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Why Senate Hopeful John Fetterman’s Masterful Online Trolling of Dr. O

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It’s just the latest example of Fetterman’s mastery of the comedic political hit track. His campaign has proven about and again that in the hands of the right candidate, Twitter trolling can have a devastating impact and reach far beyond the platform. While some of his tactics are probably considered unworthy by Democrats of the when-they-go-low-we-go-high variety, Fetterman is definitely not of that sort. Maybe that’s why he is currently up six points.

By now, even people who proudly avoid setting foot digitally on Twitter or Facebook are probably familiar with Fetterman’s antics. He earned a lot media applause for use cameo to get the New Jersey icon Snooki Polizzi to make fun of Dr. Oz’s too recent move of the Garden State to Pennsylvania. (Fellow famous Jerseyite Stevie Van Zandt cut a similar ad but he seems to have come on board more organic.)

However, Fetterman’s most shared troll moves were his own smart operation of a blatant casual error. In April, Dr. Oz himself as he complained about the rising price of ‘crudités’ in the non-existent supermarket ‘Wegner’s’. When Fetterman noticed the video months later, what was supposed to be an inflation attack in Joe Biden’s America turned into a savage dunk contest that attracted a sharp contrast between dr. Oz and the Pennsylvania workers. Fetterman’s many digs at the supermarket video quickly set on fire online. Within 24 hours, his campaign had raised over $500,000-all from raw food and Wegner’s jokes.

Meanwhile, when Dr. Oz tried to take part in flame warfare, the best he can think of photoshops his opponent in the stepbrothers poster, to make it clear that… Fetterman once supported Bernie Sanders. dr. Oz just wasn’t built for this kind of fight. He has successfully made hay from populist Fetterman who accepted money from his parents for 13 years as mayor of Braddock: “I bought my houses with My money”—but that financial support is something Fetterman has been open about it for a long time, and doesn’t seem to amount to a huge fortune. The only thing that Dr. Oz otherwise as ammunition is his opponent’s recent stroke, and he’s been deaf to that too.

Fetterman still comes across as authentically Pennsylvanian as the Liberty Bell of Abbott Elementaryand both his entertaining campaign style and love for shorts and hoodies have helped differentiate not only with Dr. Oz, but also with more traditional Democrats.

Trolling as a political blood sport might be a little inappropriate for a Senate candidate, but that seems to be why it works. Fetterman’s frequent beating of his opponent has helped keep the unfavorable sides of Dr. Oz high all year in the battlefield state, even if it hasn’t brought more Republicans to his side. Some undecided voters are sure to be put off by this combative approach, but how many of them would rather vote for a runaway, Dr. Nick Riviera-esque carpet dredge just because the other guy impudently pointed out those flaws?

Perhaps in some breeds, behavior that’s a little inappropriate is how you become eligible.

For better or for worse, the shocking success of Donald Trump’s primary campaign in 2016 revealed just how hungry some voters are to watch politicians amusingly tear their opponents apart. Trump bent the rules by leaning on lies, deflections, crude nativist calls – and worse – but he knocked out his 16 main opponents mainly by ridiculing ridiculous people ruthlessly. Apart from the fact that Trump himself was a very ridiculous and dangerous person, why? not use biting humor to call a clown a clown?

It was only a matter of time before a Democrat figured out how to do that without crossing ethical boundaries.

Indeed, some candidates have already tried it. When Michael Bloomberg enlisted an expensive meme army to attack Trump in a doomed 2020 presidential bid sounded as false as anything Dr. Oz has done. Not only were the jokes sweatythey came from a candidate who had way too much in common with his opponent. Bloomberg had learned the wrong lessons from Trump’s 2016 campaign. He was vicious and extremely online, but in a way that felt disconnected from the source and without providing an appealing counterexample. By contrast, Fetterman’s arrows don’t just land because Dr. Oz is such a broad and immovable target – though he is – but because Fetterman is the one aiming for him, even if his digital teams guiding hand is faintly visible.

Fetterman’s campaign is authentic, often funny and feels relatively effortless. (Less than a day after the Simpsons video, he scored another viral hit.) An election win is certainly not, naturally. The candidate’s recent stroke is 100% a legitimate concernand may prove to be a critical liability depending on whether he appears to be in control of his faculties during the latter part of the election, including a debate on October 25 with dr. oz. It certainly says something about how effective his campaign has been, but right now it seems only a stroke can take him out.


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