I’ve lived in Pennsylvania for my entire life and over the last three decades I’ve grown to begrudgingly love this busted old pick-up truck of a Rust Belt state. That Beltway mutant James Carville once derisively described this place as being Alabama between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I’ve never been to Alabama, but I live in a small town that is roughly halfway between my state’s two biggest cities and the comparison rings a bit hollow. I won’t sugarcoat it; this was not an ideal place to grow up Queer and I don’t always feel safe at the local diner, much less the nearest Baptist Church but this isn’t fucking Deliverance country.
This is a country where you’re never more than 15 minutes from both an Amish farm and an abandoned factory. This is a country where people hunt to put food on the table and not to prove how big their dick is. This is a country where diversity means that every skinny Black dude on the wrong side of town has a fat hillbilly baby-mama with a couple of beautiful caramel children in tow. This is a country of doublewides with rainbow flags and ranch homes with Blue Lives Matter signs. This is a complicated and often contradictory state but it’s also a state with a lot more heart than brains and it’s a state that has been repeatedly raped by Washington for that honorable flaw. A place where all the factory workers now cut their paychecks at growing prisons filled with their opioid-addicted children who sought to erase themselves after coming home from the latest bipartisan forever war.
This is how Pennsylvania became Trump Country and this is what the smug wonks on CNN will never grasp about the MAGA sickness. Once again, I’ve never been to Alabama, but the people who live between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia didn’t vote for Trump because they’re racist or sexist even if he clearly is. They only got on board with that orange motherfucker when they saw how uncomfortable he made elitist little shits like James Carville. The people I know who voted for Trump knew full well that they were casting a ballot for a lecherous cretin they wouldn’t let within fifteen feet of their daughters but as far as they were concerned, they weren’t just voting for a man who macks on his own offspring, they were voting to throw a screaming orange brick through the White House window. MAGA was their revenge against a bipartisan political machine that fed our state to NAFTA and the Iraq War.
It’s just a crying shame that they still haven’t woken up from the fever dream yet because the MAGA circus has only been assimilated back into the Washington hivemind and if this year’s crazed midterm election over the Senate seat of swing state Republican douchebag Pat Toomey has proven anything it’s that it’s just the same damn show under a different fucking tent.
The 2022 GOP Primaries over this partisan prize have essentially amounted to a hate-fuck menage a trois between three vapid carpetbaggers. The early Washington favorite seemed to be David McCormick, a Pennsylvania-born neocon who spent the last thirty years becoming a hedge fund millionaire in Connecticut and the last thirty weeks trying to convince his home state that this Bush Administration golf course cancer is really just another good old boy beneath the Polo shirt and pleated slacks. Many of the Donald’s tarnished brass were in on the grift from the drop. After all, McCormick’s own wife, Dina Powell, paid her dues sacrificing Somalian babies on the altar of the MAGA drone wars as that fucker’s National Security Advisor. Stephen Miller, Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway all threw their weight behind McCormick’s tried and true formula of Wall Street skullfuckery but their petulant orange emperor had different plans.
Donald Trump, being the starfucking opportunist that he is, decided to endorse Dr. Mehmet Oz instead. An Oprah approved daytime TV hack whose only connection to the Keystone State is the few years he spent playing beer pong at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Oz has never held a solid political position on anything for longer than fifteen seconds other than his support for the miracle cures he hawks to lonely housewives on his show. In other words, his pinched asshole is a picture-perfect fit for the Donald’s stubby toadstool dick, but he totally lacks any of that go-fuck-yourself bravado that sold white trash working class heroes on a similarly spiked cocktail back in 2016.
Even on his own campaign adds, Oz comes across like the creepy little brother of the football star trying to convince underclassmen to blow him behind the bleachers for his legendary sibling’s phone number. Thus, you had the bizarre and slightly hilarious spectacle of this motherfucker being booed by red cap wearing rough necks who came to see Trump at his own rallies. In the end, the good doctor barely walked away from a two-week recount with a pocket full of votes and was nearly unseated by Kathy Barnette, another carpetbagging Fox News troll whose entire backstory appears to be a self-published Wikipedia page.
Nobody who wasted a vote on Dr. Oz felt good about it and they’re not going to feel any better about making that drunken one-night-stand a regular thing after that wormy quack spends the next four months trying to convince independents that he’s anything other than Donald Trump’s latest gimp, especially when you can still smell the ball-gag on his breath from the second row of the debates. To make the doc’s predicament even more precarious, this year the Democrats have their own populist firebrand, and he appears to be a ringer.
I speak of course of Big John Fetterman. If you don’t know him by name yet like the rest of my state, then you probably know him by image. At six-foot-eight and 300 pounds with his sleeves of tattoos, shaved bullet head and goatee, John Fetterman looks a bit like Anton Levey on steroids. A hulking, tough-talking, blue collar, antihero in his ever-present Dickies work shirt and basketball shorts. And he has the made-for-television Tarantino biography to match.
Every magazine and newspaper article tells the same damn story, after going on and on about his Hell’s Angel’s appearance they go into Big John’s meteoric rise as the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a town hit so hard by globalism that it makes Detroit look like Pride Month at Dollywood. Fetterman became a liberal cult hero making the rounds on late night television to sell his self-proclaimed gentrification-proof post-apocalyptic wasteland to Brooklyn hipsters creaming their loins for an authentic feeling place to open their next microbrewery.
