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John and the Jogger.

Update: if you want to make Joe Manchin irrelevant, you can donate to John Fetterman’s fundraising page here.

I have a recurring monthly donation of $25 but kick in whatever you can.

Californians, Fetterman will make you count again.

If you want to make sure PA certifies the electors that voters actually voted for, help us elect Josh Shapiro as the next Governor of Pennsylvania and keep Doug Mastriano out of the governor’s office.

Donate to Josh Shapiro’s page here.

**************

I stayed up way too late last night putting out fires on Twitter from people in Fargo, ND and Raleigh, NC and Arizona who were mad as hell that John Fetterman, the OBVIOUS racist, won the senate primary and not that nice young man, Connor Lamb. It all comes back to their distorted opinion about the jogger incident and the reflexive, knee jerk response that John must be a George Zimmerman style vigilante white supremicist.

So let me give my own take on this story, noting in advance that I wasn’t there. The basic outline of the story is that John heard what he thought were gunshots close to his house and saw a hooded figure who took off running. He grabbed his shotgun, jumped in his truck and gave chase until he cornered the the guy and then held him at gunpoint until police arrived. It turns out that the guy was just a black guy who was running and hadn’t done anything wrong.

Ok. That sounds bad. I’m not excusing John here. Chasing anyone down with a gun is not good, especially if you don’t know what’s going on.

It sure sounds like John is a racist.

Here’s the context.

John was the mayor of Braddock, PA. He was re-elected a bunch of times. Braddock is the home of one of the biggest steel mills ever. It’s in the Monongahela valley about 5 miles from my house. When the mills closed all over this area in the late 70s, early 80s, cities like Braddock, Duquesne, McKeesport and Homestead became ghost towns of sorts. The mills no longer clanged at night, the skies no longer filled with an orange glow from sandblasting. The barges of coal stopped floating down the river. There was massive unemployment. People moved away. The tax base shrank dramatically. It was so bad that the water system in McKeesport became compromised. One day, downtown Mckeesport caught fire and burned to the ground. I know because I watched it happen from my aunt’s panoramic view from across the Mon river in West Mifflin. My grandmother and I were visiting and watched the city burn. Her house was in McKeesport and we hoped the fire wouldn’t spread there. It didn’t, fortunately. But we were in shock to see it happen.

In other words, the effect of closing the mills on the area was catastrophic. And when all the people who could move away were gone, what was left were the people who had few options. There were poor white and African American working class people who had nowhere else to go as their cities disintegrated.

I saw this first hand. My mom’s family had a lot of US Steel and Fisher Body union guys in it.

This is what happened to Braddock. As I said before, I used to pass through Braddock on the way to my grandmother’s house and thought that it would have been improved by demolition. The deterioration happened so quickly. The roads could destroy your car’s shocks in minutes, the buildings crumbled, the infrastructure went unmaintained, the prostitutes and drug dealers moved in. When opportunity moved out, all of the typical social problems moved in. Crime, drug abuse, poverty, jail sentences.

This is the Braddock that John Fetterman came to when he joined AmeriCorps. Then he became mayor and was re-elected more than once. Digging Braddock out of the pit it fell into has been no easy task. Fetterman helped re-establish a community there, his wife Gisele started the FreeStore. John has lobbied businesses to come to Braddock. He’s had to fight the local hospital group to not close up shop and move away. It has been a long hard grind.

John has Braddock’s zip tattooed on his arm. He also has the dates of all the people murdered in Braddock since he lived there tattooed in his arm so he never forgets.

I don’t know what happened the night that Fetterman encountered the “jogger”. Knowing what I do about Braddock, it’s unlikely that anyone would be jogging for fitness in Braddock at night. Let’s say he was a running man. Braddock is or was a high crime area. That whole section of the Mon valley is. There are some areas of Duquesne that I used to drive through on the way to my aunt’s house but I take a different route now. It could be dangerous to stop on some streets.

So, I believe John when he says he thought he heard gunshots. I believe him when he says he didn’t know who he was chasing. But given the demographics of the area, it had to be either a poor white working class guy or a poor black working class guy. Most likely the latter.

I don’t know how many encounters his community had had with gun crimes at the time but probably pretty high. Given the area and it’s history, I could see why the incident happened. Is it ever a good idea to go chasing someone with a shotgun? I think we all know that it’s not. But does this make John Fetterman some kind of George Zimmerman? Absolutely not. And given that his own town still voted for him, it may mean that they have a different view of him than some of us do.

Connor Lamb was John’s opponent. Lamb is currently my congressman and he’s straight out of central casting. He’s a straight, white, Catholic, ex-marine lawyer who shmoozes the old right wing guys. He barely acknowledges that he has heavily democratic and diverse suburbs in his district. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Obama. He appeals to the white moderate , centrist and Republican guys and just assumes that the Democratic base and working class and black voters will vote for him because where else are they going to go??

I think the reason Lamb was defeated so profoundly is because the working class voters of PA, the diverse and progressive tech workers of Pittsburgh, the black voters in John’s town, all of them decided that John represented our interests best. He’s a Democrat in the Elizabeth Warren or Katie Porter mold. He looks forward. He’s seen what our economy can do to working families. It means something to him. Conner Lamb was the standard package. He just wasn’t as compelling.

Anyway, that’s how I see it. Fetterman is as far from a racist as it is possible to get. The proof is in how he has chosen to lead his life, where he lives, who his neighbors are. It’s easy to label someone. But it only takes a little curiosity to see how different the reality is.

One last thing, putting aside that chasing someone with a shotgun is a really bad decision, I don’t think his Republican opponent is going to make this story into a liability for Fetterman. The flip side of the story is that he’s an Everyman, he owns a truck, he has a shotgun and he’s not afraid to use it to defend his family.

So, you know, there’s that…