Dear Pennsylvania Suburbanite:
I've been watching you for a long time. Do you mind if we have a chat?
I've noticed that there's a cultural caste system if you live in or around Philly. And in the eyes of the media and tastemakers, you're the high school Band Geek: Earnest. Unsexy. The kid standing by your locker with a piccolo while the jocks and hipsters grab all the dates and glory.
You're the straight-A student with a too-heavy bookbag and an after-school job at the YMCA. The cool kids are in Philly. They drink Sugar Wash Rum and tool around on shabby-chic bicycles. You pay car insurance and decide state and national elections; the cool kids would only carshare to your zip code if it meant wrapping their tattooed arms around a rare batch of Tired Hands milkshake India Pale Ale.
But you're my type. You make presidents and governors. You're in the trenches of making it into — or trying to stay in — the middle class. So let's start making some noise together.
Here's what I think I know about you: I was one of you when I was little. I stopped being one of you for a while by moving into the city. I'm back to being among you again. And I don't see you as the outcast with uncool day-to-day lives for the practical choices you've made. Quite the opposite. Remember what Delaware County's own Tina Fey once said of a certain maligned breed of woman? The same is true of you. Band Geeks Get Things Done.
When Donald Trump took the White House with a shocking win in Pennsylvania, it was voters in some of your zip codes (I'm talking to you, Bucks County) who, along with people in the far-away counties of the state, made it happen. Philly was pretty much a nonfactor in the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. All eyes again are on you heading into next year's congressional, gubernatorial, and state office races after you shook up the status quo in last month's local elections.
So starting today, grab your place at the head of the table where you rightly belong. I am the new columnist covering Pennsylvania for the Inquirer, Daily News, and philly.com. After working at the Inquirer as a reporter with stints in the city, the suburbs, the investigative team, and covering business news during the economic meltdown of 2008, my attention now turns to the suburbs of the nation's sixth-largest city — and anywhere across this vast state where things are happening that affect us all.
Too many battles are being waged every day west of Philadelphia that need our attention. Whether you're a young family struggling to juggle work and the exorbitant costs and pressures of children in an economy that favors the wealthy, or you're a political warrior looking to hold your ground or take the other guy's, the stories of your lives are the stories of our time.
Don't read local news? Start today — and hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to know what you know.
The truth is that Philly is the predictable creature in our regional ecosystem. Democrats so outnumber Republicans there that the city seldom dishes out big surprises on election day. It also no longer mints state and national political leaders the way it used to.
The real wild cards are you all. Republicans and Democrats are more or less split west of the city, and there are more voters out there than in the city as a whole. You probably didn't know, too, that the chairmen of the state Republican and Democratic Parties are based in Chester and Montgomery Counties. Or that the state Democratic Party's rising star, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, was on a national conference call with President Obama just hours after Hillary Clinton's presidential defeat. Shapiro, too, is a Montgomery County powerhouse.
Who am I? An Upper Darby native whose Greek immigrant parents ran a popular deli near the Tower Theater. I can make a mean hoagie. I am obsessed with hoagies. I will trawl the suburbs for one that comes close to my dad's famously awesome Italian with oil, onions, (no vinegar) and NEVER mayo.