On John Fetterman’s fitness for office

Like many of you, I watched the painful debate between John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz. A few things stood out at me.

First of all, Fetterman clearly flip-flopped on the fracking issue. He was quoted in a newspaper as being resolutely opposed to fracking, yet he declared himself to be in favor of it while on the debate stage.

A politician, just like anyone else, can legitimately change his mind on a complicated issue. But to deny that one ever held a publicly stated position is to reveal oneself an opportunist and a liar.

The lie is obvious here. The opportunism only slightly less so. When Fetterman declared himself against fracking, this was to appease the environmentalist lobby. This is the same reason Biden came into office canceling pipelines and drilling rights: the appeasement of an important constituency within the Democratic base (and, more significantly, the Democratic donor pool).

Then there was the matter of Fetterman’s health. Fetterman has had diagnosed heart problems since 2017. He suffered a stroke this past May. Fetterman had a noticeable difficulty processing language. Even members of the Democratic Party’s mainstream media cheerleading squad, like CNN’s Jill Filipovic, acknowledged this.

This raises the question of Fetterman’s physical fitness for office. It is a question that voters should not be forced to ask. The Democratic Party, to be blunt about it, should have run someone else. But the Democrats have struggled to field candidates who have anything approaching a centrist appeal. This is why the Democrats ran Joe Biden in 2020, despite his frequent confusion and possible cognitive decline.

 Fetterman is the closest thing Democrats could find to a centrist for the Pennsylvania senate race. Although he came from a privileged background (his assessment—not mine), Fetterman affects a working-class demeanor. He wears hoodies rather than shirts and ties, to project the image of being an “ordinary guy”. 

Although Fetterman toes the Democratic Party lines on abortion and economic populism, he is grounded enough to recognize—belatedly—that his party’s anti-energy stance has backfired on the Democrats…not to mention everyone in America who drives a car, heats their home in winter, or relies on consumer goods transported by truck.

Fetterman is 53 years old. Not elderly, but not exactly young anymore. I’m 54, only one year Fetterman’s senior, so I know the age of 53 quite well. 

Fifty-three is an age that can go either way, depending on one’s underlying health. A year ago I was gaining some weight and acutely feeling my age. In the past six months I’ve dropped fifteen pounds and started running again. I feel like a nineteen-year-old again. Or—no—maybe a thirty-nine-year-old, on my good days. Once you pass the mid-century mark, you have some limitations. That’s just the way it is. The next decade—the next year—can no longer be taken for granted.

Fetterman is clearly in poor health. He could still have a reasonably long life ahead of him, if given time to recover. 

Suppose you’re a voter in Pennsylvania. (And possibly you are, if you’re reading this.) Even if you agree with Fetterman’s positions, and don’t mind his flip-flops on others, you must consider the question: Is it in the best interest of Pennsylvania voters—or Fetterman himself—to send a man with such serious health problems to the United States Senate? 

The Democratic Party, after all, could have found someone else to run, if only the Democratic Party had a deeper bench of candidates who would not send centrist voters fleeing in terror.