On Tuesday morning, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman headed to the polls to vote (presumably for himself) in Pennsylvania’s close-fought Senate race.
The former Braddock mayor was clad in a hoodie, a zip-up jacket and a pair of basketball shorts.
Two weeks ago, trans TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney visited the White House to interview President Joe Biden about the importance of mutilating confused minors. Mulvaney wore a white top, powder blue pants and a pink ascot.
Despite their dissimilarities in stature, the hulking Fetterman and the waifish Mulvaney have something important in common: they were both dressed in drag. Mulvaney is an offensive caricature of a woman. Fetterman is an offensive caricature of a working-class Pennsylvanian.
I grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, about an hour’s drive from Braddock. I know what small, deindustrialized PA towns are like. You see plenty of John Fettermans and Fetterwomans. They shamble into Sheetz in their Cookie Monster pajama pants. They smoke Marlboros, sport half-sleeve tattoos and say “yinz guys.” They’re either ticketed passengers on the Trump train or embittered blue dogs voting, through sheer inertia, for a Democratic party-of-the-working-man that no longer exists.
Today’s Democratic Party seems more interested in smearing these sometimes-slobbish voters as rubes and racists. They don’t deserve that. But they also don’t deserve to be courted by a costumed fraud like Fetterman.
My father is what John Fetterman pretends to be. He was a union electrician who started his own business and went on to win two terms as mayor of Beaver Falls. Because he was motivated by genuine love for place and people rather than by vaunting political ambition, he never sought higher office. And although Beaver Falls has more than five times the population of Braddock, he didn’t mooch off wealthy relatives so he could stretch a part-time mayoralty into a full-time job.
And yet, my dad initially fell for Fetterman’s working-class drag performance. Fetterman’s gruff biker aesthetic, Braddock zip code forearm tattoo and willingness to pick up a shotgun to defend his town earned him my dad’s admiration. It was only later, when Fetterman outed himself as an elitist liberal who simpers about climate change and abortion-on-demand, that dear old dad decided to grudgingly support Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Fetterman’s campaign worked tirelessly to paint Oz as an out-of-touch outsider, but succeeded only in insulting the state’s people. Oz, we were told, was not a true Pennsylvanian because he eats vegetables and drinks red wine — as opposed to real Pennsylvanians, who apparently eat nothing but pierogies and hot asphalt and quench their thirst in the Monongahela. Oz also regularly bathes, sleeps indoors, and wears collared shirts. If you want a true populist, write in the Gerasene demoniac, I guess.
The people of Pennsylvania have fallen on hard times, especially in the western Rust Belt region, but the way to appeal to them is to offer real solutions, not to condescendingly appropriate their shabbiness. There’s even a case to be made that, in times of trouble, leaders must maintain decorum (and perhaps even a degree of swagger) as a way of preserving the national image. Working-class whites voted in droves for a man who lived in a giant golden tower. As C.S. Lewis put it, a king’s duty in time of famine is “to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”
Opulence in the midst of destitution may be insensitive, but it’s not nearly as insulting as turning that destitution into a fashion statement while parroting the luxury beliefs of aristocracy. Starving French peasants could endure the gilded halls of Versailles, but they drew the line at Marie Antoinette strolling through a fetishized fake hamlet.
Grayson Quay is an editor at the Daily Caller.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.