately one-quarter turnout occurred in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-1. Even the Committee of Seventy’s policy officer, as reported by the Inquirer on May 17, stated that’s “not great.” And that’s an understatement.

Before I continue, I must make something crystal clear: Although I’m not a big fan of Philly’s Democratic Party, I can, to a certain extent, tolerate it somewhat sometimes because it’s not the Republican Party. And, for Black people in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, Republicans are definitely the worst- at least on the national and state levels (and probably on the county level, too).

In other words, despite my disdain for much of what the Democratic Party does and doesn’t do, no one should try to twist my words or my meaning and assume that I’m praising Republicans.

I certainly am not.

And the reason I am not is that I believe that any party whose national and statewide leadership enthusiastically supports a racist, fascist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-trans, and anti-science person like Donald Trump is itself racist, fascist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-trans, and anti-science.

Democratic Allegheny county executive nominee Sara Innamorato (center) with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, on Tuesday, May 16. 2023 (Photo courtesy of the Innamorato Campaign).

As a result, I am politically compelled to tolerate the Democratic Party at times because it’s the lesser of two evils on the national and state levels (and probably on the county level, too).

For nearly four decades, Brady (who, by the way, I personally like and consider a nice guy) has led an establishment party with no fresh thinking, no bold ideas, and- dare I say- no progress.

An establishment party, as explained by author/historian Alan Bullock and author/filmmaker Stephen Trombley in The Establishment- The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, is “the elite who control” politics and is “a relatively small social class … [that] exercises all socio-political control.”

In W. Pa., a progressive wave washed away the competition. How they did it and what it means

Stated differently, the establishment is, by definition, stagnant because it is the stifling status quo as created (i.e., as established) by the party currently in power.

And in Philadelphia, that’s Brady’s Dems — the same Dems who have been and are responsible for the following:

  • Philadelphia as recently as 2019, 2020, and 2021 was the poorest big city in America as documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, at, and at respectively.
  • Philadelphia’s school drop-out rate in 2021-2022 was nearly one in five at 19 percent. And it gets worse: 52 percent of the city’s adults are functionally illiterate and nearly seven in ten at 67 percent are low-literate, reading at a sixth-to-eighth-grade level as pointed out in “The Poverty Cycle in Philadelphia” at   
  • Philadelphia in 1979 became the first city in the country to be sued by the U.S. Justice Department for committing and condoning “widespread and severe” acts of police misconduct. And because it has that very same police department mentality, it is required in 2023- following the ACLU’s 2010 Bailey v. Philadelphia “anti-Stop & Frisk” class action lawsuit- to be under a federal court consent decree to end its unconstitutional and brutal race-based harassment. 

The cure for the establishment’s economic/educational/anti-civil rights/etc. stagnation is found in progressing forward.

In other words, moving progressively with progressives, as was the case in Allegheny County, where primary voters picked Matt Dugan for district attorney and state Rep. Sara Innamorato for county executive. 

As The Intercept noted in a May 17  story: “Since 2018, progressives have surged in Pennsylvania races from Congress to state legislature and local government, picking up key seats in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia along the way.” 

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, speaks during a news conference as state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny (R) looks on (Office of U.S. Rep. Summer Lee).

That includes now U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, and U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., both of whom won in 2022; along with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey in 2021, Philly City Councilperson Kendra Brooks in 2019, and Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2017 as well as in 2021.

Yeah. I said it! 

Stay tuned. Progressive/socialistic voters are coming to Philly, Allegheny County, and throughout the Keystone State.

And we’re led by progressive/socialistic organizations such as (but not nearly limited to) Reclaim Philadelphia, Working Families Party, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, The Black Alliance for Peace, Philly DSA, Labor for Black Lives, POWER Interfaith, Amistad Movement Power, Philly Neighborhood Networks, Philly Thrive, 215 People’s Alliance, Straight Ahead, One PA, Pennsylvania Stands Up, Sunrise Movement PA, We The People Pennsylvania, Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania, and many others. 

And we’re coming to “eat the rich establishment” and “Storm the Establishment’s Bastille” by voting en masse throughout Pennsylvania as a single bloc for various candidates and on various issues regarding food, clothing, shelter, housing, safety, education, employment, health care, justice, and especially equity.

 Correction — we’re here.

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Michael Coard
Michael Coard

Opinion contributor Michael Coard, an attorney and radio host, is a columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune. His work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may follow him on Twitter @michaelcoard.