Sunday, August 21, 2022

Opinion Distinguished pol of the week: Fetterman shows how to run as a populist. (Jennifer Rubin, WaPo)

Love how Lt. Gov. John Fetterman mocks and skewers the phony pretentious plutocrat DONALD JOHN TRUMP picked to run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania.  

From The Washington Post:

Opinion Distinguished pol of the week: Fetterman shows how to run as a populist

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the state's U.S. Senate seat, speaks after being introduced by his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, right, during a rally in Erie, Pa., on Aug. 12. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, is running a brilliant campaign in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. Fetterman has grasped a central tenet of electoral politics: Voters choose candidates with whom they identify.

Fetterman has the good fortune to be running against TV snake-oil salesman Mehmet Oz, infamous for hawking quack medical remedies. Oz is also a multimillionaire who has been living in New Jersey, purchasing a home in Pennsylvania less than a year ago. And Fetterman has been skewering him nonstop for his phoniness, out-of-touchness and lack of Pennsylvania street cred.

His latest anti-Oz barrage is all about vegetables. Oz filmed a disastrous video in which he shopped for “crudités” at a grocery store. Fetterman’s response:

The Democrat raised $500,000 from that round of mockery.

Oz was also caught saying that, despite reports that he owns 10 homes, he “legitimately” (?!) owns only two properties. Fetterman responded:

Fetterman has used MTV’s “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to paint Oz as a carpetbagger from New Jersey. He also has supported Oz’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

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All this has driven Oz’s negative ratings up, his fundraising down and Republicans’ angst sky-high. The National Republican Senatorial Committee recently slashed ad spending in Pennsylvania by a stunning $7.5 million.

Fetterman has opened up a significant lead, 11.5 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s poll average, in a state that Republicans had not unreasonably thought they could hold. Cook Political Report has changed the race from “Toss-Up” to “Lean Democratic.” Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor writes: “Fancy French appetizer plates aside, a simple glance at Oz compared to the hoodie-and-shorts clad tattooed Fetterman, and it’s not surprising to discern who comes across as more authentic and relatable to voters.” It didn’t help that Oz “spent much of the end of June into early July on vacation in Ireland, and post-primary traveled frequently to Palm Beach.”

Thanks to his clever and opportunistic assault on Oz, Fetterman has come across as the more energetic, engaged and certainly good-humored of the two, despite the stroke he suffered just before the primary.

Fetterman’s campaign holds a few lessons for Democrats. First, find a relatable candidate, not necessarily one with poll-tested positions or known for what passes for eloquence in political circles. Then, let him run as a genuine article. Second, humor is among the most effective techniques. What is Oz supposed to say — “Stop laughing at me!”? There is no real rebuttal to well-targeted mockery.

And lastly, recognize that Republican “populism” is a facade. Whether it is multimillionaire Oz or Yale Law School graduate and millionaire J.D. Vance in Ohio or one of the Ivy League-educated Republican senators, the notion that the GOP MAGA panderers represent the average American is farcical. (Their policies, including taxing the poor, protecting corporations from paying at least something in taxes, repealing the Affordable Care Act and sunsetting Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid surely are not “populist” in any sense of the word.)

Fetterman is a walking, talking, veggie-tray-buying rebuttal to the argument that Democrats have to change their policies to appeal to non-college-educated voters. Fetterman’s center-left policies (e.g., pro-choice, capping insulin at $35, supporting the Inflation Reduction Act) are popular. It’s his cultural persona and personal connection that have made a difference in the race.

For his successful campaign strategy, depicting Oz as a phony out-of-stater and showing Democrats what a real populist looks and sounds like, we can say, “Well done, Mr. Fetterman.”

Opinion by 
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. She is the author of “Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump.”  Twitter

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