He rode this notoriety straight to the Lieutenant Governor’s office where he made Twitter headlines calling for marijuana legalization and bitch slapping Trump for making up ludicrous conspiracy theories about not really losing MAGA country to a neoliberal zombie-like Joe Biden in 2020. John Fetterman looks pretty fucking cool on paper alright but that’s just it. Once you get past the vanity and bluster, there really isn’t a whole lot there. When it comes down to actual policy positions, the man has few that aren’t paper thin and a closer look at the man’s unedited biography shows a very political animal who’s not much more authentic than Donald Trump or Dr. Oz.
The first thing you need to know to understand John Fetterman is that he is a working-class poseur. His whole knight-in-navy-polyester-armor schtick is little more than drag. John Fetterman may look like a Steel Town Kinzer, but he grew up a pampered rich kid to an insurance tycoon in the plush suburbs of York, Pennsylvania. He doesn’t exactly hide this, but he claims that he had an epiphany that he should devote his privilege to the little people after a friend died in a tragic car crash. Strangely, this Franciscan journey of charity took him to the Ivy League organized crime factory known as the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
From there John made his way to Braddock by way of Americorps and quickly set himself up as a kind of Rust Belt Willy Wonka after barely winning his first mayoral bid for a largely Black and 90% abandoned city. He showered the impoverished town with daddy’s money funneled through he and his wife’s non-profit, essentially buying the next few elections and pimping himself out to the national media as a white savior with a tin cup ready for any liberal-do-gooder to play Bono in their own country with their spare pocket change.
The first sign of cracks in the Fetterman facade came in 2013 when the mayor chased down a local Black jogger named Christopher Miyares with a loaded shotgun in his pick-up truck after hearing bottle rockets from his yard. Likely the only thing that saved Miyares from becoming Ahmaud Arbery was the fact that Miyares was understandably too scared of the gauge-cocking skinhead the size of a building to stand his ground. To this day, Fetterman refuses to apologize or even fess up to any wrongdoing in this borderline hate crime, even bringing up Miyares’ subsequent arrest on totally unrelated charges to justify his actions. But this was before George Floyd made Black Lives Matter to Democrats seeking reelection and Fetterman had grander ambitions than his adopted Rust Belt stepping stool.
Fetterman spent the better part of 2015 as Bernie Sanders’ official Rust Belt liaison for his presidential run before spending 2016 trying to sell himself as a Bernie-style candidate in the Democratic primaries for the Senate seat that he’s still hustling for. Fetterman pulled out all the hits for the Bernie Bros, promising cheap pot, free healthcare, and an end to fracking. But it didn’t work, so this election season he has conveniently changed his tune on virtually everything but dope.
He’s gone from backing universal healthcare to pledging his support for whatever party favor Biden’s slinging instead. Even worse, after signing a pledge in 2016 supporting a statewide moratorium on fracking, Fetterman has made a complete 180, claiming that four years of non-existent regulations has made the poisonous practice kosher enough for the Lieutenant Governor to attempt to set up a fracking well smack dab in the middle of his own adopted hometown only to be reined in when local activists pushed state regulators to suspend a project wildly unpopular with Fetterman’s former constituents. Fetterman has also backed his boss, fellow trust-fund baby Governor Tom Wolfe, in his plot to install the sinkhole factory known as the Mariner East Pipeline, even after it led to an FBI ethics investigation.
But what’s most disturbing to a local antiwar prison abolitionist like myself is John Fetterman’s very public love affair with cops and the Israel Lobby. In spite of his supposed devotion to criminal justice reform, Fetterman has ran his first post-Bernie-era Senate campaign as being “pro-policing,” calling the very notion of defunding the fuckers who framed Mumia and murdered my friend Osage Osazie “absurd” and stating unequivocally to all the pearl-clutching Karens on the Main Line that “I think we should fund the police.”
And as this pigfucking populist beast slouches towards a Washington that seems increasingly hellbent on a bipartisan war with Iran, the former mayor of Braddock has gone all in on his support for Israeli apartheid, declaring his undying devotion to replenishing the genocidal arsenal of the Iron Dome and expanding the Wahhabi-Zionist axis of Donald Trump’s signature Abraham Accords. This is sadly consistent with Big John’s active support for Governor Wolfe’s free speech stomping war on the BDS Movement. Fetterman has even gone so far as to publicly seek council from Zionist warmongering hate groups like AIPAC so as to ensure that he’s “properly educated” on what position he should take on the Middle East now that he’s suddenly decided to have one after years of absolute silence on foreign policy issues.
Just like Donald Trump and Mehmet Oz, John Fetterman is just another careerist corporate stooge in a populist costume, pro-war and pro-cop. But none of this really matters because John Fetterman and Dr. Oz aren’t running on what few issues they actually support. Much like Trump, they are running on their personas and Big John’s is every bit as manufactured as the good doctor’s. This isn’t populism. This is theater. True populism is about putting people before politics.
It’s about not poisoning their struggling family farms with the latest fad in eminent domain facilitated resource extraction. It’s about not colonizing their neighborhoods and trailer parks with trigger-happy death squads who hide behind police badges. It’s about not sending their kids to another stupid fucking war for foreign funded think tanks. This is what the state that I have begrudgingly come to love deserves and they will never receive it from Washington. Which is why the only way you’ll catch my Queer anarcho-populist ass at the polls this November is if secession is on the ballot, because Pennsylvania is too good for this goddamn country and the populist frauds who compete to run it.