Being a conservative, libertarian, or even a moderate Democrat in Philadelphia presents challenges. Radical Democrats maintain a stranglehold on all areas of our municipal government, increasing demands on an ever shrinking tax base.  Unless you are woke and espouse ideals akin to socialism, you will be run out of positions of power and demonized. 

Even though the city charter sets aside two at-large City Council seats for the minority party, Republicans managed to lose one of those seats in the last election to the Working Families Party candidate, dragging city government even further to the left. The lone at large Republican on city council worked on Mayor Ed Rendell’s transition team and long ago admitted that he voted for Obama. So, the conservative movement won’t find him to be a beacon of hope.  

Over at the City Commissioner’s office, the lone Republican aligns with progressive groups calling themselves “bipartisan,” and counts Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman as a buddy, judging by his twitter account. Fetterman has launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate championing all things “weed” (his words) and imagining innumerable ways to wastefully spend taxpayers’ money. 

Our mayor did a jig seen round the world when we were declared a sanctuary city and has never seen a progressive policy (or a chance to suffocate business and innovation) that he did not immediately promote. Indeed, Philadelphia’s Covid-19 lockdowns were national examples in undue severity and arbitrariness.

Of course, all of these progressive political leaders in Philadelphia have presided over skyrocketing crime, horrifying poverty, a deteriorating fiscal situation, and a river of escaping young families

All of these progressive political leaders in Philadelphia have presided over skyrocketing crime, horrifying poverty, a deteriorating fiscal situation, and a river of escaping young families. 

This state of affairs caused conservatives, libertarians, and moderates to take special notice when Bill McSwain assumed his spot in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in April of 2018.  Appointed by President Trump, McSwain became the Chief Law Enforcement officer for one of the largest federal districts in the country.  At his investiture ceremony, one speaker remarked: “How fortunate for the cause of justice and the rule of law that the arc of Bill McSwain’s career has now brought him back to the Office.” 

That phrase, “rule of law,” began to sound like a realistic possibility.  Collectively, we could all take a deep breath and say — maybe there is hope after all.

Those who followed his tenure closely knew that positive things were happening: more indictments for both serious criminal and civil matters, outspoken support of law enforcement and a willingness to take on tough issues like so-called safe injection sites. In other words, McSwain took the exact opposite approach of Philadelphia municipal government. 

Those who followed his tenure closely knew that positive things were happening: more indictments for both serious criminal and civil matters, outspoken support of law enforcement and a willingness to take on tough issues like so-called safe injection sites.

Unfortunately, if you limited your consumption of news to traditional local media and the twitter accounts of our elected officials, the only thing you might know about McSwain is that he was appointed by Trump, and therefore you should just ignore him.

Given the success he had during his tenure, and the inspirational example he set for what competent governance could look like here, his achievements, management style and governing philosophy deserve in depth review.

I sat down with him for a lengthy interview after he resigned from office at the end of President Trump’s term, as almost all political appointees do.  We agreed that I would not give him a preview of any of my questions – I wanted to hear his fresh, honest reactions.  As someone who followed his time at the U.S. Attorney’s office very closely — and wrote about him on occasion — I knew there was much about him that the public deserved to know, including that he recently launched his own Political Action Committee called Freedom PA. It seems his vision of a safer, more prosperous Pennsylvania, and America, did not end with his tenure as a U.S. Attorney. 

Linda A. Kerns is an attorney and co-founder of Broad + Liberty. She can be reached at lkerns@broadandliberty.com and you can follow her @lindakernslaw.

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