John Fetterman called himself progressive for years. Now he’s rejecting the label

Democratic US Senator John Fetterman spent years courting support from progressive groups and voters, won support from Bernie Sanders and even hired some of his former aides.

The Pennsylvania senator also has embraced Medicare for All, wealth taxes, legalising cannabis, raising the minimum hourly wage to $15, abortion rights, and a major piece of pro-union legislation, among other progressive causes.

But on Friday, despite repeatedly calling himself a progressive Democrat and pointing to his support for progressive platforms as he built up his national profile, he rejected the label.

He has faced widespread criticism among his supporters not only for his unwavering support for Israel as it continues its retaliatory military campaign in Gaza, but also his recent willingness to join Senate Republicans in crafting more stringent immigration laws.

“I’m not a progressive,” Mr Fetterman told NBC News on Friday. “I just think I’m a Democrat that is very committed to choice and other things. But with Israel, I’m going to be on the right side of that. And immigration is something near and dear to me, and I think we do have to effectively address it as well.”

His apparent reversal is a marked departure from years of public statements touting his support for progressive policies.

“We have started a progressive movement here in Pennsylvania,” he wrote in 2016, after losing his first Senate race. That same year, while touting support from Mr Sanders, he called himself a “progressive champion”.

“Chip in whatever you can to help us take this progressive momentum all the way to the ballot box,” he said two years later while campaigning for lieutenant governor.

Those “progressive values have been the heart of my campaign,” he wrote in another post.

While campaigning for a US Senate seat in 2020, he wrote: “Progressive. Simple. Sacred. The union way of life.”

In a response to former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, he wrote: “My dude, I’m a progressive democrat.”

The list goes on.

Following Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, and an ensuing siege and bombardments that have killed thousands of civilians in Gaza, Mr Fetterman has remained unmoved in his support for Israel. Former campaign staffers have urged him to support calls for a ceasefire, which he has rejected.

Mr Fetterman, who received support from pro-Israel PAC Democratic Majority of Israel, also has been pictured wearing an Israeli flag and waving a flag at a groups of ceasefire demonstrators while they were being handcuffed by US Capitol Police.

In his interview with NBC News, the senator defended what he called a “reasonable conversation” with Republican senators to restrict immigration at the US-Mexico border, as stalled congressional negotiations around immigration are threatening the future of legislated aid to Israel and Ukraine.

“Until somebody can say there’s an explanation on what we can do when 270,000 people are being encountered on the border, not including the ones, of course, that we don’t know about,” he told NBC.

“You essentially have Pittsburgh showing up there at the border,” he told Politico earlier this month.

Mr Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Fetterman, fled violence in Brazil with her family and arrived in the US as an undocumented seven-year-old, a story that played prominently in the senator’s campaign.

The Independent has requested comment from Mr Fetterman’s office.

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