Tsunami in a Teapot

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman talks about his record as Mayor of Braddock and as Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania to a crowd of hundreds of supporters before heading into his campaign message for Philadelphians during a rally campaign in NW Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2022. (Cory Clark/Sipa USA)

UPDATE (new takeaways as results have trickled in): Thanksgiving and Christmas came early last month when a wave of results began pouring in from mid-term elections across the country. But it wasn’t the wave we were promised by the talking heads in the mainstream media and those in the far-right cable news bubble for the last two years.

They couldn’t contain their glee at the coming “Red Wave” or “Red Tsunami,” or — as one disturbed prognosticator put it — “Bloodbath.” But even with widespread gerrymandering and sweeping voter suppression efforts in red states, their wave turned out to be a trickle, especially in Pennsylvania.

Hats off to voters all across the state and a big thank you to the candidates, organizers, and voters who worked so hard to make it happen.

Josh Shapiro destroyed Doug Mastriano by 14 points, chipping away at Republican domination in rural counties and turning out Black and Brown voters in urban and suburban centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but also picking up a surprising number of votes in counties like Erie, Centre, and Luzerne.

“No matter where you come from, who you love, who you pray to, you are valued here in Pennsylvania, and we hear you,” Josh Shapiro told his supporters during his victory speech.

“Tonight, you, the good people of Pennsylvania, you won. Opportunity won. A woman’s right to choose won. Your right to organize in Pennsylvania won. Your right to vote won. And in the face of all the lies, conspiracies, and baseless claims, you also ensured tonight that truth won right here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

John Fetterman’s victory wasn’t as significant as Shapiro’s, but it was awe-inspiring, given he had a stroke in the middle of his campaign. The Dr. Oz vote was split, with at least some of those who voted for the Jersey resident also voting for Shapiro.

“I never expected that we were going to turn these red counties blue, but we did what we needed to do, and we had those conversations across every one of these counties,” a teary-eyed and humbled Fetterman told his supporters. “And tonight, that’s why I’ll be the next U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.”

“This campaign has always been for every person who has been knocked down and gotten back up,” Fetterman told his supporters. “This race is for the future of every community all across Pennsylvania. For every small town or person that ever felt left behind. For every job that’s ever been lost. For every factory that was ever closed. For every person that works hard but never gets ahead. I’m proud of what we ran on.”

The news was good in Philly too where Democrats swept the four open seats on City Council. Quetcy Lozada will represent portions of North Philly and Kensington; Anthony Phillips will lead parts of Northwest and North Philly, replacing Cherelle Parker (who’s running for Mayor). Sharon Vaughn and Jimmy Harrity will take over the open at-large seats.

Republicans tried to make these races about crime in Philadelphia and inflation. Although these were important issues, establishment Democrats largely failed to respond effectively. Fortunately, progressive candidates’ messaging on economic issues and criminal justice blunted some of the Republican attacks.

The progressive candidates were more successful because, in addition to targeting urban and suburban centers, they brought their populist economic message out into the state’s rural areas. They connected with people and communities across PA by speaking to the issues those communities were facing in a way that resonated with them.

Candidates took the complaints of the right-wing media and Republicans and told Pennsylvanians what they wanted to do about it. They got behind popular positions like Medicare for All, housing, and a $ 15-an-hour minimum wage.

They also ensured they were on the right side of other popular issues like marijuana legalization, abortion, and gun reform, vowing to do what it took to get these things done for the people, even if it meant ending the filibuster.

“This election was about more than any single candidate or issue,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “It was an existential uprising from voters who want Democrats to go bigger in protecting fundamental rights, voting rights, abortion rights, economic rights, and the right to exist.”

In the days/weeks following the bulk of the mid-term results, other results in Arizona and Nevada brought more good news with the election of U.S. Senators that swung the upper chamber to the Democrats (Raphael Warnock’s win in GA gave the Dems 51 seats) and Katie Hobbs winning her race against Kari Lake for AZ governor. Even better, election-denying secretary of state candidates all across the country also went down to defeat.

As expected, Republicans took the U.S. House but, rather than the 40 or even 50-seat majority they’d crowed about pre-election, they wound up with a razor-thin majority of nine seats. (As of this writing, Kevin McCarthy is still tap dancing to win enough support for the speaker of the house position from the vast spectrum of right-wing extremists in that chamber, while the Democrats already have their leadership team ready to go with Hakeem Jeffries of New York leading the way. BTW, Jefferies is the first Black person to hold that position.)

