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Bill White: The True Takeaway from Pennsylvania’s Election on Tuesday
Democracy was supposedly on the ballot for Tuesday’s election, according to a common belief. Given the number of election skeptics the Republicans nominated, including a rebellious candidate for governor of Pennsylvania Doug Mastriano, I am unable to contest that.
But I’ll argue that normalcy actually emerged victorious from this week’s faded crimson wave. I believe that most Americans are sick of the chaos. They’re sick of lunatics. They have had enough of the election-related lies. Moreover, they are sick to the death of Donald Trump.
Okay, I understand it will irritate a few of you. However, I believe that the Republican Party will triumph in the long term if it manages to break free from Trump’s mindless MAGA cult and reverts to true conservatism based on facts, logic, and genuine patriotism.
Some say extremism infected our politics — that it’s turned us against each other and prevented us from getting things done.
But because of you, real freedom beat extremism in Pennsylvania.
Because of you, we’re going to move our Commonwealth forward.
— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) November 13, 2022
It will take some time. Politicians who were ready to hand over their nation to a man who only thinks about himself still make up a large portion of Congress. In fact, they’ll likely maintain control of the House for the following two years, albeit with less sway than anticipated. Depending on the outcome of the Georgia runoff election next month, they might even win the Senate.
But I have to think that Trump’s disappointing performance on Tuesday night has damaged, if not completely destroyed, the idea that he is He Who Shall Not Be Disobeyed in an election cycle that history suggests should have rivaled some of the most disastrous results for presidents in mid-term elections.
He supported a lot of pretty bad candidates, and many of them fell short in states like Pennsylvania where they ought to have easily won. The actual drama in Pennsylvania was centered on the Oz-Fetterman contest, which careened through a dramatic series of twists and turns before John Fetterman won. Josh Shapiro’s victory for governor was a foregone conclusion, so this race was the true focus of attention.
The Democrat Fetterman took the lead right away by portraying Republican Mehmet Oz as a carpetbagger from the Garden State who had no idea about Pennsylvania. Oz was an easy target because of his feeble attempts to be relatable.
However, Oz gained support when he argued — fairly, in my opinion — that Fetterman should agree to debates and questioned whether his resistance showed that, following his stroke, he wasn’t physically up to the task of serving as the state’s senator. When Fetterman did, at last, consent to a debate, it appeared to be a significant step in Oz’s favor.
Despite minor modifications to account for Fetterman’s ongoing stroke recovery, he was terrible. It wasn’t just that he spoke incoherently and occasionally took a while to respond. It was that he came off as unprepared for even the most straightforward inquiries, especially his back-and-forth on fracking, and for addressing Oz’s foreseeable allegations about his past and record. Even his closing remarks came off as weird and impromptu.
On a number of topics that are significant to him and his constituents, such as the fairness of a living wage and abortion rights, Fetterman did share his views. After the occurrence, some people claimed that his determination to do this, considering his obvious limitations, was an example of courage.
He was much better, if not particularly spectacular when I watched him argue in the primary before his stroke. At this point in his recuperation, he was simply not prepared. Fortunately for him, Oz also had a bad impression.
He was undoubtedly smoother than Fetterman because of his experience working in the TV industry, which made him more at ease with the rapid-fire format. He also came off as less sincere and personable, deftly sidestepping the more probing inquiries, and very much coming off as the seasoned con man he is.
My cringe meter went off the charts when he began singing “fly, Eagles, fly” and claimed to be an Eagles fan. He also made the largest mistake of the discussion when he said that “women, doctors, and local political leaders” should decide on abortion-related issues. Naturally, that was the subject of Fetterman’s subsequent hostile TV campaign.
You might have been tempted to choose none of the above if you had intended to base your decision on this discussion. But I doubt that the majority of voters did. Exit polling revealed that Oz was never able to shed his reputation as a slob New Jersey millionaire, and any association with Mastriano — much alone Trump — was viewed negatively.
Last spring, I made the case that the decidedly out-of-the-box Fetterman was the ideal choice for the growing number of people from both parties and those who are undecided about politics. He was able to gain ground in small-town Pennsylvania, where Trump’s campaigns were successful, despite taking some positions that are well to the left of where I believe most voters stand.
The fact that many Republicans were wary of Oz—whom I perceived as having no real political principles beyond a desire to win office—helped. I have to think he struggled with a lack of excitement. The best news for all of us, with the exception of Georgia, is that we’ll be able to watch TV once more without being inundated with soul-crushingly depressing advertising costing billions of dollars.