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The Fetterman Situation Is a Lose-Lose Scenario for the Democrats

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) remains hospitalized for severe depression with no end date in sight. His inner circle insists that he has no plans to resign, and for weeks now, the mainstream media has tried to brand it as insensitive to even ask the question. Until now.

“John Fetterman Might Resign,” concedes Newsweek in a headline published Friday.

Oh, but there’s a rub. There always is. The headline continues, “It Could Be an Opportunity for Democrats.”

Well, that’s cute. How did Darragh Roche, who wrote the article, reach that conclusion? We’ll get to that. First, it should be noted that this week, with the hospitalization of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Democrats lost their majority in the Senate, putting the balance of power at 49-49 until Feinstein returns, reportedly at the end of this month. All indications are that she’ll be back in the Senate before Fetterman is.

That Fetterman’s absence has become so consequential so quickly is hardly a situation that anyone could argue is good for the Democrats — who insisted repeatedly that Fetterman was fit to serve in the Senate. The cause of his hospitalization is linked to his inability to cope with his new life in the Senate, despite all the accommodations that have been made for him and the cognitive impairments that were caused by his May 2022 stroke. According to one report, to him, adult speech sounds like the grown-ups in Peanuts cartoons.

According to political experts who spoke to Roche, should Fetterman resign, it could be “an opportunity for Democrats” in that it would put questions about the senator’s health behind them.

Really? Would it do that? If Fetterman resigns, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) would appoint a replacement, but a special election would be held in the next statewide election next year. I think voters in this swing state might be a bit less than thrilled that Fetterman and the Democratic Party lied to them about his ability to serve. Fetterman had the chance to drop out and let the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania select a replacement for him. He didn’t do it. If anyone thinks Fetterman resigning would prevent this from being an issue in a special election, I think they’re kidding themselves.

To make matters worse, in 2024, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) is up for reelection, which means that resources will be divided. Casey also has just returned to the Senate after having cancer surgery. His prognosis was good, but in juxtaposition with a special election to fill John Fetterman’s seat after he lied about his health… well, let’s just say that there’s reason to have trust issues with Democrats when they claim their candidate has a clean bill of health.

Fair or not, this is the situation that the Fetterman campaign created, and whatever Fetterman decides to do feels like a lose-lose scenario. He could eventually return to the Senate, but in the event he ends up back in the hospital again, be it for depression (which is likely since his staff claims he’s struggled with depression on and off for years) or something related to his cognitive health — there’s no way to spin that as a positive.

Roche does admit that Fetterman’s resignation “could also carry significant risks” but tries desperately to write them off by pointing out the “opportunity” Fetterman’s resignation offers — essentially ignoring the possibility that voters will feel betrayed by the blatant dishonesty about Fetterman’s health during the campaign.

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