Use Your Postelection Anger To Make Philadelphia the Best City Possible
To state the obvious, the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States has stirred a lot of strong feelings. Since the election the most significant participants in the process –– Secretary Clinton, President-elect Trump and President Obama – have been more gracious to each other than anyone could have expected given the tenor of the campaign. It appears that the United States will continue its long history of peaceful transitions of power despite the divisions within the country. That is a good thing.
We have also seen a number of commentators and public figures that opposed the President-elect’s campaign platform express the need to recognize him as the constitutionally elected President of the country, to give him a chance, and to hope and pray for him to be a successful leader. These too are virtuous aims. In the wake of any election, however, these are the table stakes. The vast majority of people would agree, regardless of whom they voted for, that this was not a normal presidential election, and Donald Trump was not a normal major party candidate. The views he espoused as a presidential candidate, combined with the many objectively repugnant, repulsive and immoral things he said and did on the campaign trail and in his past, have led to a backlash against his election that is unprecedented in my lifetime. People in Philadelphia and other localities across the country have loudly voiced their disapproval of the election results. The energy that has been poured into protests, discussions and social media missives has been impressive. And, and aside from voting, for some or many of the participants in these activities these election results have sparked their first engagement with civic life. To waste this moment would be tragic. While some of the raw emotion experienced and expressed over the last few days may dissipate, it is important that this energy be turned into something much greater for millennials and for the City of Philadelphia.
Philly Set Go is a bipartisan organization seeking to increase civic awareness and engagement among Philadelphia millennials. We also seek to empower and support candidates in local and state elections who care about and advocate for issues and policies important to millennials in Philadelphia. Generally speaking, millennials do not support the President-elect’s vision for the country. Exit polls indicate that only 37% of voters under the age of 29 voted for Donald Trump. Although the millennial generation is generally defined to include those up to age 35, it is unlikely that Donald Trump fared materially better with the 30-35 cohort. In Philadelphia, across all demographics, Donald Trump fared even more poorly. Secretary Clinton obtained 82.19% of the vote (563,275) to the President-elect’s 15.45% (105,876). It is safe to say that significant majorities of Philadelphians, including Philadelphia's millennials, do not support the current President-Elect. These facts were borne out anecdotally on social media over the past several days, in the form of an overwhelming amount of engagement with the results of the election and numerous really thoughtful and remarkable posts describing deep and heartfelt feelings emanating from Donald Trump’s victory.
About 84% of Philadelphia voters do not want to live in a Philadelphia that resembles the vision of America articulated by the President-elect. The vast majority of Philadelphia millennials, regardless of their political party affiliation, do not want to live in a Philadelphia that resembles the vision of America articulated by the President-elect The Framers of the Constitution, right here in Philadelphia, carefully crafted a system that specifically addresses the desire for groups of people in different areas of the country to determine how they want to be governed in their daily lives, within the framework of federal law.
In the Federalist Papers #45, James Madison wrote: “The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” Those who believe that the principles espoused by Donald Trump on the campaign trail are incompatible with the principles of Philadelphians, or Philadelphia millennials, should guard jealously the powers described by James Madison. And in many ways, that means improving, strengthening and empowering Philadelphia government. It also means getting really involved with local government.
The government of Philadelphia, including those state and federal representatives representing Philadelphia, needs to become more efficient, more effective and less corrupt. If the potential I have seen in the streets and on social media over the past few days is directed towards those aims we can achieve those goals. We can achieve a Philadelphia that respects, upholds and defends the lives, liberties, affairs and property of all of the citizens of this diverse city, regardless of their race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, country of origin or political affiliation. We can work constructively within Philadelphia, and also with the state and federal government, to make Philadelphia more economically successful, lift people out of poverty, improve our public school system and improve our criminal justice system while continuing efforts to reduce crime. And we can do all this while loudly and collectively rejecting the attitudes, policies and principles of discrimination, racism, misogyny and xenophobia that have been put forward by some of Donald Trump’s supporters and occasionally by the President-elect himself. But, we can only do this by turning the raw emotion and feeling of the past few days into action.
I have heard from a number of friends that the outcome of the election, more than any other event they have experienced, has ignited a desire to get involved. I know I share that feeling as well, and I have committed to myself to redouble my efforts at civic engagement. And that is how we can make the most positive change in the wake of this presidential election. Get involved in your neighborhood association; volunteer at or attend a church, synagogue, mosque or any other religious institution; volunteer at a non-profit; support your local public school and support Philadelphia’s public schools in general; become a mentor to someone or seek out mentorship; or run for elected office. Perhaps above all – vote! One of the most striking things about Tuesday (before the election results were announced) was the voter turnout in Philadelphia, and among Philadelphia’s millennial population. It was very impressive and encouraging, but it also stood in stark contrast to the experience I had voting in the spring primaries, or in prior state and local elections. If all of the energy exerted over the past few days is directed positively in our City, we can elect state and local officials who are smart, effective and will create a government that will work in the best interests of Philadelphia and its residents.
Photo Credit: Vanity Fair