A sneer, a smear and a stroke didn’t stop Jon Fetterman from winning the Senate Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania.
A news reporter once asked Presidential Candidate and former Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich’s wife if she would remove her tattoos if she became America’s First Lady. It was your typical candidate trail reporter snarky question tossed off in front of the girl your parents warned you about.
She answered matter-of-factly that she hadn’t considered that. (1)
Newly elected Democrat Senate contender Jon Fetterman has a tattoo, too. Several. He opts for cargo pants over suit jackets and white tie less shirts for the casual look. He doesn’t roll up dress shirt sleeves when hunkering down with union members: he doesn’t wear dress shirts. He sports a hoodie, looking more like an off-duty volunteer fireman than a …wait, Lieutenant Governor of a must-win state?
For his look, Fetterman earns the sound bite claim, ‘not from central casting.’ Honestly, I didn’t see that one coming. In prepping the American public on the credibility of a Senate seeking politician’s gravitas, I would not have guessed “not from central casting.”
But then again I am not experienced in political etch-a-sketch. I just remember Mrs. Kucinich’s feisty reply to the tat interrogatory.
How did Fetterman win? What does this mean? The quotidian poll watchers woke up Tuesday to an outlier from Field and Stream. How did this happen? Who let it happen? Lieutenant Governor path to the US Senate?
“He’s Everyman,” explained Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and former Republican Party National Chair.
“Jon’s a good guy,” assured Mrs. Fetterman, Second Lady of Pennsylvania, punching each word with a convincing tone.
Who talks this way and gets voters to nod their heads in agreement? We are in Pennsylvania, once described as West Virginia with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia thrown in.
On Tuesday, May 17 at 9:00pm., by a healthy 2 to 1 margin, Pennsylvania was Fetterman Country. America woke up to the former mayor of Braddock, PA. (population 1,700) as the state’s Democratic candidate to fill the Senate seat of three term Senator Bob Casey.
And for a moment America went ‘local.’ Yeah, it’s refreshing.
Fetterman is not a ‘bro. As a friend recently quipped, “He looks like a bald Rasputin, speaks like FDR.” He presumes far more than ‘Everyman.’ Like Mrs. Kuchinich, Fetterman is fine with who he is, bypassing the make-up mirror on the way to the mic. He arrives on the scene, claims the crisis at hand, connects the dots, and moves on. He doesn’t plea ‘America deserves more.’ He doesn’t wince or parse his words. He uses his time to convince the watching public that he sees exactly what they see and will not close his eyes or turn away. It’s not never-never-land we are entering. It’s real and sweaty and filled with suffering. No hoots and hollers.
Space for brave acts.
In the midst of the pandemic when Pennsylvania was showing its underbelly, Fetterman promoted ‘Medicare for All,’ recalling for the public what ‘we should have for all.’ Incredulously, interviewers asked Fetterman to repeat himself. He assured them, ‘yeah, that’s what I meant.’
On another day Fetterman could be branded a socialist. After all America is like that: one is bold, today, a scapegoat, tomorrow. But Fetterman’s timing was perfect, his message memorable.
He’s the ‘Make America Healthy Again’ candidate. Who wouldn’t want that?
So what distinguishes Fetterman’s agenda? It’s tied up with knowing his constituents, all of them. This is just the primary. In November Fetterman will face off either Dr. Oz or Mr. McCormick both election conspiracy advocates, ‘out-of-staters,’ national Republican donor moneyed candidates, Trump lurking in the background.
It’s David versus Goliath, Robin Hood versus Prince John, Capra’s Mr. Smith versus the back room deal makers… the kind of matchup America, once land of the brave, cherishes.
The other part of Tuesday’s primary election win were Fetterman’s opponents, Rep. Conor Lamb, the establishment choice and Malcolm Kenyatta, a Philadelphia resident and the first Black openly gay member of the state legislature. (2)
Mr. Lamb, Army veteran, resolute in suit and tie less white shirt, Congressional pin lapel attached. Mr. Lamb, ‘problem solver,’ mod Democrat, steering past legislation smacking of partisanship for fear of alienating a ‘base.’ Whiner and propagandist of the debunked theory that Progressives only have to pander to urban minorities to get elected. (3)
That Fetterman sailed past Lamb in every county in Pennsylvania is witness to the fact that to win, he had to. (4, 5) There were no prime time debates, no last minute salvos. Indeed, Fetterman suffered a mild stroke days before the primary. Offering ‘blood clot crosses the afib barrier’ as diagnosis, Fetterman at once claimed recovery and offered praise to the medical profession. Alive and well, Fetterman wisely cancelled an election night appearance at the victory celebration.
He didn’t need to show up to celebrate. He’s been ‘showing up’ since 2019. His is Pennsylvania’s “favorite son” for the taking.
1- One is reminded of the equally snarky question thrown to HBCU graduate Vice President elect Kamela Harris: “Why didn’t you go to Harvard?”
3- Cite comment about AOC.
4- Though Fetterman won in competitive urban precincts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, he will need to address voter turnout particularly in black communities.