Fetterman: 'I'm not a progressive'; support of Israel puts PA senator at odds with fringe of his party

John Fetterman by is licensed under YouTube

WASHINGTON, DC - When John Fetterman (D-PA) was miraculously elected to the Senate last year, Democrats thought they’d be able to take advantage of his stroke-induced issues. While that has indeed happened in a couple of cases, more recently, Fetterman has broken with so-called “progressives” in his party, NBC News reported. 

For example, Fetterman has been an unadulterated supporter of Israel in its war with Hamas savages, which has drawn the ire of some within his own party as most progressives have sided with Hamas in the current conflict. It has also placed Fetterman at odds with the radical leftist base of his party.

Fetterman has also pushed for stricter immigration laws and has attacked his fellow Democrats for not pushing New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) to resign after he was indicted on federal charges related to bribe-taking and acting as a foreign agent for Egypt, charges which Menendez denies. 

During his 2022 Senate campaign against Republican Dr. Mehment Oz, Fetterman’s close ties to socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) prompted Oz to accuse his opponent of merely being a “sidekick” for Sanders. 

However, Fetterman’s recent actions seem to paint him as more of a moderate or, as NBC News called it, “blue-collar liberalism with a dash of outsider populism.” With Pennsylvania still considered a “swing” state, Fetterman’s “move” to the middle indicates that he or his handlers realize that far-left won’t work in the Keystone State. 

In a recent interview with NBC News, Fetterman told the outlet that his recent critics shouldn’t be surprised about his stance on current issues. 

“I’m not a progressive,” Fetterman said. “I just think I’m a Democrat that is very committed to choice and other things. But with Israel, I’m going to be on the right side of that. And immigration is something near and dear to me, and I think we do have to effectively address it as well.” 

Fetterman argued that it is possible to be “pro-immigration” while still realizing that it is essential to push for policies that restrict the flow of immigrants entering the U.S. to “manageable levels.” The first-term Senator said he disagrees with progressives who oppose new limits on asylum while slamming some ideas in the negotiations as “cruel.” 

“It’s a reasonable conversation–until somebody can say there’s an explanation on what we can do when 270,000 people are being encountered on the border, not including the ones, of course, that we don’t know about,” he said. “To put that in reference, that is essentially the size of Pittsburgh, the second-largest city in Pennsylvania.” 

Fetterman said he didn’t believe it was necessarily a good idea to tie aid for Israel and Ukraine to border policies but conceded a conversation is “still one that we should have” since Republicans made it a condition to move a supplemental bill forward. 

“Progressives better do that because we can’t leave Israel–we can’t sell them out, and we can’t sell Ukraine out, and we have to deliver on this,” Fetterman said. “I just would very much like to get a deal to deliver this critical aid.” 

Fetterman then turned his attention to Menendez, slamming the embattled senator for criticizing Biden concerning the immigration negotiations with Republicans. 

“Oh, Bob Menendez,” Fetterman said, laughing. “What a guy…what a guy. He’s still running his mouth against Biden right now.” 

“He needs to go. I don’t understand why he can be here, having expelled Santos,” Fetterman said, referencing former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), expelled by the House earlier this month. “But I'm sure there might be a very innocent explanation of having cold bars in your mattress and overstuffed envelopes of cash.” 

Fetterman’s stance on Israel is a sharp contrast to Sanders, a self-hating Jew who has demanded the United States withdraw military aid to Israel. It has also drawn the wrath of the far left as the Palestinian death toll in the armed conflict with Israel has grown as Israel fights back against Hamas aggression. Hamas puts military assets amongst the civilian population, which puts them in harm’s way from Israeli attacks. 

“People liked Fetterman because of his populist outsiderness and empathy toward all kinds of people,” said Waleed Shahid, a progressive organizer who has been one of the lead voices opposing U.S. support of Israel. “But his extreme jingoistic support of this war has made many people feel that he holds a hierarchy of human value where Israeli lives are simply more important to him than Palestinians.” 

Shahid didn’t address the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli citizens, including children and babies. 

Republicans, however, are pleasantly surprised by Fetterman’s apparent coming to Jesus. 

“For a lot of Republicans, it’s been a pleasant surprise,” said Christopher Nicholas, a GOP strategist based in Pennsylvania. “Here is a freshman taking some strong stances…I just see someone who’s, ‘Well, that’s what I think, and I say what I think.” 

The Fetterman stance that has perhaps surprised Nicholas more than others was his constant hammering of Menendez. 

“I know how clubby the Senate is, having worked for Arlen Specter [the late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn.) for 18 years. So I get it,” he said. “But I find it perplexing that you haven’t had a lot of other Democratic members of the Senate saying it. Perhaps that’s because he’s a freshman, and he hasn’t been totally inclucated into the ‘Here in the Senate we do things differently’ line of thinking.” 

According to Fetterman chief of staff Adam Jentleson, Fetterman has “always had” the policy positions he currently holds, even though Republicans attempted to paint him as a socialist in 2022. Jentleson also claims that “folks on the left are pretending” that Fetterman has changed his beliefs. 

“He’s just being consistent,” Jentleson said. “He spent the entire campaign telling people he wasn’t a down-the-line lefty.” 

The “new” Fetterman seems far removed from what has been witnessed over the past couple of years, which saw him suffer a stroke in 2022, then bumble his way through a general election debate and prevail in that race against Oz. He then had to check himself into a hospital for clinical depression earlier this year, and while he still has trouble processing verbal comments, his cognitive skills seem to have improved. He still uses an instant transcription app when speaking to reporters on the phone. 

Despite some signs of moderation, Fetterman still holds some rather “progressive” positions: legalizing marijuana, abolishing the Senate filibuster, and raising the minimum wage. A vast majority of his votes still toe the Democrat line, and he almost always votes in lockstep with Biden. 

His fellow Pennsylvania legislators praise Fetterman’s work in the year since he was elected to the Senate. 

“What I see–and I’ve had the chance to run into him a couple of times recently–is a man that is doing well, that is his own person that stands on his own two feet, even if it’s in shorts,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Penn.). “And he’s standing up for what he believes in. So, I wouldn’t characterize it another way. I’m just happy he’s serving.” 

Meanwhile, his partner in the Senate, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), who is up for reelection in 2024, boosts Fetterman as “a great colleague” when asked if Fetterman was showing himself as somewhat of a maverick.

“I think John’s doing everything he can to serve the state,” Casey said. “And I think he’s doing well.” 

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