Moving Philly Forward
Spurred to action by the 2016 election, Haverford roommates Nathan Singh '06 and Rahul Munshi '06 started a political action committee to empower local Democrats to run for office in and around Philadelphia.
Nathan Singh ’06, an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter, was shaken to the core over 2016’s election results.
Four days later, the 33-year-old cancer doctor did something about it.
Singh sent an email with the subject line “a path forward” to his list of friends, many of them Haverford College alumni. It read in part: “We have lived in a liberal bubble of family, friends, and media that assured us we would get the result we wanted. But a large swath of society does not want what we want. … This election was a wake-up call.”
So began Moving Philly Forward, a political action committee that aims to “demystify the process” of local politics, as it says on its Facebook page. The grassroots group wants to empower local Democrats to run for office, starting with this year’s elections, and connect voters with like-minded candidates in the city and suburbs. The group officially launched its website in July 2017 and has held several events, including training on how to run for committeeperson and civics dialogues with members of the Philadelphia City Council and Delaware County (PA) Council. This year, it has planned events that include a March 29 conversation with Nina Ahmad, who left her Philadelphia deputy mayor post to run for lieutenant governor, and a Primary Election Night celebration on May 15, 2018.
Rahul Munshi ’06, Singh’s roommate at Haverford, was one recipient of that first email—and he was all in.
“I initially thought our first caucus [in January 2017] would be a therapy session,” says Munshi, a civil rights lawyer at Philadelphia’s Console Mattiacci Law and a cofounder of the Haverford College Lawyers Network. “[But] folks wanted to get involved in a meaningful, substantial way.”
Now he is co-president, with founder Singh, of the 550-member group. On average around 50 mebers—mostly professionals, mostly younger—attend monthly meetings that were initially held in Singh’s Center City living room and is now at venues throughout Center City.
“The vast majority of us are not political operatives,” Munshi says.
Before the 2016 election, Munshi and Singh, like many involved with Moving Philly Forward, liked to talk politics in passing, over dinner or drinks. Sure they voted, but they didn’t have time for much more—or so they thought.
Now, many want to take action. That doesn’t necessarily mean marching in the streets. “We don’t consider ourselves part of the ‘resistance,’ ” says Singh, an oncology fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. “We’re focused on educating people like us, interested but not engaged, about how the political process works, fundamentally, at the local level.”
To that end, Singh won a Carl Buchholz Fellowship to serve as a nonvoting board member of the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia government watchdog group headed by Haverford alumnus David Thornburgh ’81.
Meanwhile, Munshi recently got himself appointed as an interim committee person in his Fishtown neighborhood after he learned that many of those get-out-the vote positions are vacant.
Both men credit the College for inspiring them.
Singh, who studied biology and Spanish literature, said Haverford drove home the value of taking responsibility for problems, “to take the next step and be the one who does something about it.”
For Munshi, Haverford’s social justice ethos led the history and anthropology major to his career. (He also met his future wife, Claire Pringle Munshi ’08, a speech language pathologist, at the College.) He continues to stay involved with the College, serving as a member of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.
“There was a passiveness,” Munshi says of Democrats. “We don’t want to be caught on our heels again. … The strength of our group is that we’re going to be an army of individuals who, if we get behind a candidate, we have this big email list and we’re ready to [take] action.”