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?

14 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Is Going to Be Interesting

  1. I agree with your point that "likeability" is not the ultimate litmus test. I think lack of likeability is a pretty strong negative, but that's a different consideration. (I'll come back to that).
    And I think willingness to work with R's who are reasonable can be a positive campaign message, it is NOT a litmus test or even close to being a "single issue" that will swing an independent voter.  The bi-partisanship thing can be addressed during campaigning by any candidate stressing that it is important to get things done, and to reach that goal it can be helpful to work with other legislators of diverse interests. 
    What I think is absolutely key is (instead of "likeability" or "bi-partisanship") is "authenticity". I think Fetterman has authenticity, so he won't necessarily scare away independents. He did come across as a fighter after the 2020 election, but he can explain his actions as being opposed to corruption regardless of party. Even though he is clearly progressive and also very tough, he says what he means and means what he says.  I think that is a far greater plus than "likeability" or "bi-partisanship".  

  2. The Democratic Party leaders always want a repuke-lite candidate who can raise lots of money.  The raising money part is the key.  Connor Lamb is their ideal candidate;  he is their mythical ideal candidate who is NOT a progressive, who they think will appeal to suburban white women and he has raised massive amounts of money with the largest chunk of it coming from a PAC funded by the financial services industry.

    The raising money is the key!  Two recent examples:  McGrath in Kentucky and Harrison in South Carolina.  Especially Jaime Harrison who was raising large amounts of money up until election day and ended up setting the fundraising record for the most raised by a senate candidate.  He spent little of it in the last weeks of the campaign and ended with control of an enormously funded PAC he used to buy the Chair of the Democratic National Party.

  3. If I wrote a newspaper article about what's going on over there, here's the headline I'd demand accompany my piece about tRUMP supporting Oz:  "In PA US Senate Race, Grifter To Back Quack!

    You're spot-on, maha!  Lamb is your prototypical Democratic candidate for a US Senate seat:  An ever-so-slightly Center-Left candidate, looking like he/she walked in straight from Central Casting.

    All cottage cheese.  No fruit, no veggies.  No salt or sugar.  No spices.  Nothin' on the side. Nothin' but plain, white, cottage-cheese.  There for nutrition, not taste.

    Fetterman on the other hand, is an atypical politician.  Even for a Democrat.  He could only be a Democrat. 

    Before he even opens his mouth to talk policies, you know he can't possibly be  RepubliKKKLAN candidate!

    I think Fetterman's electable.  Sure!  Especially against either Oz or Barnette.

    Guess which candidate I'd vote for?

  4. "Electability" fits right up there with "reliability" which are code words for protecting the donor class. BOTH party machines want candidates from the machine who will not do anything to derail the gravy train. Clinton saw the chance to run left on social issues and right on economic issues to seduce Wall Street. 

    Wary Tale hit on another important word – "authenticity." Trump fans ignore all Trump's corruption and character flaws because they love that he's not plastic. The polished product that is groomed and packaged is repugnant to the left and right.

    Have any of you seen an attempt to roll back the Trump Tax Cuts by Congress? 

  5. I voted McGrath,  What little money Dems spent for ads pushed her. And I was new to KY.

    This week I voted for Booker.


    • If the money and endorsements had all gotten behind Booker early on in 2000, instead of McGrath, IMO it’s not impossible he could have beaten McConnell. Kentucky does have a Dem governor, after all. McGrath just wasn’t that strong a candidate.

    • I’ll assume that’s a sort of joke.

      No, it’s me saying “I have no idea who Amy Walter is, but she’s the person I am quoting here.” I didn’t want to imply she is some kind of unimpeachable source, because I honestly don’t know.

      • Amy Walter appears on PBS weekly for political commentary and has her own syndicated show. She also has a radio show. She's been featured on MSNBC, Fox, PBS, CNN, and  all other major networks. She is a well-known and highly regarded writer and commentator. I've been listening to her for years.

        • “Amy Walter appears on PBS weekly for political commentary and has her own syndicated show.” I watch PBS political commentary maybe twice a decade, as I don’t care for it. When I do see it I just want to yell at the TV. I never watch FOX or CNN. I must have missed her on MSNBC, which I do watch sometimes. I get most of my information from reading. If she’s not in print frequently, then she’s probably not on my radar.

  6. Interesting that Fetterman has outraised Lamb by almost $10 million as of this week.  When it comes to the democratic establishment though, its not how much you raise, but who you are raising it from.  Lamb is getting his money from establishment-approved wealthy swells, which means that in accepting it, if elected,  he'll do their bidding as a party leadership team player, tacking right to attract "suburban white women," when that is the excuse to go against popular bills when those bills ultimately adversely impact the pockets of said swells, when it calls for it.  Think social security, student loans, prescription drug prices, $15 minimum wage, support for unions, health care, etc.  Fetterman has successfully focused on small donors, which signals to democratic establishment that, even though he will vote with the party, he’ll be a reliable shill who compromises principles and abandon voters to support the wealthy.

    We need more Fettermans, more effective small donor fundraising, and an effort to  increase the participation of apathetic voters, to break the stranglehold of the democratic establishment who, is less interested in "defeating the GOP, as it is "persuading" them, in order to have an effective counter to the republican fascist movement and put a stop to their efforts to undo democracy.

    • Should read:

      "Fetterman has successfully focused on small donors, which signals to democratic establishment that, even though he will vote with the party, he WON'T BE a reliable shill who compromises principles and abandon voters to support the wealthy."

  7. What do I think?

    I think: "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".

    Describes me pretty damn perfectly!

  8. In 2018 and 2020, i was a small dollar donor to Lamb.  In this campaign, I am a small Fetterman donor.  I want more and better Democrats in Congress.  Fetterman looks like more and better to me.


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