John Fetterman’s delusion

Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate to fill retiring Pat Toomey’s seat,[1] keeps posting shit like this:

There are a couple problems here, one of which I’ll dispense with quickly so I can get to the other.

First, there is never, ever “ONE TRUE enemy.” This is to make a monolith of your opponents, as was often done in U.S. propaganda during the Cold War, treating all authoritarian socialist nations as under direction of Moscow, despite dissent from the authoritarian socialist but nonaligned Yugoslavia, and especially despite the Soviet Union’s sometimes near-violent disagreements with the People’s Republic of China and despite the latter’s ongoing tensions with Vietnam. Variants are cropping up even of COVID-19, some of which may eventually resist the vaccines that have recently been developed.

Second, we should note that Fetterman is far from alone in his imagination that the Amerikkkan people are not each others’ enemies. None other than the president-elect, Joe Biden, shares a similar delusion.[2] But when Trumpsters yelled, in banners, flags, and bumper stickers, “Fuck Your Feelings,” and “Make a Liberal Cry (Again),” they made clear what Kim Messick said years ago, that “they tend to identify the country as a whole with an idealized version of themselves, and to equate any dissent from their values with disloyalty by alien, ‘un-American’ forces.”[3] And despite any imagining that the “Tea Party,” now “Trumpism,” was somehow anything new,[4] authoritarian populism likely dates back a thousand years.[5] This intense animosity for those they see as ‘elites,’ especially including intellectuals, and also for pretty much anyone besides themselves isn’t going anywhere.

Some might remember that Barack Obama imagined himself as an Abraham Lincoln on a mission to unify the country. But we know what happened when Lincoln tried it. He was assassinated and while many infer from the Civil War that secession is not an option, as we see with the birtherism that plagued Obama and pretty much the xenophobic, racist, and white supremacist entirety of Donald Trump’s presidency, the underlying issues were never resolved.[6] Indeed, a recurring question of the Trump era has been about the legacy of the Civil War juxtaposed with the potential for its resumption,[7] a potential made vivid when rioters carried the Confederate flag inside the U.S. Capitol in the insurrection on January 6, 2021.[8] We remain profoundly divided.[9]

Nobody, but nobody, is “unifying” the United States, at least until authoritarian populists, paleoconservatives, and social conservatives embrace the reality of a heterogeneous society, which, by the way, would be to contradict the essence of who they are. Rather, authoritarian populists insist that we should all be like them[10] (which would paradoxically deprive them of an object for their hatred), social conservatives insist on a religious privilege to evangelize that they would deny people of other faiths,[11] and paleoconservatives (including white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the like) deny even the possibility of people of different ethnicities coexisting peacefully. Fetterman effectively acknowledges this division, indeed that Biden will be president of the country, but not of all Amerikkans, in the second tweet I quoted above, when he writes, “Maybe not your President. . . . But *the* President.”

Despite all this, just as Fetterman treats COVID-19 as a monolith, what he shows with messages like the third tweet I quoted at the beginning of this entry is that he expects to be able to treat the Amerikkkan people as a monolith. Despite his progressive pretensions,[12] he is yet another example of a neoliberal Democratic Party disease that always ends up disdaining progressives but nonetheless deploys our rhetoric, expecting our votes.[13] The question here is not so much whether this is delusion, but whether Fetterman is foolish enough to believe it himself.

  1. [1]NEXTpittsburgh, “Why does Lt. Gov. John Fetterman want to run for Senate?” Public Source, January 15, 2021,
  2. [2]Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, “Joe Biden predicts a post-Trump ‘epiphany’ for Republicans,” CNN, May 14, 2019,; Moira Donegan, “What does Biden have in common with Trump? Delusional nostalgia,” Guardian, June 21, 2019,; Matt Ford, “Someone Please Tell Joe Biden That Bipartisanship Is Dead,” New Republic, June 12, 2019,; Paul Waldman, “Joe Biden still hasn’t learned the lessons of the Obama presidency,” Washington Post, December 6, 2019,
  3. [3]Kim Messick, “Modern GOP is still the party of Dixie,” Salon, October 12, 2013,
  4. [4]See, for example, Gerald F. Seib, “Where Trump Came From—and Where Trumpism Is Going,” Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2021,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018,
  6. [6]Stephan Richter, “Shutdown shows the Civil War never ended,” Salon, October 8, 2013,
  7. [7]David W. Blight, “Europe in 1989, America in 2020, and the Death of the Lost Cause,” New Yorker, July 1, 2020,; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Trump orders statues be protected from ‘mob rule,’” June 27, 2020,; W. Ralph Eubanks, “The Confederate Flag Finally Falls in Mississippi,” New Yorker, July 1, 2020,; Marc Fisher, “Confederate statues: In 2020, a renewed battle in America’s enduring Civil War,” Washington Post, June 11, 2020,; Andrea Mazzarino, “War Zone America?” TomDispatch, September 22, 2020,
  8. [8]Laura E. Adkins and Emily Burack, “Neo-Nazis, QAnon and Camp Auschwitz: A guide to the hate symbols and signs on display at the Capitol riots,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 7, 2021,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Pure poison,” Not Housebroken, January 9, 2021,; Campbell Robertson, Monica Davey, and Julie Bosman, “Calls to Drop Confederate Emblems Spread Nationwide,” New York Times, June 23, 2015,; Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017,
  10. [10]Kim Messick, “Modern GOP is still the party of Dixie,” Salon, October 12, 2013,
  11. [11]Elizabeth Bruenig, “In God’s country,” Washington Post, August 14, 2019,; Rod Dreher, “Eric Metaxas’s American Apocalypse,” American Conservative, December 10, 2020,; Sarah Jones, “White Evangelicals Made a Deal With the Devil. Now What?” New York, December 6, 2020,; Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020,; Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017,
  12. [12]NEXTpittsburgh, “Why does Lt. Gov. John Fetterman want to run for Senate?” Public Source, January 15, 2021,
  13. [13]David Benfell, “Voting for complicity,” Not Housebroken, October 1, 2020,

One thought on “John Fetterman’s delusion

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.