The New Yorker:
Reflections on a day of self-parody on Capitol Hill.
By Susan B. Glasser
In an age when absolutely anything can be politicized, perhaps it was inevitable that the attire of John Fetterman would become a cause célèbre in the Republicans’ culture wars. The hulking Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, who suffered a campaign-season stroke during his 2022 race, has since then preferred to wear an unorthodox uniform of baggy gym shorts and hoodies, even in the august halls of the U.S. Senate. After it was revealed this past weekend that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had quietly decided he would no longer enforce the chamber’s long-standing but unofficial dress code, thus permitting Fetterman to vote on the floor and even preside over the Senate in his informal getup, numerous hyperventilating op-eds, tweets, and Fox News segments followed. (A sampling: “Fetterman dress code fail begs big question about America’s deep decline”; “Does John Fetterman really want to be a senator?”) Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, threatened to wear a bikini on the Senate floor in protest. Senator Bill Hagerty, of Tennessee, accused Democrats of trying to “transform America.”
Soon enough, Fetterman was selling campaign merchandise making fun of his sanctimonious critics, touting a fifty-dollar “I vote in this hoodie” sweatshirt, among other slouchy apparel. When Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor whose Republican Presidential campaign has been foundering in the polls, attacked Fetterman for “dumbing down” the country, the Pennsylvania senator clapped back: “I dress like he campaigns.” By Wednesday, Fetterman clearly was having too much fun to let the story die. In a tweet seemingly designed for maximum viral impact, Fetterman made an offer: “If those jagoffs in the House stop trying to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine,” he vowed, “then I will save democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week.” (A jagoff, according to Dictionary.com, is Pittsburgh slang, used to refer to “a jerk, idiot, or really any kind of irritating or unlikeable person.”)
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