Pennsylvania’s Elections Matter — Yes, Even in Oberlin

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my co-op’s dining room talking with two other students from Pennsylvania. I asked them what they thought about John Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and a Democratic candidate in the state’s 2022 Senate race. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a politics junkie and “lieutenant governor” isn’t the most well-known position, but I was still shocked that neither of the people I was speaking to knew of him. Everyone from Pennsylvania should be at least keeping themselves informed on the Pennsylvania Senate race, but more importantly, this is an election that should be on every American’s radar. 

Following Republican Pat Toomey’s announcement of his retirement in October 2020, CNN ranked Pennsylvania as the Senate seat most likely to flip partisan control in 2022. After the recent November 2021 election in which Republicans had a wave of success, even in places where Joe Biden won in 2020, the importance of the Pennsylvania 2022 Senate election cannot be overstated. The Senate is in a 50–50 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans. This election will have an impact on the entire country for years to come, determining whether our government will pass legislation with the power to change the lives of all Americans for the better, or if it will implement policies that result in little to no change. Or, worse, if it will change things for the benefit of those who are already in positions of power and privilege. 

On the left, progressive politics are on the rise. John Fetterman is currently the frontrunner in a race against four other Democrats from Pennsylvania for the nomination, and his main challenger in the spring will be Congressman Conor Lamb. Should Fetterman become the next Senator for Pennsylvania, he has promised that he will “be that 51st vote” in support of progressive causes like a $15 national minimum wage, legalizing recreational marijuana, ensuring access to lifesaving health care by codifying Roe v. Wade, and abolishing the filibuster. Additionally, many of these issues have widespread bipartisan support. While I’m not saying that Republicans would be coming out in droves to support Fetterman in November 2022, I wouldn’t rule out his ability to flip at least a handful of voters. 

Meanwhile, across the political aisle, Republicans are struggling to find a proper primary candidate. Former Republican frontrunner Sean Parnell dropped out of the race after losing a custody case when allegations of serious domestic abuse were made against him. Parnell had paved the way to winning the nomination in the May primaries with an endorsement from Former President Donald Trump, leaving his opponents in much weaker positions. Despite having seven other candidates currently in the race, Republicans are scrambling. Their big-name, Trump-supported candidate is out of the picture, leaving behind a sea of lesser-known, less-funded candidates. It’s pretty clear that Trump is very important in this race. Running a candidate with fewer ties to Trump could alienate voters, and the last thing the Republican Party wants is to lose their Pennsylvania Senate seat. On the other hand, many Republicans are attempting to distance themselves from the former president. Toomey was a reliable Republican vote in the Senate who consistently voted in line with Trump policies despite publicly claiming to keep his distance from him — a quiet but key Republican presence. With Toomey out of the picture, Republicans are looking to fill the seat with someone who will always vote along party lines. 

You should care about this election because its results will impact you no matter where you’re from. Setting specific policies and political candidates aside, it will serve as an indicator for the future of national politics. In recent years, Pennsylvania’s political parties have become a good representation of both the Republican and Democratic parties on a national scale. This election will indicate the directions that both parties are heading in, regardless of the results of this specific election. Is supporting Trump a new must for Republicans seeking office? And for the Democrats, does the future of the party lie with moderates or progressives? 

The unfortunate reality is that Democrats have everything to lose in 2022, with the exception of the presidency. As this shapes up to be the most important Senate race in 2022, we should all be paying close attention to the tactics that politicians and candidates on both sides of the aisle are using and how the votes eventually play out. If Oberlin students truly care about progressive causes as they claim, they should be invested in this election, as well as every other Senate election, no matter where they are from. We’re in for a nail-biting, stress-inducing rollercoaster year of watching Pennsylvania yet again, so catch up on what’s happening and enjoy the ride. If you’re so inclined, find a candidate you like and support their campaign by donating or phone banking. If you have friends in Pennsylvania, remind them to vote.

Finally, remember: even if you’re not from Pennsylvania, keep your eyes open. Our future depends on this.