Despite beginning the year as what could only be described as a tragic figure, Fetterman ends 2023 in heroic fashion, as probably the bravest, toughest, and, yes, funniest U.S. senator in America. Along the way, he has shown amazing grit and resilience and courage.
Keep in mind, Fetterman spent much of the first quarter of the year hospitalized at Walter Reed Military Medical Center for clinical depression. For months after that, he was still being lumped into stories with aging senators like Mitch McConnell (who froze during a press conference) and Diane Feinstein (who has since passed away).
Voices on the right like Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and even the New York Post editorial board, called him “unfit” for public office—and honestly, these were not outrageously hyperbolic takes. Fetterman’s condition had been bad for a year, and there was reason to wonder whether he could recover enough to function adequately as a senator.
What is more, there was little reason to believe what we were being told. After suffering a stroke in May 2022, Fetterman and his campaign team downplayed the seriousness of his condition. Members of the media who subsequently raised questions about his health were attacked as being “ableist.”
Amazingly, Fetterman won his election. But after taking office, he suffered a “downward spiral” that led to his hospitalization. Then, upon returning to the senate, he seemed to struggle through a committee hearing.
As late as Sept. 2023, Fetterman’s primary achievement seemed to be lowering the standards for how U.S. senators can dress in the chamber. But even that was an “accomplishment” that lasted only about a week.
And then, something changed. As Hot Air’s Beege Welborn noted, after “Fetterman was forced to dress like an adult… He started sounding like one.”
It happened after the horrific Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, when Fetterman suddenly transformed into Winston Churchill, becoming an indispensable voice as a Democrat who was ready, willing, and able to push back against appeasement and antisemitism on the left.
“Hamas does not want peace, they want to destroy Israel. We can talk about a ceasefire after Hamas is neutralized,” he tweeted.
Fetterman adorned himself with the Israeli flag, which he affixed using his hoodie strings at the March for Israel in Washington, D.C. “Of course I’m here, how could I not!” he reportedly told one rally-goer.
He hung posters of kidnapped Israelis in his office, called out those who wrongly blamed Israel for bombing a hospital in Gaza, and (more recently) condemned people protesting a Jewish-owned restaurant in Philadelphia.
Of course, any mealy-mouthed politician can “condemn” something bad; much of what people love about Fetterman is his blunt, no BS, style, coupled with the fact that he doesn’t back down when resistance emerges.
In this case, Fetterman said of the protesters, “They could be protesting Hamas. They could be protesting Hamas’ systematic rape of Israeli women and girls or demanding the remaining hostages be immediately released. Instead, they targeted a Jewish restaurant. It’s pathetic and rank antisemitism.”
If a crisis reveals courageous leaders, the Oct. 7 attacks inspired Fetterman to rise to the occasion. Not to confuse correlation with causation, but his communication abilities seemed to improve just in time for him to take on this mission.
Of course, in hindsight, there was one hint back in September that Fetterman might be getting his groove back. It came when he mocked reports that then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy was planning an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. “Oh my God, really?” Fetterman said, feigned fear, “Oh my gosh…You know, it’s devastating…Don’t do it!”
It was a combination of toughness and humor that came to define him after Oct. 7.
But in today’s political world, mocking the other team is easy; it often takes more courage to stand up to your own tribe. And that willingness to call out his fellow Democrats and progressives—on a variety of issues, including Israel—is the main reason Fetterman has earned our respect.
On Oct. 12, Fetterman took a strong stand against a fellow Democratic senator, tweeting: “Senator [Robert] Menendez should not be a U.S. Senator. He should have been gone long ago. It is time for every one of my colleagues in the Senate to join me in expelling Senator Menendez.”He continued to push against Menendez, calling him “a Senator for Egypt, not New Jersey” on The View, and hiring disgraced former Rep. George Santos to troll Menendez in a Cameo video.
To whiny progressives who question Fetterman’s decision to pay Santos for the video, Fetterman’s message was likewise blunt: “Get over it.”
In recent weeks, Fetterman has also criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), saying he’s running for president, but doesn’t have the “guts to announce it.”
And he told fellow Democrats that “it isn’t xenophobic to be concerned about the border.”
“Honestly, it’s astonishing,” Fetterman said of the number of illegal border crossings. “And this isn’t a Fox News kind of statistic. This is the government’s,” Fetterman told Politico. “You essentially have Pittsburgh showing up there at the border.”
In just two months—from Oct. 7 to Dec. 7—John Fetterman has taken more gutsy stands than many senators do in a career. Simultaneously, he has gone from being someone who was plausibly considered “unfit” for the U.S. Senate, to arguably our most indispensable senator.
Only time will tell if this is the new normal. Regardless, Fetterman’s 2023 comeback has been nothing short of miraculous.
Indeed, he has strung together two of the most vigorous months I’ve seen a politician deliver in my lifetime.
As a conservative who was deeply skeptical of Fetterman, my sentiments can most accurately be summed up by a twitter rando, who put it this way: “stop making me like John Fetterman.”
The bottom line is this: We need more John Fettermans in the U.S. Senate.