If you’ve followed Philadelphia politics lo these last 40 years or so, you’ve heard of Neil Oxman. He’s the premier democratic messaging guru behind a long list of boldface name candidates — including Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter, and countless congressional and gubernatorial wannabes throughout the nation. (Including a once-promising mayor of Cincinnati named … Jerry Springer.)
Oxman has long been a blustery, booming presence on the Philly scene, a fascinating mix of charisma, hair trigger outrage, and oceanic curiosity. He’s what was once called a Renaissance Man, a person of broad interests and knowledge. In addition to electing candidates nationwide, he’s a longtime caddy on the pro golf tour — for decades, he was right there alongside the legendary Tom Watson.
And he’s a movie aficionado, seeing, pre-Covid, almost 300 in theaters a year. Every year, he appears on WHYY’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane to give his annual picks. He’s well-read, interested in everyone he meets, and given to fits of rage when his city — he’s born and bred — shrinks from its potential.
I know the ins, outs, ups and downs of Oxman’s quixotic personality quite well, having enlisted him as my rabbi during a three-month period in 2007 in which I was an undeclared candidate for Congress. He put me through political basic training, and he played the role of drill sergeant — Lou Gossett, Jr. to my Zack Mayo, as I lovingly described in a GQ tell-all at the time.
One of the reasons I love Philly so much is that it has character, yes, but also that it is populated by characters. Oxman fits the bill — a larger than life lover of life, an intellectual fireball.
For the first time in a long time, Oxman has no client in our current political races, so I thought it would be a good time to get his analysis prior to election day. As expected, he has some fascinating insights about the state of our politics, but what I love about him is that, though a political insider, he has long bellowed full-throated calls for throwing out the old guard.
He speaks derisively of the country’s leadership “gerontocracy” and is outspoken about local officials whose time has come to move on. It’s a timely perspective, given The Citizen’s “Run For Something” event earlier this week with new generation political faces like Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, State House Minority Leader Rep. Joanna McClinton, and Scranton Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti. If you agree that one of the roadblocks to reform in Philadelphia is a permanent establishment that clings to power well past its time, you’ll hear Ox and want to storm the gates.
Check out our conversation, and if Ox gets you fired up, just remember: Real revolutions in representative democracies start with the vote. So, do you and your neighbor a solid next Tuesday: Vote in the 2022 Pennsylvania primary.
Listen to the whole interview here:
Oxman on movies and loss of shared community:
Oxman on historical PA campaigns:
Oxman on lessons for this campaign season:
Oxman on the Republican races:
Oxman on Josh Shapiro and the governor’s race:
Oxman on Democrats as the party of elites:
Oxman on Philly and insider-ism:
Oxman on who can be a change agent? (spoiler, it’s The Citizen):
Want to watch the interview?
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