For some Bucks County progressive groups, a Donald Trump presidency will not be taken as a defeat, but as call to arms.
They are organizing in greater numbers at the grassroots level to bring attention to issues that otherwise might have been lost in the wake of the divisive presidential election.
“People just got very concerned about issues they cared about,” said Newtown resident Steve Cickay. “There’s a fear that a lot of the progress we made on issues over the 50 years, the new administration would dismantle or fight against.”
Cickay has a history of involvement in local government — he’s a member of the Newtown Democrats and a former candidate for the state Senate. But lately, he’s taken a more active role, interfacing with others who want to keep progressive issues at the forefront of local politics.
Cickay is one of a group who organized the Bucks County Environmental Coalition, which called out Trump’s choices for various cabinet positions as “climate change deniers” during a rally in Newtown. Almost 200 people came out for that earlier this month, despite frigid temperatures and last-minute organizing.
The group brings together members of local chapters of the Sierra Club and 350.org as well as the Delaware Riverkeeprs, the Arrows and independent citizens. It’s also held meetings to organize against fracking in local communities, and will continue to do so on issues of environmental concern.
Days after the Newtown rally, several hundred organized in New Hope in support of the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has repeatedly threatened to repeal throughout his campaign.
Ellen Rodwell was there, among other members of the Solebury Democrats. She said in their first meeting after Trump’s election, there was a sense of urgency to fight for Democratic issues locally.
“This election just has got me motivated. Based on the participation at the first meeting, it’s gotten a lot of people motivated,” Rodwell said. “I had called Steve (Cickay) because I wanted to see what other groups were doing and perhaps coordinate efforts so our small group wasn’t working alone.”
The coordination must be working. These rallies draw attention, from the press, from citizens. The next step is getting attention from elected officials, through letters, phone calls and visits to their offices.
“We’re doing the things we can do as citizens,” Cickay said.
Of those things, the most important to these groups coming together is larger numbers. That’s one of the primary goals of Chuck Pennacchio, a regional organizer for Our Revolution, a Bernie Sanders-inspired political organization that represents the same platform as Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Pennacchio, a Plumsteadville resident and professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, represented Sanders as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention and ran for U.S. Senate in the 2006 primary against current Sen. Bob Casey.
Our Revolution advocates for issues Sanders campaigned on like single-payer Medicare, $15 per hour minimum wage, moving off carbon-based energy and taking big money out of politics.
“Bernie has put these issues into the mainstream of discussion, giving them legitimacy in the Democratic platform,” Pennacchio said. “It’s a tool that we can now use to promote the passage and promotion of these issues and policy objectives.”
The main objective for Pennacchio is to organize behind these issues across Pennsylvania, and that includes establishing a Bucks County chapter. For Our Revolution, politics does not begin and end with elections.
“We need to engage in perpetual politics, nonstop politics,” Pennacchio said.
Once the framework is in place, the plan is to recruit candidates representing these ideas across all levels of politics, from municipal-level offices to state-level to the federal level. That includes putting candidates against Gov. Tom Wolf and Casey in upcoming elections, Pennacchio said.
These groups are aligned in certain causes, and there has already been some coordination. Cickay, along other Bucks County residents, went to an Our Revolution strategy meeting hosted by Pennacchio in Philadelphia earlier this month.
“We’re going to work with anybody and everybody who is willing to work with us,” Pennacchio said. “We need to focus on real issues rather than election politics.” ••