Pennsylvania Is Going to Be Interesting

I’ve been ranting about “electability” for years. See, for example, “Speaking of Electability” from 2019. Basically, “electability” is the argument that voters must not vote for the candidate they really like but instead vote for the one that (according to some mysterious wisdom clearinghouse, somewhere) other people will like.

Democrats keep falling into this electability trap and pushing anodyne and innocuous centrists over candidates with actual personalities and more progressive views, becuase the “centrists” are more “electable.” According to whom? According to the centrist old fogies who have been letting support for the Democratic Party erode for years.

For example, if the Washington Democratic establishment hadn’t chosen Amy McGrath months before the primaries to be the “electable” candidate to take on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky in 2020, maybe Charles Booker would have been the nominee. And Charles Booker might have won. We’ll never know.

Now the Washington Dem establishment is collectively wringing its hands because their “electable” candidate to be U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb, is way, way behind the black sheep candidate, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. This is not a nail biter. Expect Fetterman to be declared the winner of the Democratic primary as soon as polls close on May 17. But it was Lamb who got all the endorsements and the support for the party and even has a PAC to fund his campaign.

The rap on Fetterman is that he’s not a team player sort of guy and doesn’t work well with others. But it’s pretty clear he’s the guy Democratic voters want. Somebody named Amy Walter writing at the Cook Political Report writes that the “electability” argument just plain isn’t working among Pennsylvania Democrats right now. “In 2018, Democratic candidates prevailed in GOP-leaning CDs by leaning into a message of bipartisanship. Today, however, a restive Democratic base, discouraged by a lack of action on many of their key issues (like climate and student loan debt), and frustrated by GOP attacks on issues like abortion and election integrity, want fighters, not unifiers as their candidates,” she writes.

Basically, I take it, they are tired of Democrats who campaign on a promise to work with Republicans to get things done. For some reason. In 2020, here in the Midwest, all the Republicans were running on claims that Democrats were the spawns of hell who will eat your babies while Democrats smiled gently and promised to work with Republicans to get things done. Democrats mostly lost in these parts. Yes, let’s try something else.

On what universe would an overwhelmingly popular choice of Democratic voters not be the best general election candidate? Not a universe I’m familiar with. Yet the Democratic establishment has been practically frantic to promote Conor Lamb because he’s more “electable” in the general.

We’ll see. The Republican nomination fight is a nail biter. Right now it’s a three-way race featuring Mehmet Oz, who has Trump’s endorsement; David McCormick, a former CEO of Bridgewater hedge funds who is endorsed by Ted Cruz and some other Trump-aligned Republicans who can’t stand Mehmet Oz; and Kathy Barnette, a right-wing commenter and author said to be hyper-MAGA. Big chunks of the GOP establishment are trying to stop Barnette, possibly worried that she’s too crazy to be electable anywhere that’s not solid red.

So the general election will be very likely between John Fetterman, who appears to be popular with Democratic voters, and one of three very damaged Republicans who are scrambling all over each other to be More Trumpy Than Thou. The Democratic concern with Fetterman is that he might lose swing voters in the suburbs. He’s got tattoos, tends to dress casually, and is pretty consistently progressive, whereas Conor Lamb looks good in suits. Hmm. But I don’t see where genuinely moderate swing voters will go if the choice is Barnett. Oz is Oz; some parts of the MAGA base can’t deal with a candidate named Mehmet Oz. If David McCormick is the nominee he’ll have the backing of most of the Republican/conservative establishment and is not Mehmet Oz, which may make him the strongest general election candidate of the three. Again, we’ll see.

I’m not making predictions because I have never lived in Pennsylvania and am not expert in Pennsylvania politics, but I am not all that worried about whether John Fetterman is “electable.” What do you think?