John Fetterman for Senate
Primaries matter, and Pennsylvanians have a clear choice to make
If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance that you are registered to vote in next week’s Pennsylvania Democratic primary election. Even if you’re not, considering whose Substack you’re reading, I can virtually guarantee that you know someone who is. So just in case you are an eligible voter whose mind is not made up, or you can pass this message along to someone who is, I’m taking this opportunity to ask you to vote for John Fetterman for U.S. Senate.
As our current situation has made clear, it matters a great deal that the politicians we elect are not just Democrats but progressives, particularly in the Senate. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the self-styled progressive populist and arguable mascot of Pennsylvania defeating Donald Trump in 2020, surely fits the bill. If elected, you can expect him to be one of the loudest members of the caucus’s left flank, from his strong support of labor to his full-throated advocacy for codifying abortion protections (not a given among leading Democrats these days).
Fetterman’s biggest challenger for the nomination is Congressman Conor Lamb. Lamb sells himself as an unabashed moderate, which is a nice way of saying he’s been on the opposite side of progressives on a lot of important issues. Per FiveThirtyEight’s Congressional vote-tracking data, Lamb ranked among the top decile of Democratic House members in his alignment with Trump’s policies, including building the border wall and allowing the use of military force against racial-justice protesters. He’s already drawing comparisons to obstructionist Joe Manchin, or even to an outright Republican. (State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, seen as the third major candidate in the race, is a more-credible progressive alternative to Fetterman than Lamb in terms of ideology, but I haven’t seen a poll that has him exceeding single-digit support.)
Lamb’s campaign is pushing the line that he is more electable than Fetterman in November. Yet looking past the lazy assumption that Lamb’s moderation holds broader appeal than Fetterman’s populism, his super PAC’s own internal polling contradicts this, showing him underperforming Fetterman against the likely GOP nominees. Elizabeth Warren’s take on this is particularly incisive:
“In politics, as in many things, you should be careful what you wish for. But the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is not likely to prevail in a general election,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), whose retirement is sparking the open race, of Fetterman’s prospects.
Warren’s response to that line: “Oh, I’m sorry, what I want is advice from Republicans on who should be the Democratic nominee.”
Fetterman is by no means a perfect politician — something that Democrats aren’t always good at acknowledging about those they support. There’s the horrific and inexcusable 2013 incident in which he racially profiled and allegedly pulled a gun on an unarmed Black man. His track record on fracking is mixed at best. I’ve heard other stories about his dealings with constituents that also give me pause. In an ideal world, a better choice emerges to challenge for the seat in six years — is it wishful thinking to say Nikil Saval? — but in the meantime, both the Commonwealth and country will be better off with John Fetterman in the Senate than Conor Lamb.
If nothing else, don’t you want to see if he’ll wear shorts to his swearing-in?
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