The slim majority eked out by Republicans was largely due to progressives. Candidates like Summer Lee in the 12th District, who became the first Black woman from PA elected to congress (after making history two years ago by becoming the first Black woman elected to the state House in the same region) deflated the Republicans’ plans for a sweeping takeover.

Progressives have also helped position the Democrats to take control of the state house for the first time in ten years. With crucial victories in the suburbs, Dems have flipped 12 seats previously held by Republicans and are on track to have a majority in the House. But first, they need to win three special elections to secure that majority: One for the seat of Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from Allegheny County, who died one month before the election, and two more to fill the seats of Democrats who’ve won election to higher posts in state government. (The special elections will be held in early 2023 and, given the democratic-leaning nature of voters in those districts, it seems likely all three will remain Democratic, giving the party a one-seat majority.)

If they take control of the state house, Philly state Rep. Joanna McClinton would become the first Black woman House Speaker in Pennsylvania history.

A Democratic majority would mean fewer bills that need to be vetoed by newly elected Gov. Josh Shapiro, and it would stop state GOP attempts to amend the Constitution with extreme bills like SB 106, which would remove state constitutional protections for abortion, restrict the Governor’s ability to make state regulations, and affect voting rights for Pennsylvanians. (SB 106 will be on the ballot in the spring if they win the state House.)

Progressives didn’t just win in Pennsylvania. Largely, they beat back hate, stupidity, and madness up and down the ballot and across the country. And these wins were driven largely by young people, women, and Black and Latinx women, just like they did in 2018 and 2020. It’s bad news for the Republicans that the youth vote is a growing block within the base of the Democratic Party and is deeply progressive.

Youth Voter in Philly Celebrates a Democratic victory. (Cory Clark)

Democrats would do well to listen to them rather than dismissing their concerns and ideas; they are the future, after all. “This sends a clear message and roadmap; that going into 2024, Democrats must lean into the popularity of the progressive platform, not write it off,” said Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Our Revolution. “With progressives growing their margins in Congress, regardless of the outcome of the remaining uncalled races, Democrats need to take note of the powerfully fought and won campaigns, driven by progressive ideals, that galvanized voters.”

About Cory Clark 68 Articles
Cory Clark is a photojournalist and writer who focuses on human rights and other social issues. His work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Philly Magazine and Fortune. He has worked as a freelancer for Getty Images, The Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse for many years. Currently, he serves as the Senior Reporter for both Revive Local and the New MainStream Press.


  1. I thought I was a progressive until recently. While many goals and energy admirable, there seems to be a lack of a moderation and discipline in the discussion which results in acceptance of opinions driving things like this: https://edsource.org/2021/california-math-guidance-sparks-new-curriculum-controversy-among-parents/655272 This is one example of policy which has gone too far, hurting those they are trying to help. Part of my turnoff is the uncivil hyper-escalatey tendency of “discussions”. Blindness to the same arrogance and hypocrisy of which progressive out-groups are accused. The absolute certainty of position. Reminds me of the dogma from the religious right. Phooey. Sincerely, The East Falls Curmudgeon.

    • Thanks for your comment! Agree that there’s a real spectrum of ideas out there. Your link is puzzling — I’m not sure what “math framework curriculum” in California has to do with progressive politics on a national scale. If this however is what it takes for you to don a red hat or give up on politics altogether, that’s your right as a citizen and you’re free to rely on whatever reasons you need to support your choice. I’m just glad to see more Americans standing up for reproductive autonomy, voter rights, social security, healthcare, fair wages and all other other “progressive” issues that can be so beneficial to everyone. Thanks again for your comment, it’s important to remember that for some people, how we teach math is at the top of their list instead.

    • I was a progressive until X is an old right-wing tactic. Fortunately, I’ve read most of your comments on articles in this paper, so I know you’re full of it.

      And like many of the comments you’ve made in the past, this has little, if anything, to do with the conversation at hand and is meant to distract. This article, for example, was written in May of 2021, nearly two years ago, in a state on the other side of the country. It also has nothing to do with politics, except that it’s another school district struggling to find a way to counterbalance the racist defunding of the American education system by right-wingers and centrists alike (not calling you a racist, just the policy) in one of the few ways made available to them.

