As the nation’s sixth-largest manufacturing state, Pennsylvania exports a lot of things — from food and pharma to energy and defense. Unfortunately, as Gov. Josh Shapiro and Sen. John Fetterman take the stage at Democrat political conventions across the United States, the Keystone State is also exporting bad ideas and even worse political leaders.
At a convention for the New Hampshire Democrats last month, Shapiro bragged about having a GSD attitude, an abbreviation for “getting sh*t done.”
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what the governor gets done because his list of incomplete tasks grows by the day. Pennsylvania’s budget impasse continues. Shapiro’s campaign promises — namely, passing Lifeline Scholarships, also known as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS), and increasing Level Up funding—are in limbo. Finally, his administration is failing to protect the women on his team from sexual harassment.
In the past, Shapiro has publicly supported Lifeline Scholarships/PASS, which would help children from low-income households escape Pennsylvania’s worst-performing schools. In fact, he made a deal with state Senate lawmakers to include $100 million for Lifeline Scholarships/PASS in the 2023–24 state budget.
But when things got tough at the negotiating table, Shapiro buckled and vetoed the agreed-upon scholarship program. He then washed his hands of any further negotiations, calling the issue “unfinished business” for the Senate and House (i.e., not him) to figure out.
All this, even though the Pennsylvania Senate had passed similar school choice bills twice and nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania voters support such a program, including a whopping 81 percent of Democrats.
And while Shapiro failed to deliver on this popular proposal, the state Senate has picked up where the governor fumbled, reintroducing Lifeline Scholarships/PASS into the fiscal code bills required to finish the budget.
If the Democrats are looking for someone to speak with authority on how to earn and keep political trust, they should GSD: get someone different.
Fetterman has become more of a public spectacle because of his attire rather than his ability to lead on the issues that matter to his constituents. Fetterman won his first election by positioning himself as a strong union ally and has been walking a tightrope on energy policy ever since. He claims to be a leading progressive voice on green energy while refusing to call for a fracking ban.
But Fetterman has become famous for his flip-flops — and I’m not talking about his shoes. First, Fetterman opposed fracking while running for lieutenant governor in 2018, telling a radical left-wing YouTube channel, “I don’t support fracking at all, and I never have.”
Fast forward to a 2022 debate against Dr. Mehmet Oz for Senate, when Fetterman told the moderator, “I do support fracking.” After he said those words, jovial debate watch parties filled with Fetterman voters across the state fell silent — their trust and confidence in him was broken.
These inconsistencies are why Fetterman is among the most unpopular senators in Washington. A Commonwealth Foundation poll found less-than-impressive approval ratings for the freshmen senator — 44 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable. Moreover, nationwide polling has similar numbers ranking Fetterman among the least popular freshmen senators.
Dedication, consistency, bold action, taking ownership, and keeping your promises — these are a few characteristics of strong leadership. These are what voters are looking for in the next election cycle. Shapiro and Fetterman struggle to demonstrate these characteristics.
Failing to be effective leaders, Shapiro and Fetterman can’t even perform the most fundamental aspects of their jobs. Shapiro has overseen the least productive legislation session in nearly half a century, and the state budget remains unfinished — almost four months past the deadline.
Meanwhile, Fetterman’s attendance remains suspect. Fetterman understandably missed a lot of work due to health reasons in February. But since July, he’s missed, according to GovTrack, about 10 percent of his Senate votes—almost five times the median of his colleagues.
Gentlemen: when you finish your road trips, please get back to work. There’s still plenty left to do.
Erik Telford is the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.