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Never Compromise

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Josephs 2.pngOne of the most toxic elements of modern politics is its extreme partisanship, personified these days by Congressional Republicans.  Their "Never Compromise" rule on everything pursued by the Obama administration has left Washington, D.C. in a permanent stalemate.  At times, it seems, they simply do not recognize the legitimacy of the 2008 election and Barack Obama's right to govern.

It is odious, divisive and sours people on government's ability to solve problems -- any problem. Now, I will step off my soapbox, stop bashing the Republicans, and admit they are not the only sinners.

Take state Rep. Babette Josephs, please.

Josephs has represented Center City Philadelphia's 182nd district in Harrisburg since 1984. She is, of course, a Democrat. To call her progressive and liberal is an understatement.

For 28 years, Josephs has stood for issues near and dear to the heart of progressives: abortion rights, lesbian and gay rights, women's rights, government reform, etc. She is a reliable "Nay" vote on any bill on the conservative agenda.  She is a frequent speaker on the floor of the House, lambasting her troglodyte enemies, such as the comically conservative Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.

And there's the problem.  While Josephs' has stood for all the right things, she hasn't actually done much about them.

Beyond speechifying, she has few legislative accomplishments to her name -- i.e. bills enacted into law.  And it's not as if she is lacking in power.  She is ranking Democrat on the House State Government Committee which, among other things, oversees our election laws.

For example, Josephs makes much ado about favoring campaign finance reform -- an important topic in an era when money rules politics. But, in all her years -- even when she served as chair of the House State Government Committee -- she has never succeeded in getting any major reform enacted. In fact, I can't think of any minor reform she got done in that area.

To me, Josephs is the political equivalent of a lawn ornament -- decorative, but static.

I am not the only one who has noticed this. Over the years Josephs has had a string of opponents in the Democratic primary, most of them well-spoken, ambitious young men seeking to topple this liberal lawn jockey.

The latest is Brian Sims. Sims has a gilt-edged resume suited for this district. He is a tall, handsome 33-year-old lawyer who is (a) the son of career military parents (b) a college football star and (c) gay. The 182nd has the highest concentration of gays in the state. Being c in this district is a bigger asset than being a and b.

Sims has honed in on Josephs' weak point -- her eloquent ineffectualness or, if you prefer, her ineffectual eloquence -- and billed himself as a can-do progressive who will get things done in Harrisburg.

As he told the Gay News in one interview:

"As much as I wish it was about big, strong speeches and esoteric arguments, the Pennsylvania House is all about collaboration, and I think I have the benefit of a background and work that has shown me that I'm very able to bring people together...

We don't need to agree on all of our issues to accomplish a lot. The House has been slowed down by an inability to collaborate."

Sims must be making inroads in the campaign, because Josephs has struck. A mailing that went out from her campaign last week is a negative hit piece aimed squarely at Sims. It is titled "Lost in Compromise."

"DANGER PHILADELPHIA, DANGER!" it shouts. "Brian Sims says he will work with Harrisburg Republicans!"

The piece includes a picture of Sims and Gov. Tom Corbett, linking the two together with an agenda that includes: "disenfranchising minority voters...mandatory ultrasounds before abortion...drastic cuts in public education."

Obviously, Josephs taking Sims statements on collaboration and turning that into craven compromise in support for the evil Gov. Corbett and his Cro-Magnon agenda, implying Sims voted for these measures. In reality, Sims did not -- and could not. He is not a member of the House.

Inside the piece, we get a full-page portrait a smiling Josephs who tells us that she has fought against "Corbett's radical agenda," Fought the Voter ID law. Fought the mandatory ultrasound law. Fought cuts in education and food stamps.

Fought, yes. Won, no

All those measures passed and became law. The Republicans rule in Harrisburg these days.

This is the usual bullshit that goes out this time of year (though, it should be noted, bullshit can stick. Negative advertising works.)

What gets me is the notion advanced by Josephs that compromise and collaboration is inherently evil. That if you step across the aisle to talk to a member of the opposition party you are a traitor to the cause. Your job is to stay in the trench and fire back.

This type of thinking is destructive to the democratic process. It is what makes modern politics so toxic. If it is wrong for Congressional Republicans to do it, then it is wrong for a Center City liberal to indulge in it.

I don't want Babette Josephs to fight for me. I want her to win for me. And if winning means collaboration and compromise, then so be it.

-- Tom Ferrick

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