When John Fetterman travels to Washington in January as one of the new members of the Senate, he will bring with him an irreverent Pennsylvania style that extends from his own super-casual personal dress code to hanging marijuana flags. outside his current office at the state Capitol.
Pennsylvania’s singular lieutenant governor, who just flipped the vacant state Senate seat to the Democrats, may be the only senator to be declared the “god of American taste,” as GQ magazine once did.
Fetterman, at 6-foot-8, will tower the currently tallest senator, Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas, by 3 inches. And he might be the most tattooed senator (if not the only tattooed senator).
He can break a few things: He can be aggressively progressive, campaigning hard on the promise of ridding the Senate of filibuster rule. She could also become the Senate’s biggest media attraction: she’s outspoken and, especially on social media, has a wicked wit.
He has an admirer in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom Fetterman endorsed for president in 2016 when Sanders was the insurgent Democrat challenging establishment primary favorite Hillary Clinton.
Sanders called Fetterman’s race the nation’s top contest, a victory for a progressive candidate who focused on economic issues, the struggle of the middle class and the growing enrichment of the rich.
“And I think if there was any candidate who ran more than anyone, who identified with the working class, who made it clear that he was going to Washington to represent working class, it was John Fetterman,” Sanders told The Associated Press.
Fetterman has played down his own progressivism. Instead, he said the Democratic Party has reverted to its longstanding positions, such as marijuana legalization, and has presented itself as a Democrat who votes like a Democrat.
On the campaign trail, Fetterman said he would like to emulate fellow Pennsylvania Democrat, third-term Sen. Bob Casey, an institution in state politics who campaigned for Fetterman and is loaning his chief of staff to help oversee the Fettermann transition.
Casey doesn’t expect Fetterman’s progressive politics to sideline him, saying Democrats already have a broad coalition that can get things done, like President Joe Biden’s infrastructure legislation and the massive health care and climate change bill. .
“I think you see kind of a broad coalition that will stick together to, you know, move the country forward. So I think John will be a good fit for that,” Casey said. “And there will be times when he has an issue that he wants to address that not everyone does, but we can fix it.”
Fetterman, 53, just won the most expensive and probably most unusual Senate race of the midterms.
In the middle of the campaign, Fetterman survived and later recovered from a stroke that he says almost killed him. He then beat out Dr. Mehmet Oz, the heart surgeon turned TV celebrity who spent $27 million of his own money after moving from New Jersey to run.
Fetterman still suffers from auditory processing disorder, the common side effect of a stroke, which could force him to use subtitles in hearings, meetings and debates. He could also limit his ability to participate in the common practice of giving interviews to reporters in the halls of the Senate.
Fetterman’s fashion sensibilities (he wears hoodies and shorts, even in winter) came on the campaign trail, when Republicans branded him as someone who dresses like a teenager who lives in the basement of his parents’ house. . At an Oz campaign event, Sen. John Kennedy, R-Los Angeles, jokingly told the crowd that Oz at least “wears pants.”
In the Senate, Fetterman will join the biggest of clubs, 100 of the nation’s top insiders: millionaires, scions and king or queen makers. Many of his supporters see him in the Senate in a different light: as an outsider.
Fetterman became something of a progressive hero without the party’s help, drawing a following as mayor of a Pittsburgh satellite community. In that role, he performed same-sex marriages before they were legal and was arrested at a protest after Pittsburgh’s regional health care giant closed a hospital in Braddock, his poverty-stricken city.
“He is for us, not for the big movie stars or the important people who have all the money. He is for the little ones in Pennsylvania,” said one supporter, Lydia Thomas.
In a potential preview of his Senate tenure, Fetterman’s campaign struck a balance between interiorism and exteriorism.
He has forged ties with Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf and garnered high-profile help on the campaign trail for Biden and former President Barack Obama. But as lieutenant governor, he built a reputation as someone who didn’t associate with state legislators and, as a candidate, didn’t kiss party members’ rings.
When it came time for the state Democratic Party to endorse the four-way Senate primary, Fetterman dismissed it as compromise; his campaign called it an “inside game.”
On the campaign trail, Fetterman regularly used Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as a foil, suggesting that Manchin does not vote as a Democrat should and will not get off the hook.
At a packed county Democratic party breakfast, he asked voters if there were any “Joe Manchin Democrats” in the room. Nobody spoke. Fetterman then told them that a Democrat who doesn’t support removing the filibuster “must believe there are 10 or 12 conscientious Republican senators.” Manchin’s office had no comment.
It’s unclear if Fetterman views himself as an outsider or intended to run that way. He has dismissed questions about his style or how he would fit into the Senate, saying he should be the least of anyone’s worries given the stakes.
“This is what I promise never to do: I promise never to incite a riot at the Capitol. I promise never to stand on the floor of the Senate after being ousted by a group of rioters and lying about our election in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said in an interview last year.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Fetterman was in high demand from television networks and carried the Biden shield. As a senator, he may once again be in high demand on the Sunday talk shows. And his social media feeds are worth checking out: his campaign trolled Oz relentlessly, and he sometimes spits profanity when he describes things he doesn’t like.
Then there is her wardrobe. Fetterman has said that he will wear a suit on the Senate floor, and sure enough, when he showed up for orientation earlier this month, he wore one. He’s not entirely foreign to dressing up; he has worn a suit while he presided as lieutenant governor in the state senate.
Senate aides aren’t sure if the Senate dress code is written down anywhere. And while men are expected to wear a jacket and tie, Casey suggests that the dress code isn’t always adhered to.
“Lately I’ve seen certain Republican members whose names I won’t reveal, but if you look closely at the video, you can see, they’ve shown up without a tie, or sometimes without a jacket,” Casey said.
Fetterman hasn’t always shown reverence for job expectations or requirements that he may not like. For example, as mayor of Braddock, he skipped about a third of city council meetings during his 13 years in office, records show.
He skipped dozens of voting sessions in the state Senate during his four years as lieutenant governor, including eight out of nine days this fall while on the campaign trail. When he ran for president, Republican senators complained that he showed a lack of interest in learning the rules of order.
Twice, Republican senators made extraordinary procedural moves to remove him as president in the middle of a voting session, alleging that he had deliberately defied the rules of order to help his fellow Democrats in partisan clashes.
Not only that, but he raised feathers by hanging flags, such as pro-marijuana legalization and LGBTQ and transgender rights flags, from the door of the lieutenant governor’s office and his second-story outdoor balcony overlooking the wide front steps of the state Capitol. .
Republicans, complaining that he was turning their Capitol Hill office into a bedroom, inserted a provision into the budget legislation to stop him, prompting Fetterman to satirise them as running the “gay pride police.”
The United States Senate will have its own partisanship and its own transactional dealings between members. Casey says that Fetterman is ready for it, since he was mayor and lieutenant governor. What may be the biggest change for Fetterman, Ca saidSey, it’s the demand on his time that will keep him in Washington and away from his wife and three school-age children.
“Your life becomes, because of the voting and hearing schedule, in the moment in Washington and that’s different,” Casey said. “Most people don’t have that kind of schedule where…sometimes you’re in Washington rather than the state you represent.”