      However, I read the article you linked to and the policy positions it linked to. Though you didn’t specify the issue you took with this policy on the other side of the country, I tried to figure out what exactly was objectionable.

      After reading through the curriculum and different policy positions, very little has changed compared to standard common core policies (which are objectionable for their own reasons). Even the parents seemed to have only two objections, the first being the reduction of advanced math classes, which makes sense given the current funding issues school districts across the country face. They have to make all sorts of cuts to things like music, art, and physical education because of those funding shortfalls/cuts. They also have to deal with reduced staffing partially stemming from the pandemic, mass retirements, a sustained right-wing assault on education and educators, and crumbling schools.

      The second possibility was a non-issue because the language around anti-racism was removed. Still, it was an area that shouldn’t be considered political at all, much less necessarily progressive; anti-racism in education should be fundamental in every aspect of a Jus society. But somehow, I don’t think language being removed was the issue. I’m confident that many of those parents were glad the education system would continue to be systemically racist at its core.

      Was their policy the correct approach? Probably not, but it is what they had to work with. It would be great if every school district had the funding to ensure every student had the education they deserved. Still, if you must make cuts, I’d rather it be the classes where students are already achieving so that money can go to kids that need the help.

      Anyway, enough about that; let’s move on to your whining about respectability politics. If your issue with progressivism is that people aren’t friendly when you say dumb shit, then the problem isn’t with progressives; it’s with yourself and your own weakness and stupidity. Rather than whining about the lack of respect you’re getting for your mediocrity, you close your mouth and listen and learn, perhaps asking questions rather than putting nonsense that has nothing to do with the conversation out into the void.

      As to the rest of that stream of consciousness, get a therapist and come back to me because I don’t care if you have a different opinion. I want it to be relevant to the discussion, based on fact, and not racist/anti-Semitic or harmful to oppressed groups. I don’t ask for a lot. What I don’t want to hear is you boohooing while also pissing and moaning about kids who need help getting the help they need at the expense of kids who don’t need help and are doing better than okay.

  2. So Cory your first sentence is ad-hominem and a discredidation by an association which you do not make. No need to read more there.

    Carolyn, No, not a red hat, never, and that is extreme. More of a centrist, blue, but seeing that the impatience with what has been significant progress in the last 50 years may actually impede progress. The math example is particularly distasteful to me because the solutions proposed (additional watering down to meet short term testing outcomes) will cause the very people who have been treated unfairly to continue to be second tier in the tech world. There is so much potential out there which does require math, and that math should not be the sole privilege of kids who can be sent to private school.

    Also Carolyn, it is very sadly not a bipolar choice as it has been laid out by partisan political power seekers. Democrats must self-police, (as I wish Republicans would) and attain a realistic, steady pace such as to modulate what has become an unstable bipolar power shift.

    This exchange itself appears to highlight yet another aspect of intolerance. It really feels like when George Bush said “If you’re not with us you’re against us”. Very sad.

  3. So stating factual tactics used by the right is now an ad-hominem attack, okay? Weird but okay. Since this is my article and you choose to read my articles, which I appreciate, I’ll ignore your rudeness and answer you anyway because I’m a dick, and it’s my prerogative. You call yourself a centrist, and that’s nice, except that from the perspective of folks trying to address these issues because we see and or are impacted by them, you’re as much a part of the problem as the reactionaries on the right. Incrementalism is a considerable part of the problem and only serves the cause of reactionaries. It is the reason we are behind the rest of the industrialized world by nearly every metric. But you are right in one aspect watering down the tests isn’t going to solve the problem; it’s a band-aid on a gushing chest wound of divestment in public education.

    So the answer to the problem you pose isn’t a more centrist approach. It’s a more progressive one. It’s funding for schools and communities as opposed to taking money out to invest in private schools, more cops, and further criminalization of communities like the one I live in now and the one I just moved from.

    But I digress because my initial point to you is that this doesn’t have anything to do with the article you’re commenting on, nor is this the first time the editors or myself have pointed this issue out to you. We appreciate your interaction with the things we write, but we were hoping you could keep those comments relevant to the topic.

    I must commend you on actually thinking through and laying out your concerns better this time, even if it still has fuck all with the recent election or progressives’ value in stopping the rightward push in electoral politics.

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