Republicans Should Learn the Fetterman Rule

The Democrat Machine can now elect virtually any candidate – no matter how flawed – because of the machine’s sheer power of coordination and resources. 

by Newt Gingrich

As I’ve watched the media fawn over U.S. Sen. John Fetterman attending Tuesday’s massive pro-Israel rally on the National Mall, it occurred to me how powerful the Democrat Machine has become. 

Fetterman’s election as U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania teaches an important principle about how politics is evolving in America today. If you watched Fetterman in the 2022 race against Republican Mehmet Oz, it was clear that Fetterman could not possibly have beaten Oz on his own merit as a candidate.

I think that was true even before Fetterman had a stroke. If you’ve watched him in the Senate, it’s even more obvious he’s out of place and would not normally win a one-on-one race for a vital national position. Fetterman won because he had an enormous Democrat Machine backing him. The machine raises money, props up its candidates, attacks its opponents, and keeps the media in line and on message. 

We’ve seen this for years. Most recently, we saw it in the Virginia state elections. In Virginia, Republicans earned more total votes than Democrats – but the Democrat Machine spent heavily in the key races that mattered.

So, I’m going to start calling this the Fetterman Rule. The Democrat Machine can now elect virtually any candidate – no matter how flawed – because of the machine’s sheer power of coordination and resources.  

Republicans must learn how to adapt to the Fetterman Rule and overcome the Democrat machine before the 2024 elections.

To further explain: Modern Democrats operate as a machine. Every activist group, community organizer, and party organization finds its place (largely separate from candidates) and does its job in lockstep with the other parts of the machine. The machine focuses on elections, not campaigns. The collective system is far bigger than the Democrat Party – and far more than individual candidate campaigns. The machine includes the teachers’ union, public employee unions, labor unions, leftwing activist groups, billionaires such as George Soros, and most of the news media.

This machine behavior by Democrats is an old tradition going back at least as far as the founding of Tammany Hall in New York in 1786. 

As Theodore White recounted in “The Making of the President 1960,” when a candidate for judge in Brooklyn in 1936 asked the local political boss what it would take to become a judge, the boss told him $2,500. The judge candidate paid, but then he didn’t see campaign start building over the next few weeks. 

Anxiety ridden on the Saturday before the election, the candidate went back to the boss. He complained that he had seen no posters, brochures, or other campaign material. To paraphrase the story, the boss invited him over to the window. He asked the candidate, “Do you know what that is?” The candidate answered, “Sure, it’s the Staten Island Ferry.” The boss then pointed out how the ferry would come up to the dock and pull in a bunch of floating garbage in its wake. The boss then told the candidate Franklin Roosevelt was his ferry – and he was in the wake. “You are going to be a judge.”

Republicans operate in a scattered ecosystem. Every group, activist, candidate, and party official sets out and does what it thinks is the right thing largely without regard for what the other Republicans are doing.

So, when you’re running as a Republican, you’re not running just against a Democrat candidate. You’re running against an entire machine. Republicans must rethink how we approach all this. We can’t continue thinking in terms of candidate vs. candidate engagements. So far, we have completely misunderstood the Fetterman Rule and how modern politics is evolving. 

The machine explains a great deal of the outcomes of 2022 and 2023. For Republicans to win in 2024, they must deeply think through how to overmatch a machine which has such a huge scale of resources. As another example from the Virginia state elections, I talked to one Republican candidate in a Virginia State Senate race. He spent $3 million, and the Democrats spent more than $6 million for his opponent. The Republican got 47 percent of the vote and lost.

With parity in resources, he probably would have won the race.  

That’s what we’re going to keep seeing if Republicans don’t learn from the Fetterman Rule and figure out how to beat the Democrat Machine. 

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