Unlike cookie-cutter candidates from central casting, the 6 foot 8, amply tattooed Fetterman is selling his unorthodox blue-collar persona as much as specific issue positions. A memo released by the Fetterman campaign on Tuesday boasts, “John is an authentic, straight-talking, no-BS populist whose style defies conventional labels.”
But for that unconventional style to work politically, Fetterman needs to be seen in person, frequently, rather than just glimpsed in TV images shot before his stroke. In short, the Democrats’ chances of picking up the GOP-held seat and maybe maintaining their tenuous Senate majority depend as much on the candidate’s health as on the political mood of Pennsylvania voters.
It is easy to forget how much our politics have been shaped by the vagaries of human health and mortality.
Had Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived just four more months, Joe Biden would have appointed her successor on the Supreme Court and the 2022 campaign would not be pivoting around the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade. The 2009 death of Ted Kennedy led to Republican Scott Brown winning his Massachusetts Senate seat in a special election, which jeopardized the passage of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Medical privacy is a cherished right, and it is understandable that men and women running for high office are reluctant to release their intimate medical histories. That may explain why the Fetterman campaign has been so elusive about the details of the candidate’s stroke.