I am keeping an eye on Philly for what it may say about the future of the Democratic Party and/or institutional change.
Philadelphia Magazine has a good story on Sen. John Fetterman’s (D) endorsement of two Working Families (WFP) candidates for city council. (Gov. Josh Shapiro [D] also has endorsed one of these candidates.) Does this reflect a broader willingness within the Democratic Party to empower WFP as a coalition partner?
It is worth remembering that Fetterman did not have to make endorsements.
The backdrop is an upcoming election to seven ‘at-large’ council seats. By law, a party may not nominate more than five candidates. This had the effect, until 2019, of reserving two seats for the Republican Party. Now the party is down to one, and November’s election may reduce that to zero.
As of late spring/early summer, three potential approaches to the situation were apparent.
One was to go to nonpartisan elections, potentially with instant runoff or Approval Voting. That buzz surrounded the mayoral nominating primary, but it reasonable to believe there is a constituency for similar reforms of the council electoral system.
Another was to try to remove WFP from the ballot. That effort was unsuccessful.
A third approach was along the lines of what Fetterman (and Shapiro) are now doing.
One might add a fourth approach, which I have not seen discussed: increase council size, and impose some form of proportional representation (PR). ‘At large’ elections are often thought to shut out numerical minorities, but they also let groups (like parties) aggregate their votes over larger areas than what a single-seat district typically encompasses. A greater number of at-large seats could help the GOP if this were twinned with PR, such that the threshold of exclusion were brought down to the party’s share of voters.
Thought experiments aside, this is an interesting situation to watch. Parties are not unitary actors. One often finds different views within them on how to approach situations like the one in Philadelphia.