Chuck Pennacchio is an elected delegate for Bernie Sanders from Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, having received the most votes in the April 26 primary. He is a lifelong political activist, educator, and filmmaker. He lives in Plumsteadville, Bucks County, with his wife and two children.
DocJess: When did you decide to support Bernie?
Chuck Pennacchio: I always have supported him – well before he announced. I have followed his career ever since he was mayor of Burlington in the 1980s. I always found it interesting that whenever the main stream media needed someone to offer the clear alternative view to a GOP position, they went to Bernie even though he wasn’t a Democrat. That was true when he was both a U.S. Representative and a Senator.
Bernie came through Philly in the early part of 2015 as part of a presidential exploratory campaign. He was touching base with progressive folks across the country and floating a trial balloon. I cheered him on then. I don’t know if you knew Tim Carpenter, but he was the former Executive Director of the Progressive Democrats of America. Recruiting Bernie was Tim’s last personal organizing effort. In fact, Bernie went to Tim’s memorial service not long before announcing his decision to run as a Democrat for the presidency.
DJ: You’ve been politically active for decades, and even ran against Bob Casey in the 2006 Democratic Senatorial primary. Have you ever been a delegate before?
CP: This is my first rodeo with the DNC, but I was involved with and attended the 2008 parallel Progressive Central Convention in Denver as a representative of Healthcare for All Pennsylvania and the state-based single payer network.
DJ: What are you most looking forward to at the convention?
CP: I’m looking forward to meeting folks from around the country, from both the Bernie and Hillary camps. I always enjoy the interactions – learning, networking and sharing. It’ll be a great opportunity to combine my organizer, educator, and historian skills.
In terms of events – everything is now building to the platform fights on Monday and Tuesday of convention week – and, yes, I think they are going to be fights. There are so many core Democratic issues up for grabs: single payer, TPP, fracking, free public college, campaign finance reform, climate change, and more. On Wednesday, depending on what happens over the next few weeks, there could even be a contested vote for the nomination. In any case, perhaps more than any Democratic convention since Chicago 1968, Philly 2016 is shaping up to be a real battle for the heart and soul of a party that has swung far to the right over the intervening years on questions of economics, wages, trade, Wall Street regulation, environmental protection, national security, privacy rights, and war-and-peace. The corporatization of the Democratic Party (emergent neoliberalism) is, of course, outdone only the GOP’s extreme right neoconservatism. The question for me is this: will the Democratic Party return to its centrist, social democratic, and progressive roots as defined in the 1930s and 1940s by FDR and Harry Truman, or will the Party continue its current, rightward, corporatist march on behalf of the same billionaires who drive the GOP to its radical right extremes. As “Deep Throat” advised Bob Woodward in “All the President’s Men,” follow the money.
DJ: Will you be voting for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee?
CP: Hillary Clinton needs to earn my vote. I’m well aware that Donald Trump can win Pennsylvania, but my conscience needs to be clear. Whenever I see ads, or hear speeches from the Clinton camp, they are anti-Trump. I don’t hear her explaining what is important to her, and what she would do as president. I recently heard her speak from San Diego, and it focused, alarmingly, on ‘regime change’ and ‘war above diplomacy,’ while failing to address the interconnected issues of education funding or living wage or income inequality or single-payer health care. What will she do? Long on platitudes but woefully short on specific commitments. Again, Secretary Clinton needs to earn my vote and the votes of Bernie supporters, young voters, swing voters, and independent voters.
DJ: Any final thoughts?
CP: As time has moved on, and certainly since 1968 and 1972 – everything involved with the conventions on both sides has become dry and predictably boring, a couple hours produced for television audiences every night. But 2016 will be unpredictable – we don’t know what will happen in the streets or in the hall, and what will happen with Hillary’s campaign – so we are all well advised to be on our toes, remain flexible, and stay engaged. We’ll be making history again in the Cradle of Liberty.