Politics in Pennsylvania – The Etownian

In recent years, the progressive movement has been attacked by conservative critics as a movement of urban, liberal elites, with some even saying it is a self-hating anti-America agenda. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman – a bald, bald Sheetz-is-better-than-Wawa lawyer, over six feet tall – has shattered all cultural stereotypes of progressive politicians. Even his campaign website claims, “John doesn’t look or speak like a typical politician and he didn’t follow the traditional route to run for office.”

Fetterman comes from an average middle-class American background, born to teenage parents in Reading. Eventually the family moved to York, where Fetterman played high school soccer, and eventually took his skills with him to play at Albright, where he played offensive tackle and had a major in finance. When he was 23, Fetterman became a Big Brother as part of the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program in New Haven, Connecticut. He was caring for a boy whose mother was diagnosed with AIDS and whose father had recently passed away from complications related to the disease. Reflecting on this period in an interview with The Nation, Fetterman said, “I was preoccupied with the concept of the random lottery of birth… Why was I born into this incredibly privileged and comfortable life and child through no fault of my own? Was an AIDS orphan at eight and a half living in an incredibly dangerous part of New Haven? All of this, of course, eight blocks from one of the world’s most elite universities. “

Fetterman also served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where he set up the neighborhood’s first computer lab and taught GED courses to young mothers and fathers. In 1999, Fetterman earned a Masters of Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he believed “public policy, social work and economics can be merged” to address problems of systemic inequality and injustice. Upon returning to Braddock – a suburb of Pittsburgh that was one of the poorest and most challenged communities in Pennsylvania at the time – Fetterman started a GED program and was encouraged by his students to run for mayor in 2005, one of he won the area code by a single vote.

During his 13 years as mayor, he was consistently viewed as one of the most progressive mayors in America (the Guardian even speculated that he might be the coolest mayor in America in 2009). Braddock currently has a community center, city gardens, and a free shop run by Fetterman’s wife Gisele, whom he married in 2008. Gisele has its own American story. According to Fetterman’s campaign website, “Gisele’s mother was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and brought her and her younger brother to the United States when she was seven, all undocumented immigrants. They lived in a one-room apartment in New York City and taught themselves English while their mother cleaned hotels and houses. After 15 years in the shadows, Gisele received her green card in 2004 and became a US citizen in 2009. “

As his story suggests, the lieutenant governor’s background was entirely American – a person who dedicated his life to public service and extended America’s promise to all Americans. Fetterman’s progressive policies have been branded for Pennsylvanians. Perhaps this is what rural Pennsylvanians, who normally wouldn’t vote for a progressive candidate for Fetterman, made his campaign plan about “forgotten places” and “forgotten people”. As part of the campaign, Fetterman wants to ensure that these Americans, who live primarily in rural or semi-rural areas, “receive the perks, investments, and focus they deserve for the amazing and meaningful contributions they have made to Making America an industrial powerhouse is what it is today. “Further clarification:” These places are important. The people who live there are important. And making sure we rebuild and invest in these communities is vital. ”

Through his politics, and especially his current campaign for the U.S. Senate, Fetterman has turned progressive politics on its head, from an agenda of liberal elites in coastal cities to a set of values ​​that can work for any Pennsylvanian and American.

The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author – Matthew Smith ’21 – and are not endorsed by Etownian, Elizabethtown College, or its faculty or staff.

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