John Fetterman Is Not The Progressive Politician Everyone Thought He Was


Authored by Beth Brelje via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Financial backing from progressive Democrats helped John Fetterman flip a long-held Republican U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania in 2022.

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Getty Images, Freepix)

During his first two years as a senator, Mr. Fetterman has often surprised progressives and conservatives alike with his outspoken positions that have challenged party dogma.

Mr. Fetterman has voted against his party five times. He was the only Democrat to vote no on the confirmation of Monica Bertagnolli to direct the National Institutes of Health.

He was one of four Democrats who voted no to increase the debt ceiling.

And he agreed with Republicans on a resolution to disapprove of a rule written by the Department of Commerce relating to President Joe Biden’s June 2022 emergency and authorization for temporary extensions of time and duty-free importation of solar cells and modules from southeast Asia.

The guy on the Senate floor in the Carhartt hoodie is still very much a Democrat: pro-abortion, pro-recreational marijuana, pro-criminal justice reform, and a strong supporter of unions.

At the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Fetterman told The Epoch Times that he has not changed positions, but things are happening that highlight them—most notably, his support for Israel and acknowledging the problem of illegal crossings at the southern border.

Sometimes people may have the wrong impressions, whether from the commercials and all that stuff,“ Mr. Fetterman said. ”I’ve always really had those kinds of positions, so it’s not like a shock. So, nothing’s changed, perhaps maybe the perception.”

He also said he’s never been a progressive. He described himself as a regular Democrat who has made the case that Democrats come with a variety of views.

G. Terry Madonna, senior fellow in residence for political affairs at Millersville University, has watched Mr. Fetterman’s political career from the beginning and said it is not uncommon for politicians to change their views.

He’s not a typical liberal Democrat, which most of us thought he was during the course of his campaign, and the fact of the matter is, he’s evolving,” Mr. Madonna told The Epoch Times.

But he’s not turning into a conservative. “I’ve not seen any evidence, except for those two issues, that he’s moved away from the liberal mantra, but there have been growing questions about him because of these two big issues that he’s come out with [views] very different from liberal Democrats,” Mr. Madonna said.

Sen. John Fetterman (C) (D-Pa.) walks to the Senate chambers in the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 20, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mayor of Braddock

Mr. Fetterman has often been undaunted by public opinion and sometimes the rules.

He was the first Pennsylvania mayor to perform a same sex marriage in 2013, despite that a state law prohibited it.

One January night in 2013, Mr. Fetterman, then the mayor of Braddock, thought he heard gunshots. He ran outside, got in his truck, and chased, confronted, and detained a black man with a shotgun that he had in his truck. The man had no weapon. He was out jogging.

“I believe I did the right thing, but I may have broken the law in the course of it, and I’m certainly not above the law,” Mr. Fetterman told a WTAE TV reporter at the time. Nothing came of the incident legally, but it does come up at election time.

Earning $150 a month, Mr. Fetterman worked as the part-time mayor for the impoverished borough from 2006 to 2019. It was his only job for those 13 years. Once a thriving steel town with 20,000 people, Braddock had dwindled to 2,300 by the time Mr. Fetterman became mayor. In 2021, only 1,700 residents remained, including Mr. Fetterman, his wife, Gisele, and their three children.

A statue, Braddock’s Defeat, sits in Braddock, Pa., in this file photo. (Joseph/Flickr)

Then, like now, Mr. Fetterman’s style and blunt comments attracted media coverage and opportunities.

The small-town mayor was invited to speak in Colorado at the Aspen Institute Cultural Diplomacy Forum in 2009. He also spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2010, had a feature written about him in The New York Times, and gave a Ted Talk in 2013 about how he was revitalizing Braddock with community gardens, teaching youth work skills, creating housing for kids aging out of foster care, and building playgrounds on abandoned lots.

On the Issues

Many issues in Washington are boiled down to black-and-white positions, but immigration is a gray area for Mr. Fetterman, he said, as he acknowledges the complexity of the issue.

During his failed 2015 campaign for Senate, he ran an advertisement highlighting his wife, who is from Brazil. She entered the United States illegally at age 9 with her mother.

“I was asked: ‘Your wife’s family broke the law. What do you think of that?’ And I said: ‘Well, I’m so grateful that they did. Because if they didn’t have the courage to take that step, I wouldn’t have the three beautiful children that I have today,’” Mr. Fetterman said in the advertisement. “We as a society take a step backwards if we do anything but embrace the people that are here, and create effective laws and pass the citizenship for people coming into our country.”

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