U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-W.Va? How the Dem Senate hopeful is trying to turn progressive rage over Joe Manchin into votes | Monday Morning Coffee

June 14, 2021 7:20 am

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It takes a little less than two hours to drive from Lt. Gov John Fetterman’s hometown of Braddock, Pa. to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s, W-Va., birthplace of Farmington, W.Va., a tiny coal mining community with a population of just 365 people. Which means you’d really have to stretch your imagination to think it was part of the Keystone State.

But from the way Fetterman was talking to supporters in an email blast last week, and in a subsequent op-Ed for CNN, you could be forgiven for thinking that Gov. Tom Wolf’s No. 2 was launching a very early primary challenge against the Mountain State senator instead of seeking the Democratic nomination for Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s soon-to-be vacant seat right here in Pennsylvania.

“Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is wrong to choose to vote against the For the People Act, a bill that would increase election security and access to voting and reduce the influence of big money in politics,” Fetterman wrote in the June 9 op-Ed published on CNN’s website. “To pretend that former President Donald Trump’s Republican Party will act in good faith to preserve democracy is naive.”

If he were in the Senate right now, Fetterman, in a June 8 email to donors, said he would be “100 percent on board with saving our democracy. I’ll never base my vote on which way I think other senators are going to go — I’ll just do what I know to be right.”

While it may seem a little odd at first glance for Fetterman to be taking on another Appalachian Democrat, it’s just another reminder of the depth of the disappointment and hostility toward Manchin that’s taken hold of the Democratic base in the days since the West Virginian said he’d oppose the landmark voting rights act, and his refusal to back an end to the filibuster, which threatens to snarl President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 01: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) stand alongside a bipartisan group of Democrat and Republican members of Congress as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill on December 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. The roughly $908 billion proposal includes $288 billion in small business aid such as Paycheck Protection Program loans, $160 billion in state and local government relief and $180 billion to fund a $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit through March, according to a draft framework. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Among congressional incumbents, that hostility was viscerally embodied Sunday by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who assailed Manchin for clinging to “the romanticism of bipartisanship” and a vision of the the Republican Party “that simply does not exist any more.”

“We have the influence of big money [donors] that impacts both parties in Congress and I believe that that old way of politics has absolutely an influence in Joe Manchin’s thinking, and the way he navigates the body,” Ocasio-Cortez said during an appearance on CNN’sState of the Union,” The Guardian reported.

“You have the Koch brothers and associated organizations really doing victory laps about Joe Manchin’s opposition to [ending the] the filibuster,” the New York Democrat said, according to The Guardian.

Earlier in the same show, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took a more conciliatory approach, offering what the Guardian described as a “novel interpretation of Manchin’s assertion a week earlier that he would refuse to support [President Joe] Biden’s flagship [For the People Act], or vote to end the filibuster that would allow it to pass.”

Why is Joe Manchin? What the Dems really need to do about their W.Va problem | John L. Micek

“I don’t give up on Joe Manchin. I think he left the door open, I think it’s ajar [and] I’m not giving up,” Pelosi said, according to The Guardian. “He has certain concerns about the legislation that we may be able to come to terms on. We have to make this fight for our democracy. It isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, it’s not about partisanship, it’s about patriotism so we must pass it.”

Fetterman, who’s running in a crowded field of progressives in one of the most closely watched Senate primary contests in the country, has attempted to position himself as a progressive standard-bearer, putting him more in line with the position taken by Ocasio-Cortez, and reflecting the sentiments of a Democratic base that has become ever more progressive and diverse.

“Call me old fashioned, but I think Democrats should vote like Democrats,” Fetterman wrote in his email to donors. “We don’t need to be so concerned with how Republican senators will vote — we just need to vote for what’s right for the American people.

Hammering home the obvious, he added that, “Without flipping at least one more seat blue, we won’t be able to toss the filibuster and get things done. That makes our race even more important.”

He’s not wrong. As I noted last week, Pennsylvania is among four battleground states that could determine the balance of power in the Senate in 2022. And the Keystone State’s Senate seat has been judged the one most likely to flip parties next year.

Primary elections are all about turning out the base. That makes Manchin, at least for now, a useful foil for the  headline-grabbing lieutenant governor. Whether that’s smart politics over the long haul will be up to those primary voters to decide.

John L. Micek | Editor

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket, Cassie Miller dives into some data on identity theft in Pennsylvania.

Miller also explains how the Wolf administration is reaching out to marginalized communities statewide to dispel myths and misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccine

In a special report, advocates and lawmakers tell that overtime pay for farm workers would end a racist pay gap.

Speaking to our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, Sen. Vince Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says he’s ‘deathly afraid’ that the GOP-controlled General Assembly with squander billions of dollars in federal stimulus money.

Our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News take a look at Pride Month celebrations in Philadelphia and across the Keystone State.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Dick Polman says Texas officials are whitewashing the Lone State State’s racist past with a new law mandating “patriotic education” for public school students. And opinion regular Frank Pizzoli talks to Johanna Clearwater, a transgender Latina woman who’s the subject of a new documentary airing on the Harrisburg-area’s PBS station on June 20.

En la Estrella-Capital, L&I intenta abordar los nuevos problemas y preocupaciones del sistema UC. Y bienvenida a dos nuevos miembros del Senado de Pa. vuelve a completar su dotación.

State Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, speaks at a press conference announcing a bill to legalize marijuana with Democratic state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, on Feb. 24, 2021. (Courtesy of Senate Democrats)

The Inquirer takes a look at the Republican gubernatorial candidacy of state Sen. Dan Laughlin, of Erie, who’s trying to present himself as an alternative to the Trump GOP.
Today is Flag Day in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. The Tribune-Review has five things to know about the holiday and its ties to the Keystone State.
One of the Harrisburg-area’s biggest bar owners isn’t thrilled about a proposal that could extend last call to as late as 4 a.m., PennLive reports.
The Caucus goes deep on Pennsylvania’s high-stakes 2022 U.S. Senate contest (via LancasterOnline).
The Associated Press runs down the various proposals to pay for road and bridge repairs in the Keystone State (via the Morning Call).
Municipalities in northeastern Pennsylvania are hiking wages to attract part-time summer help, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day.


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WHYY-FM takes a look at the push by Harrisburg Democrats to use stimulus money to repair crumbling schools.
Counties fear that their concerns may not get addressed in a new Republican election reform bill, WITF-FM reports.
A downtown Erie market is caught up in a $352K food stamps fraud case, GoErie reports.
Sean Parnell and state Sen. Doug Mastriano walked away as winners in a straw poll at this weekend’s Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in suburban Harrisburg, PoliticsPA reports.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 12 p.m., the Senate convenes at 1 p.m.
9 a.m, Capitol Steps: Rally to legalize recreational marijuana
10:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: ‘Health Freedom’ rally
11 a.m., Irvis Lawn: Rally for dog law enforcement
12:30 p.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for survivors of childhood sexual abuse
12:30 p.m. Capitol Fountain: Charter schools press conference

Joined by state lawmakers and officials, Gov. Tom Wolf talks about why the state should join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
11 a.m.: Luncheon for Rep. Bridge Malloy Kosierowski
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Tina Davis
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ryan Warner
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ed Neilson
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Scott Martin
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out an utterly preposterous $13,500.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a great jam by Roosevelt to get the work week rolling. It’s ‘Under the Sun,’ and it just sounds like summer.

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The Montreal Canadiens kick off their Stanley Cup semifinal against the Las Vegas Golden Knights tonight. previews the game, and highlights the factors that could determine the series.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.