Courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr under CC BY 2.0

Sweeping every county, and raking in a solid majority of the vote, progressive favorite John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination for senate in Pennsylvania. John Fetterman’s victory against establishment favorite, candidate Connor Lamb, in Pennsylvania doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have been watching the race, but marks a remarkable shift for the Democratic Party. Described as “unfussy and plain-spoken” by Politico writer Holly Otterbein, Fetterman is a welcome shift from media trained candidates like Connor Lamb. In 2020, Fetterman fought vehemently against former president Trump’s election lie, and attacked claims of voter fraud in his state. In a place like Pennsylvania, which is one of the states Democrats hope to gain senate seats in later this year, Fetterman’s tough and progressive brand of politics is a winning strategy, and one that Democrats across the country should adopt, moving forward.

Studies point to the fact that a significant portion of the population vote based on cultural identity rather than policy. If Democrats would adopt a more grounded attitude, they would be able to communicate their ideas in a much more effective way and pull over more voters. Of course, Progressives shouldn’t turn to candidates solely because they’re electible while abandoning their policies. This is a false trade-off, and Fetterman proves it with his agenda. Since Fetterman became Lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, he championed Democratic policies like Marijuana legalization, LGBT rights and more liberal values like lifting up Unions, which have been abandoned by the party at-large. In 2016, and subsequently 2020, Fetterman vehemently supported Bernie Sanders for the presidential nomination. 

Fetterman also rose to national prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.  As Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor, Fetterman took a vocal and public stance against former President Trump’s “big lie.”  Pennsylvania was one of the states that Trump claimed election fraud. In addition to repudiating stolen election claims in Pennsylvania, Fetterman took to the offensive against Texas’ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who offered $1 million to evidence of voter fraud found in the state. “The only documented cases of voter fraud in Pennsylvania were these three cases, and my dude in Texas owes Pennsylvania big bank!” said Fetterman . “And the good news I can report from Pennsylvania is that President Trump received 100 percent of the dead mother vote here in our commonwealth during this last election.” Now, as Fetterman is likely to face off against Trump-endorsed candidate Dr. Oz, his experience fighting against the former president and his powerful cronies will be more important than ever.

Some key signs are showing that Democrats understand the weight of Fetterman’s victory. President Biden tweeted his support for Fetterman immediately once it became clear the primary was over, saying “Electing [John Fetterman] to the United States Senate would be a big step forward for Pennsylvania’s working people.” Additionally, Biden has been significantly more pro-union than past presidents, signaling a shift in focus towards working people across the country. Moving forward, Democrats need to put their weight behind relatable candidates like Fetterman, in service of implementing a progressive agenda.