Fetterman moves right in debate with Oz

Tuesday night’s debate between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, and his Republican challenger, Dr. Mehmet Oz, underscores the Democratic Party’s continued shift to the right as a whole.

Throughout the hour-long debate, Fetterman sought to distance himself from his previous positions, when he supported Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential primary. Those positions are now seen as too left-wing for the Democratic Party, in what is seen as a must-have state if Democrats are to maintain their tenuous control of the Senate.

Fetterman gained popularity within certain sections of the working class with his populist appeal as a “man of the people”. Before and during his 13-year tenure as mayor of Braddock, an impoverished steel town south of Pittsburgh, Fetterman ran several small jobs and housing programs.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, left, and Mehmet Oz. [AP Photo/Matt Rourke]

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Fetterman backed Sanders in the primaries before backing Clinton. In 2018, he was elected lieutenant-governor. Generally portrayed by the media as a progressive, he was a proponent of criminal justice reform and a supporter of health care as a right. As Lieutenant Governor, he promoted the decriminalization of marijuana.

Once considered a shoo-in for the open Senate seat held by retired Republican Senator Pat Toomey, Fetterman had a significant lead in the polls until the last four weeks, when the race narrowed. His Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a rabid Trump supporter, is best known as a television snake oil salesman who promoted various counterfeit medical products from which he made millions. Oz caught Trump’s attention when he downplayed the COVID pandemic, alternately promoting the deadly belief that the virus was a hoax or claiming it could be cured with unproven and dangerous remedies.

Oz owns a dozen mansions around the world, and his main residence was New Jersey until earlier this year, when he bought a house in Pennsylvania to qualify for the Pennsylvania race, entering the Republican primary. .

In recent weeks, the race has tightened, as millions of dollars have poured into the Oz campaign from Republican and right-wing groups and organizations that have funded a wave of attack ads against the Democrat.

News and media mostly pointed to the aftermath of Fetterman’s stroke last May, which forced him to suspend in-person campaigning for several months, as the reason for his slump in the polls. In reality, it was the general disgust at soaring inflation and the concomitant decline in living standards of the working class that caused his support to plummet, as well as the position of the Democratic Party as a whole.

In response, Fetterman and his campaign shifted sharply to the right. During Tuesday’s debate, Fetterman repudiated many of the populist positions he has held in the past. This further underscores the role played by the so-called “left” of the Democratic Party, such as Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America, as well as Fetterman, in keeping the working class tied to the Democratic Party by providing a leaf vine of progressivism.

During the debate, what was not said was almost as important as what was said.

None of the candidates mentioned the war in Ukraine or warned of the danger of nuclear war as the Biden administration and NATO proxy war on Russia drags on. Instead, in the lone foreign policy discussion, Fetterman said he was for increasing aggressive moves against China and warned that Oz could not be trusted to stand up to the regime. from Beijing.

When asked what he believed to be America’s greatest foreign threat, Fetterman replied, “I believe it’s China, China is not our friend. We must stand against China.

And he asked viewers, “Which one of us on this stage is going to stand up and stand firm against China? I think that’s our biggest issue right now, to make sure we go to China and make sure we know they’re not our friend.

His words are very much in line with Biden administration policy and the US military’s growing confrontation with China, which the Biden administration has targeted, along with Russia, as the greatest challenge to hegemony. world of the United States.

Fetterman never attacked Oz for the Republican Party’s role in the Trump-led Jan. 6 coup attempt, or even attacked Oz for supporting the former president. Neither Fetterman nor Oz spoke about the COVID pandemic, nor did the moderators ask them about it. The coronavirus has killed more than 1.1 million people, including nearly 50,000 people in Pennsylvania, and still kills an average of 350 a day, but both sides and the media consider that not a problem.

As Oz peddled bogus COVID cures, Fetterman, along with Governor Tom Wolf, pushed for the deadly reopening of schools that contributed to the spread of the pandemic and thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Throughout the debate, Oz attacked Fetterman for being “radical”, “extreme”, and “out of touch”, while portraying himself as the moderate.

On issues of energy policy, universal health care, police repression and immigration, Fetterman felt compelled to backtrack on previous positions.

Gas prices and fracking for natural gas came up several times during the debate. At one point, the Monitor tried to get Fetterman to explain his change of position from 2018 when he said, “I don’t support fracking at all. I never did,” to his current position of backing him unconditionally.

Media coverage of the debate focused almost entirely on this exchange, when Fetterman struggled to state his position due to speech issues related to his stroke recovery. There was little discussion of the substance of his position, or his embrace of economic nationalism, as he said the United States needed to establish “energy independence” from the rest of the world.

Significantly, neither Fetterman nor the panel of media interrogators made any mention of global warming and the danger it poses to humanity, or whether the candidates acknowledged the reality of climate change and made any proposals. to deal with it.

No questions were directly asked about health care, but the issue came up several times during the debate. Fetterman, while calling for expanded access to health care, did not call for universal health care or Medicare for all.

Throughout the campaign and again in debate, Oz attacked Fetterman for his lack of support for the police and repeated the false claim that Fetterman was for the unrestricted release of criminals from prison. In response, Fetterman reiterated his support for the police and highlighted his record as mayor of Braddock, where he said he worked with police to reduce gun violence. At no time has Fetterman spoken out against the police killing of more than 1,000 people each year.

It was only on the issues of abortion, minimum wage, and student debt relief that Fetterman pushed an attack on Oz from the perspective of what might be called progressive positions.

On abortion, Oz has made clear his support for a continued attack on women’s right to control their bodies. While saying he opposes all federal regulation, he put forward a position on state rights, saying the decision to restrict abortions should be left to states and even local authorities.

In opposition, Fetterman reaffirmed that if elected, he would support the codification of women’s abortion rights. However, he made no mention of why the Democrats hadn’t already done so since they have controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency several times over the past 50 years.