Democrats have defended Pennsylvania's Precambrian government liquor monopoly at least as fervently as they've supported public schools and collective bargaining. Even Gov. Wolf, an accomplished capitalist and scholar, has signed on to this statist folly, fending off Republican enemies of the whiskey ministry even as his first big budget went down the drain like so much Prohibition-era moonshine. For the commonwealth's Democrats, it's an article of faith that if you're in Pennsylvania, no matter who you are or how much you like it, you will buy your wine and spirits from the State Stores - no exceptions.
Well, at least not unless you're someone very special - like, say, them.
With a unanimity and alacrity otherwise unheard of in the Capitol, every Democrat in the state Senate joined Republicans this week in voting to suspend the onerous liquor laws that the rest of us live with for the duration of the Democratic National Convention. The exemption appeared in a moribund bill, cleared a committee, and passed the Senate 50-0, all in the space of three days.
If passed by the House and signed by Wolf, the bill would allow the nation's Democratic delegates, who convene in Philadelphia in July, to buy their liquor wherever they want and hang out in bars after 2 a.m. In short, they could party like it's 2016 - blissfully unaware that the Pennsylvania wing of their party is keeping the liquor laws stuck in 1939.
Legislators have justified the bill essentially by explaining what every bar, restaurant, and resident already knows: that complying with Pennsylvania's liquor laws can be difficult and frustrating.
The state extended a similarly questionable courtesy to the Republican National Convention in 2000. A dispensation for Democrats would heighten the outrage, however, given the party's lockstep opposition to liquor reform, driven in no small part by generous donations from the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents State Store employees.
The Senate's decision leaves House Democrats and the governor with a difficult choice. They can oppose the bill and prove that they really believe state liquor control is the best system for everyone, including their fellow Democratic pols. Or they can approve the bill, acknowledge that the prospect of forcing their friends and betters to abide by Pennsylvania's liquor laws forced them to acknowledge their absurdity, and set about privatizing the Liquor Control Board.
Of course, there is a third option: They can suspend the law for themselves and their party but continue to force the rest of us - also known as the chumps - to abide by it. But that would be far too hypocritical to contemplate. Wouldn't it?