Ours is a region that for all of our hemming and hawing about being the overlooked sibling of East Coast cities — among other complaints, we’re halfway between Washington, D.C., and New York City, a metropolis others invoke when they refer to the City of Brotherly Love as the “sixth borough” — is quite used to being in the national spotlight.
We’re the birthplace of the nation, after all, home to championship sports franchises — yes, the Eagles are still 0-2 in the Super Bowl, but even with the mistakes of late, this could very well be their year — the location of two major party political conventions since the beginning of the new millennium and host to Pope Francis. And this year, we just might decide the presidential election.
Every vote counts, according to the distinctly American political axiom that every four years is drilled into students young and old. And whereas past elections, plagued by dismal turnout, have challenged the message’s validity, new voter registration data indicate that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians — almost a million since the beginning of the year — seem to be taking it to heart.
Ours is a system that works best when government reflects the will of the people, no easy task when whole swaths of eligible voters fail to cast a ballot. That’s why the wave of registrations — more than 300,000 in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 11 deadline for the presidential contest — is nothing but positive.
How will these enfranchised citizens vote on Nov. 8?
That’s anybody’s guess, but according to the Pennsylvania Department of State, Democrats, who lost more than 100,000 registrants, still outnumber Republicans, 48.5 percent to 37.9 percent. The state’s 20 Electoral College votes have gone to the Democrat in every election since Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992. And Republicans have lost ground this year in the vote-rich southeastern part of the state.
But don’t assume Election Day’s outcome is certain, because neither Hillary Clinton nor her GOP rival, Donald Trump, are taking Pennsylvania — or the Delaware Valley, for that matter — for granted. Hardly a week goes by without a stop by either candidate or their campaign’s running mate, in the region defined by Philadelphia and Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Bucks counties.
The state is even key to Trump’s come-from-behind strategy; news last week that his campaign had pulled out of purple state Virginia indicates that the billionaire developer and entertainer is essentially throwing everything he has at the four key battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and … Pennsylvania.
But if the Keystone State is quite literally key to Trump’s path to victory, there are plenty of scenarios whereby Clinton wins the White House despite, as improbable as it might seem, losing here. Some analysts feel all the Democrat really needs to do is win one of the four battlegrounds. Pennsylvania, though, is in all likelihood a must-win for Trump.
That’s why it’s so concerning that he is already challenging the results of the election, effectively saying that if he loses, it’ll be because the contest was stolen right here in the southeast part of the state.
“Honestly, folks, you know I went to school in Philadelphia, and I love Philadelphia. I love Philadelphia, and I hope we’re going to do great in Philadelphia,” Trump, a Wharton grad, told supporters gathered in Wilkes Barre early last week, according to a CBS transcript. “I went to school there. I love the school. I loved everything, but I just hear such reports about Philadelphia. And we have to make sure we’re protected. We have to make sure the people of Philadelphia are protected, that the vote counts are 100 percent.
“Everybody wants that, but I hear these horror shows. I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us. And everybody knows what I’m talking about.”
Earlier, he told a crowd near Pittsburgh that it was “so important that you get out and vote. So important that you watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.”
Save maybe for the 100,000 votes of dead men in Chicago that according to historical lore decided the 1960 election for John F. Kennedy, the idea of stealing an American presidential election really doesn’t have a precedent in the modern era. Not even the 2000 election of George W. Bush — essentially decided by the U.S. Supreme Court 36 days after Al Gore won the popular vote — comes close to the quality of being stolen. It was merely the result of process, not felonious intent.
Trump absolutely has a steep hill to climb to win here in Philadelphia, a city with a 7-1 Democratic registration advantage, and its suburbs. Still, no less than the chair of the city’s GOP party has stood by past vote counts. This election will simply not be stolen. It will come down to which candidate’s message resonates most with voters.
Regardless of the results, however, one can always call them suspect if the mass of voters who registered these last few months fail to come to the polls. In this election of historic proportions, the only way to earn the right to complain about the outcome is to actually cast a ballot.
Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected]