Jake Blumgart

Jake Blumgart is a freelance reporter-researcher living in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter.

Recent Articles

Philly’s New Mayor

How many progressive changes can Jim Kenney bring to an old-style city with an antique political culture?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke Mayor Jim Kenney on Inauguration Day. This article appears in our Summer 2016 issue. Subscribe here . N o one ever said being mayor of Philadelphia would be easy. America’s fifth-largest city suffers a poverty rate of over 25 percent, $5.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and a school system ravaged by austerity and segregation. The new mayor, Jim Kenney, was elected last year in a landslide by knitting together a disparate coalition and promising big changes ahead. The question is whether a city like Philadelphia, with all its lurking fiscal issues and petty political rivalries, is willing to accommodate a mayor with big policy ambitions. Kenney’s election last year was hailed as the latest in a string of progressive urban electoral victories. Bill de Blasio’s 2013 win in New York was the most notable, but that year also saw liberal Democratic politicians take power in Los Angeles (Eric Garcetti), Seattle (Ed Murray), Boston (Marty Walsh), Minneapolis (...

Sanders Activists Already Agitating in Philadelphia

(Photo: Sipa via AP)
(Photo: Sipa via AP) In February, Black Lives Matters protesters showed their support for Bernie Sanders in Philadelphia. I ndependence Blue Cross CEO Daniel J. Hilferty lives in the Sylvan byways of Ardmore. It’s one of those neighborhoods on Philadelphia’s Main Line that epitomizes a certain vision of what the American suburb looks like. Big houses, green lawns, gently winding lanes with few sidewalks, because no one is driving very fast anyway. And it’s quiet, the kind of place where birdsong sounds cacophonous. That’s probably why five police cars arrived ten minutes after a mob started chanting slogans in front of the insurance mogul’s house on Wednesday night. This is the latest manifestation of Reclaim Philadelphia, an activist group comprised in part of former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers and volunteers. The group is demanding that the Democratic National Convention Host Committee reveal its financial records and the names of its donors. Organizers also want those at the...

Q&A: Is Fascism Back?

To some, the reactionary forces sweeping Europe, the United States and Britain carry echoes of fascism. But historian Sheri Berman says today’s demagogues are no dictators.

(Photo: AP/Brynn Anderson)
(Photo: AP/Brynn Anderson) A supporter of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump waits before a rally in Orlando, Florida, on March 5, 2016. The specter haunting Europe is no longer communism, as it had been for decades, but ascendant right-wing movements and parties that have resurrected the fear of fascism. Reactionary forces are also on display in Donald Trump’s demagogic presidential campaign, and in the racist, anti-immigration tactics that drove the victorious Brexit referendum. But it’s in continental Europe that the far right is more powerful today than at any time since World War II. National Front President Marine Le Pen is expected to do well in next year’s national elections, while the Austrian Freedom Party lost the presidential election by .6 percent earlier this year. In Eastern Europe , aggressively nationalist and even authoritarian parties are surging. Most extreme is Hungary , where the ruling nationalist conservative Fidez has acted to suppress democratic...

Pennsylvania Primary Puts Regional Loyalties to the Test

Increasingly nationalized politics and media coverage scramble traditional allegiances in Pennsylvania’s senatorial and attorney general primaries.

(Photo: AP/Keith Srakocic)
(Photo: AP/Keith Srakocic) Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, a town in western Pennsylvania, announces his candidacy for U.S. Senate on September 14, 2015, in Braddock. T he statewide Democratic primary elections in Pennsylvania this year have been pitched as a knock-down, drag-out battle for regional dominance. Traditionally, the state has been split between its two principal Democratic strongholds: Pittsburgh and its suburbs, and the City of Brotherly Love. Each locus of power had its own political machines, its own power families, and its own candidates. The voters from each region were expected to turn out for the candidate from their part of the state. They could often even count on some support from voters in their region who weren’t of their party. “The April 26 Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania attorney general is shaping up to be a classic East-versus-West political battle for the state,” wrote The Philadelphia Inquirer ’s political columnist Chris Brennan . The...

Labor’s Cautious Endorsements

In the Pennsylvania Senate race, labor organizers have rallied behind the Democratic Party’s establishment pick—a familiar pattern also on display in the presidential primary.

(Photo: AP/Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times)
(Photo: AP/Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times) From left, candidates John Fetterman, Katie McGinty, and Joe Sestak participate in a U.S. Democratic Primary Debate hosted by WPSU in University Park, Pennsylvania, on April 9. W hen Braddock, Pennsylvania, Mayor John Fetterman announced his entrance into the state’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, there was a surge of enthusiasm from progressive activists. The biker-bearded Fetterman looked and sounded like an alternative to the candidates who had already announced—retired Admiral Joe Sestak and ex-state official Katie McGinty—both of whom look straight out of central casting for a senator from the Northeast, with the picture-perfect records to match. Soon after Fetterman’s announcement, at a hip bar in an up-and-coming corner of Philadelphia, the candidate gave his stump speech—focused on inequality and poverty in the small former steel town he represents—to a small crowd of voters, many of whom were sporting Bernie Sanders paraphernalia...