May 03, 2021

John Fetterman, Working Class Hero?

Todd Schoepflin Colby King author photoBy Todd Schoepflin & Colby King

John Fetterman is currently the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, and before that served as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, from 2005 to 2019. He is running for a Pennsylvania senate seat in 2022. His website describes him as “a different kind of Democrat,” one who “doesn’t look like a typical politician.” In media outlets, much is made of his size (he’s 6'8") and his tattoos (dates of homicides in Braddock when he was mayor are tattooed on his right arm). For example, one article about Fetterman is titled “Unconventional in his size and rise”. He’s twice appeared on The Colbert Report, been profiled in GQ, and had his clothing style analyzed in an article about the politics of workwear. His home (once an indoor Chevy car dealership) has received attention, and his family life has also been in the spotlight.

Colby grew up in western Pennsylvania, studies deindustrialized places, and has written about working class issues for the Everyday Sociology Blog, and he and Todd discuss Fetterman from a sociological perspective. In this podcast, we talk about different ways of defining working class, and Fetterman’s political identity as a politician appealing to working class voters, along with issues of deindustrialization, masculinity, and race.

Click below for audio discussion:

Colby & Todd discuss Fetterman's working-class appeal

We also address a point of controversy facing Fetterman, who, in 2013 as mayor, used his shotgun to detain a Black man who was jogging. Fetterman’s account is that he heard shots fired near his home, and stopped the man he saw running. An article in The New York Times summarizes the incident. The man, Christopher Miyares, says that Fetterman lied about what happened, but also characterized it as a mistake that shouldn’t define Fetterman.

While Fetterman reported raising $3.9 million in the first quarter of 2021 for his Senate campaign, the field is expected to be crowded and competitive for this seat.

Click below for Todd & Colby's discussion of how Fetterman's presentation of self illustrates concepts made famous by sociologist Erving Goffman:

Fetterman and presentation of self

Additional articles and video links:

The Left’s Answer to Trump Is 6 Foot 8 and Wears Shorts in February (an article in The Atlantic that serves as an informative introduction to Fetterman).

Levi's Gives Struggling Town Cinderella Treatment (Levi’s produced an ad campaign in Braddock when Fetterman was mayor).

Fetterman’s first appearance on the Colbert Report (February 2009)

Fetterman’s first appearance on the Colbert Report (August 2010)


Nicely Written
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