Last week, I took part in ThinkFest, a program sponsored by Philadelphia Magazine. This year’s theme was “The Year is 2039. Philadelphia is America’s Greatest City. How Did We Get Here?”
I was on a panel with Mayor Michael Nutter, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, and entrepreneur Tayyib Smith. It was a fascinating 45 minutes where ideas were exchanged.
I was grateful to have been invited as the only conservative on the panel, and congratulated our moderator, Phillymag editor Tom McGrath, on his courage to extend the invitation. The comment was only partially tongue-in-cheek, because providing a venue for conservative views in the City of Brotherly Love is a tricky thing.
That became clear when Tom asked us the following question: “Assume it’s 2039. Philly is the greatest city in America. Name one significant thing we did between 2019 and 2039 to make that happen.”
The other panelists talked about addressing inequality in education and the workforce through grassroots activism and harnessing the power of government and private enterprise. Then I spoke: “We need to stop being tribal. We need to stop voting only for one particular party. We need to stop being hostile to philosophical diversity.”
I could hear the giggles in the audience. It was obvious to me that my words were dismissed as the unique idiocies of a clueless conservative. My fellow panelists were wonderful, and fair. But a week later, my most vivid memory of that conference is the laughter.
Some might say that makes me a “snowflake.” Perhaps they are right.
But I think there is something in this that bears deeper examination, something that has nothing to do with personal embarrassment or touchiness, but which signals a sea change in Philadelphia.
The type of progressivism that has seized this city is best defined by the man who currently occupies the DA’s Office. Larry Krasner calls himself a reformer, and wants to revolutionize the criminal justice system by creating more equity for the accused. This is a fine idea. But what he has also managed to do is set victims against defendants, creating an environment where anyone who complains about his agenda is the defender of a racist system.
That us vs. them mentality is pervasive in a city that now defines itself as progressive. Take for example Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins, who recently wrote an op-ed which placed the blame for much of the institutional problems at the feet of “racist” cops. Or Meek Mill, a man convicted of drugs and weapons offenses, is used as a symbol of a corrupted and broken parole system.
They’re entitled to their opinions, but I’ve found that in this city, if you don’t agree with Jenkins and Mill, you are dismissed as irrelevant at best, toxic at worst.
The push for safe injection sites. If you disagree with that, if you mention that it’s illegal or unethical or that it will further destroy the neighborhood, you are attacked as judgmental.
I myself, the sister of a man who fatally overdosed, have been told that I don’t care if people die simply because I hold a different viewpoint on a move so controversial that it went to federal court.
And let’s not forget Mayor Kenney, who years ago threatened to bar Chick-Fil-A from doing business in the city because its owner opposed same-sex marriage, and now makes comments like “If Donald Trump ever has to go back where he came from, he’s going to have to go to hell.”
He clearly knows that the vast majority of his citizens did not vote for the president. And then he goes and wins a second term without even campaigning, more of a coronation than an election. But what about the 15.45% of Philadelphians who voted for Trump? How can they feel supported by a mayor who so callously calls out the president they support?
The hostility toward conservatives in this city is palpable, and growing. And unless we start treating philosophical minorities with the same respect we demand for sexual, racial and ethnic minorities, Philadelphia won’t be a city worth living in next week, let alone 2039.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.
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