Donald Trump, the Ghost of Frank Rizzo’s Past?

Former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo strip searching Black Panther members while in office.

The latest Franklin and Marshall poll has been released and among Republican voters, Philadelphia is Donald Trump Country.

Donald Trump leading the Pennsylvania poll at 22 percent and his closest challengers are Rubio at 16 percent and Cruz and Kasich at 15 percent.

In Philadelphia Donald Trump is polling at 50 percent, but in the surrounding Southeastern part of the state, Kasich and Rubio are polling at 22 and 24 percent while Trump is polling at 14 percent.

With this difference between the City and the surrounding area, a question must be asked of the white working class living in the Riverward neighborhoods and Northeast Philadelphia.  Is Donald Trump the Ghost of Frank Rizzo’s past?

For what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight posted an interactive county-by-county map showing which candidates have the most Facebook likes in that particular region or zip code, and it indicates that Donald Trump has a lot of Facebook support in those Riverward and Northeast Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Even though Frank Rizzo’s legacy is the golden calf of white working class Philadelphians – I mean there’s a statue of him walking towards City Hall -, Rizzo, like Trump, was known for making outlandish statements and stirring up racial tensions when he was mayor of Philadelphia.

Here’s an excerpt from Philly Mag’s Jake Blumgart regarding the issue.

Both men are known for their outsized personalities, unfiltered rhetoric, hatred for the media and utter assurance in their own righteousness. Both weaponized calculated bursts of invective: Rizzo promised to “make Attila the Hun look like a faggot,” while Trump assures his fans that he’ll “bomb the shit out of ISIS.”

Both placed themselves above other politicians as a breed apart, tougher and more genuine. “I have high principles — stand for good,” Rizzo told Newsweek in 1971. “If anybody gives me a bloody nose, I’ll wipe it off and just love to mix it up. My strategy is to be Frank Rizzo. No glib talk. No talking with forked tongue for Frank Rizzo.” Forty-five years later, Donald Trump is leading the Republican field. “I’m the only one that speaks my mind and tells the truth and everybody knows I’m right,” the magnate told a Fox News anchor last year, after his comments about temporarily banning Muslims from the United States. “You know what my campaign strategy is? Honesty. I say it like it is.”

Rizzo tucked a nightstick in his cummerbund, and working-class white Philadelphians swooned. Trump pounds out 140-character insults on Twitter — his enemies are “failing,” “grubby,” “low-energy” losers/phonies/dummies — for similar effect. “Both those guys are just saying what everyone else is thinking, what the average American is thinking,” says Diane Gochin, 58, who backed Rizzo when she lived in the city and supports Trump now. “With Trump, as with Rizzo, he is not bound by the bar association or the banks or anything else,” says Gochin, who now lives in Montgomery County but grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and worked in the vast bureaucracy of Thomas Jefferson hospital. “He’s the best bet we have for bringing the common people back into government.”

Today, crime is at record-low rates across much of the country. Nonetheless, Trump has tapped into the same sort of racially charged security fears that Rizzo ran on. The real estate mogul has thrilled his supporters by smearing Mexican immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” There’s a bright, easily traced line between Trump’s vows build an enormous wall on America’s southern border and Rizzo’s own peace through strength proclamations: “The only other thing we can do now is buy tanks and start mounting machine guns.”

As mayor, Rizzo organized a special police squad to spy on his opponents, hired hundreds of new police officers, and once circled the Inquirer’s loading dock with angry supporters, blocking delivery of the paper after it angered him. During the 1971 election, after the Democratic governor scrapped Pennsylvania’s death penalty, Rizzo mused, “Maybe we need a local option. Maybe we can have our own electric chair.” In another interview, he said the Black Panthers “should be strung up. … I mean, within the law.”

emphasis added

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About Sean Kitchen 681 Articles
Contributor and Assistant Editor for the Raging Chicken Press. Stationed in Harrisburg covering politics in the capitol. You can send tips to or reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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