Yes, a Candidate’s Health Matters
Voter should know if their candidates are medically fit to serve.
Earlier this week, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a piece from their Editorial Board calling on Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman to publicly release “the full results of his cognitive tests and other medical records” related to a stroke the Democratic nominee suffered a few months back.
Questions about Fetterman’s fitness to serve have risen to the forefront of his tightening race with Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz. Public appearances from Fetterman has been scarce since his health episode, and though he has ratcheted them up in recent weeks, they’ve been short and his speech patterns have been noticeably off. He’s also, at times, relied on closed captioning to fully comprehend those he speaks with. This, along with the Fetterman campaign’s reluctance to schedule a debate with Mr. Oz, prompted the Gazette’s call.
The concern, according to the piece, is Fetterman’s “ability to communicate and process information.” The editorial board makes it clear that they don’t expect a “perfect performance” from the candidate, being that by all accounts, he’s still recovering. But they believe the state’s voters will “cut him some slack” if he demonstrates some health transparency.
While Oz has been needlessly cruel at times in his remarks on Fetterman’s condition, the newspaper is making an objectively reasonable (and I would say even responsible) request. A stroke is a serious matter, and without an adequate recovery, just how well (if at all) could someone represent their state in Washington?
Sure, there’s an easy joke to be made about the fitness of those currently serving in Washington, but I’m guessing you get my point.
What makes this a very tough call for Democrats, of course, are the political consequences of such transparency. Fetterman has maintained a polling lead against Oz since the primaries ended months ago. And it was a significant lead for most of that time, even in the early days of Fetterman’s recovery. Part of the reason has been the sharp wit of whoever runs Fetterman’s social-media accounts, but more significantly, Oz’s awkwardness and inexperience as a candidate (including seemingly not knowing much about the state he’s vying to represent) has cast him as somewhat of a joke — an out of touch, carpetbagging celebrity. But lately, the polls have tightened, in no small part because of the mystery surrounding Fetterman’s health.
There’s a growing speculation among political observers that if Fetterman does eke out a victory, he’ll be replaced (for health reasons) with another Democrat by the state’s Democratic governor. In which case, Fetterman will have served as a political placeholder (in a year in which the Senate majority may still be up for grabs), with the decision taken out of the hands of voters.
I don’t think that would be a good thing for democracy, especially if it’s pretty clear right now that Fetterman has a much longer and harder recovery ahead of him than what’s been publicly divulged. If his ability to serve is in serious jeopardy, voters should know that before they head to the polls.
So yeah, release the medical records to Pennsylvanians. The same goes for Oz (as the Gazette suggested as well).
It’s only fair.