By James Boyle
Bucks County Courier Times
Posted Aug 28, 2017 at 12:01 AMUpdated Aug 28, 2017 at 5:00 AM
Newtown Township resident Kierstyn Zolfo considers herself an independent voter when it comes to politics, but the 2016 election and the first seven months of President Donald Trump’s administration has cast her firmly on the side of the Democrats.
“I don’t have high hopes for either party, but it couldn’t get much worse than it is now,” Zolfo said. The Republicans have shown themselves completely unwilling to work with Democrats on any issue. I’d like to give the Democrats a chance to see if they would go across the aisle.”
Zolfo had just finished her participation in the weekly Fridays with Fitzpatrick demonstration, a regular feature in the courtyard of congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s district office in Middletown.
Every Friday afternoon for the last 23 weeks, a group of Bucks County activists have gathered to protest legislative actions in Congress or policy decisions made by Trump. This particular week in early August, the gathering focused on Fitzpatrick’s lack of open-forum town halls. The demonstration attracted about 20, mostly middle-aged to elderly residents. Steve Bacher, of Yardley, said he has seen up to 70 protesters show up, depending on the issue.
“People are coming out every Friday to fight for Medicaid, or to protect the environment from climate change, or to demand campaign finance reform,” said Bacher. “People are upset over what the Trump administration and Congress is trying to do.”
Several members of the low-key crowd took turns speaking into a microphone attached to a knee-high amplifier against the latest rhetoric from the Trump White House and encouraging Fitzpatrick to hold an in-person town hall. (Fitzpatrick held such an event in Bensalem on Tuesday.) It’s a far cry from the traffic-stopping marches throughout the streets of Philadelphia, Doylestown and Washington, D.C. post-inauguration.
Bacher said the energy from those public displays is still active and has moved into more palpable action on the local level. Groups like Rise Up Doylestown and the Indivisible chapters in Bucks County hold regular letter-writing campaigns for newspaper opinion pages and phone banks to legislators, he said.
“Hundreds of phone calls to representatives and senators on the national level stopped that horrible health care agenda,” said Bacher. “More people are coming to local Democratic Party meetings than has ever been seen. We’re seeing a lot of momentum into the next election.”
John Cordisco, chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Committee, says the party has built on that momentum and capitalized on the intense energy of independent organizations. Gearing up for the off-year municipal elections, Cordisco said the volunteer work has out-paced past elections.
“This is probably the first time that I’ve seen various groups that are outside the political parties engaging with the Democratic committee,” Cordisco said. “They’ve joined forces with structural organizations obviously to assist us in winning seats. It’s important to them to have high turnout this year to send a clear message to Washington and get ready for 2018.”