Recently, a group of former Republican office holders banded together to help elect a pro-choice, center-left, Trump-hating Democrat to the office of Governor. I know a few of them by name, and have no idea who any of the others are, but the Inquirer informed me in a glowing collective profile that they are intent upon saving the commonwealth from Doug Mastriano, and the sort of people who would vote for him.
Call this the “Franklin Project,” a local version of the national “Lincoln Project” whose sole goal was to prevent Donald Trump from remaining in office. Good luck to them in trying to get Josh Shapiro ensconced in the governor’s mansion. And like the beloved character in “Clueless” once told us: as if.
As if it’s going to work. Because the majority of people who are voting for Shapiro don’t need any assistance from a group of has-been country club Republicans who have managed to burn their bridges with the conservative movement in Pennsylvania.
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These are the folks who tried to get Kathy Barnette tossed from the Senate primary because she was too “radical” and would have guaranteed a Democratic win in November. These are the folks who were conspicuously silent when a Trump-abetted Supreme Court majority fulfilled the wishes of every social conservative in the state since 1973: overturn Roe. These are the folks who think it’s okay to look down on the majority of voters who aren’t watching the January 6th hearings because they don’t see any balance, and who will not be influenced by what emerges from that biased spectacle.
These are the folks who, if we are to be honest, likely agree with what President Obama said in an unguarded moment about the people who cling to their guns and their religion. And these are the folks who wince whenever someone says that cultural issues are high on the list of their concerns when deciding who gets their vote. They don’t like Ron DeSantis and the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. They were happy that Glenn Youngkin won in Virginia because he wasn’t closely aligned with Trump. They weren’t exactly thrilled that Mehmet Oz was the senatorial choice in the primary because, well, he’s a famous reality TV star and we all know what happens when they get into office.
I am aware that some might think I’m generalizing, given the fact that the reason most of the “Never Dougers” have explicitly stated that their only goal is to keep Mastriano from winning the governorship. Some of them might be pro-life, although none have been known for their full-throated support of the unborn. Some might actually support those feisty parents at School Board meetings, and think that the vaccine mandates were unconstitutional, and that the shutdowns were counterproductive. The vast majority of them are for small government, and hate the sort of bloated budgets that are the hallmark of Democrat administrations. They grew up, comfortable and contented, in the moderate-red, comfortably civilized southeastern regions of the commonwealth, with a smattering from the west and the Lehigh Valley. They would just as soon support AOC as they would attend a BLM rally.
But the prospect of Doug Mastriano, someone who Josh Shapiro has characterized in a tweet as a man who “bussed” (should be “bused”) what he called “rioters” to the capitol on January 6th, “crossed police barriers” and “defied law enforcement” (exact words) is so abhorrent to them that they have formed a coalition of establishment patriots to massage the electoral process. In other words, they want to use their money and their voices to keep those pesky social conservatives, blue-collar Republicans, and non-woke folk in line.
I wish all of those pro-Shapiro Republicans luck in their efforts to “Democratize” the state. And I’ll do everything in my power to guarantee that it’s bad.
They recognize Shapiro. He looks like them, sounds like them, has lived the same lives that they have, in precisely the same way. They’ve likely even attended the same dinners together, and maybe even their kids play on the same softball teams, or go to the same summer programs. It’s cozy.
Mastriano — for whom I did not vote in the primary and who is on the extreme end of things by any measure — is not the sort of fellow they can stomach. To be honest, he’s not my cup of tea. But I respect his military service, his work as a legislator, and he doesn’t have me running scared about “Christian Nationalism.” That’s another troubling aspect of the “Never Dougers.” They seem to be adapting the leftist playbook of religious bigotry, without actually coming out and saying that Christians are scary.
But even though I’m not a huge Mastriano fan, I will vote for him. The reason I will vote for him has less to do with him than it does with my refusal to have someone patronize me into voting for the “safe” choice, the “mature” candidate, the one that will make the suburban mommies in their SUVs heave a sigh of relief that their abortion rights will be safe and codified.
So I wish all of those pro-Shapiro Republicans luck in their efforts to “Democratize” the state. And I’ll do everything in my power to guarantee that it’s bad.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61