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Charles Meredith: A kindness and a life celebration


Dear Friends,

Good morning. Lots to discuss today: thoughts about former President George H.W. Bush; Terry Madonna’s predictions for the GOP in Pennsylvania; and Commissioner Charley Martin’s probable retirement … but let’s begin with a charming story about a local Florence Nightingale.

An officer at the QNB bank in Quakertown told me a story about a woman from the Hellertown area who helps stranded travelers during snowstorms. Peter Dudine was trying to drive home during the recent unexpected snowstorm on Nov. 15. The freakish blizzard caught highway departments with their pants down.

Dudine was stuck at the bottom of a hill and cars quickly lined up behind him. No one was moving. He told me that a farmer’s wife suddenly appeared and invited drivers into her home. It turned out that Kathy McGovern was the Florence Nightingale so I called her for confirmation. “She was truly amazing,” Dudine began.

Kathy told me that at least 20 strangers spent that night in her home.

She served soup and coffee to the stranded drivers. Dudine thinks the number might have been closer to 40 cars. Referring to blizzards, she said, “I can’t even count the times that strangers have spent the night at our farm.”

Brava, Kathy McGovern!

Last week, the world celebrated the life of former President George H.W. Bush. I thought about the acronym “CAVU” that he used to describe his life. Bush was a Navy pilot who often flew from the deck of an aircraft carrier. CAVU refers to the kind of weather that pilots hope for and means “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.”

The elder Bush believed in noblesse oblige, the French term meaning the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others … the idea that someone with power and influence should use social position to help other people in lessor stations.

His willingness to compromise and work with political opponents probably caused his defeat in 1992. But George H.W. Bush accomplished more in the four years of his presidency than most do with multiple terms.

I thought of my political life as a Bucks County commissioner 50 years ago. In 1966, there were two Republicans and one Democrat serving on the three-man board. Walter Farley was the lone Democrat. He taught me a great deal about compromise and serving the people first …and worrying about politics second.

Fellow Republican Joe Canby was in his 70s, Walter in his middle 40s and I was just 32. In my seven years on the board, we met weekly and made hundreds of decisions. Only a handful of votes were split, I recall.

Speaking about Bucks County Commissioners, it looks like Charley Martin won’t seek re-election next year, a post he’s held for 23 years ... 2019 will be a noteworthy year, I predict. Republican Rob Loughery and Democrat Diane Marseglia will run, most likely. But it may be more difficult to maintain a Republican majority on the board.

In Bucks, the voter registration is no longer favorable to the GOP. In my day, the Republican plurality was 40,000 voters. Today it’s the reverse: 194,000 Democrats to 184,000 Republicans. Democrats also picked off two row offices two years ago as they did with the state legislature this year. The GOP could be vulnerable in 2019. We’ll see.

How the commissioners resolve the $15 million budget deficit will make it easier or harder for the Republicans to stay in power. Will the commissioners raise taxes to balance the budget or cut programs? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, last week I mentioned that pollster Terry Madonna is predicting that the Republican dominance in Harrisburg may be facing a decline after some 160 years of party ascendancy.

He noted that Democrat Tom Wolf won re-election. So did Pennsylvania’s attorney general, auditor general and treasurer. Equally troubling for state Republicans is their steady erosion of support in the voter-rich Philadelphia suburbs.

In November, suburban voters flipped some 12 state House seats and four state Senate seats from Republican to Democrat while adding three congressional seats to the Democratic column. Last, President Trump’s anemic approval rating in Pennsylvania is a colossal worry.

According to Madonna, “If demographics are destiny, Republicans are in trouble, anchored in a constituency of mostly white, lesser educated, older voters … while their support is hemorrhaging among women, minorities, more educated, younger and suburban voters.

As a Republican, I’m glad I’m not running for office this year.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

P.S. In recent columns, I’ve been writing about the wisdom of increasing the size of the federal House of Representatives. One of my critics from Coopersburg thinks I’m wrong. He believes that the House is too large and should be reduced. After thinking about it, I’ve concluded that he’s probably right.

I would add that we should stop paying congress people. That’s the fastest way to encourage Congress to retire after a few terms.

Ditto for the Pennsylvania Legislature.