[guest post by JVW]
I didn’t watch it in full, but as with so many others I did briefly tune in and I have since seen the many snippets on YouTube and other outlets. And I agree with what is emerging as the general consensus: that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman had a dismal night and did nothing to dispel fears that the stroke he suffered back in May has rendered him unable to understand or communicate basic ideas. Thus far he has gotten by with making brief appearances in front of supportive crowds and reading bits and pieces of his stump speech, but when forced to think on his feet and articulate his positions, he’s just not altogether there.
Jim Geraghty at NRO gets to the heart of the matter as to why the Fetterman charade has been allowed to go on this long:
Allow me to offer a controversial theory: A lot of Democratic Party candidates and strategists have bad judgment because they’ve grown used to a usually friendly media bailing them out of the consequences of their bad decisions. In light of last night, the decision-making of Fetterman and his campaign seems absurd — as M[ichael] B[rendan] D[ougherty] aptly summarized, “John Fetterman should not have been on a debate stage tonight. He should be at home, recovering from his stroke.”
[. . .]
A campaign does not attempt to fool people into believing that a severe-stroke victim is fine unless it’s convinced that the overwhelming majority of media in the state will be its ally and abandon their traditional role as watchdogs. The people around Fetterman are off their rockers, stupid, or both.
He points out that the Democrats could have easily moved John Fetterman aside and replaced him with his primary opponent, Representative Connor Lamb. Of course that would have entailed replacing a Sanderesque progressive with a more moderate and traditional Democrat, which would of course have infuriated the left flank of the party. Referring to his colleague Rich Lowry’s op-ed piece in the Washington Post earlier this week which reminded us that Democrats appear to be offering just as many weirdos, flakes, and idiots to the voter this year as the GOP is, he wonders aloud how the donkey party ended up with a slate of candidates as weak as John Fetterman, Katie Hobbs, Mandela Barnes, Robbie O’Rourke, and others, and draws the natural conclusion:
I don’t know that Democratic candidates or campaign strategists consciously think, “Oh, we’ll be fine, the media is on our side and will cover for us.” I think they just get used to having the consequences of every mistake and dumb decision mitigated by generous media coverage. They walk around with the wind constantly at their backs, convinced that they are wiser and better at their jobs than they really are. And when that wind at their backs stops blowing, they’re stunned — suddenly everything is much harder.
Maybe it’s just me getting older and grouchier, but it seems every election cycle brings an even greater pastiche of oddballs, nutjobs, malcontents, and sleazebags offering themselves up on our ballot. John Fetterman’s opponent, let’s not forget, is a television doctor and Ivy League academic who has promoted quack medicine schemes, though it seems he also played water polo in college so I will cut him a great deal of slack for that. But overall I find it hard to get excited about the upcoming 118th Congress, no matter which party ends up controlling it. We don’t seem to be doing the republican democracy thing all that well these days.