Op-Ed: America’s most endangered Democrat to retire

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“I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form. That won’t change.” – Joe Manchin (D. WV)

West Virginia was dependable blue until 2000. Unions controlled their politics with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA projects reminding them of the New Deal’s impact on the state. Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd represented the state for over 57 years. In 1988, it was the only southern state to support Michael Dukakis for president. In 1980, it was only one of six U.S. states to vote for Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan.

But in the election of 2000, West Virginia took a political right turn and never looked back. Unions no longer were a major player in the state, and the coal industry was under attack by Democrats. Al Gore campaigned against fossil fuels, which outraged West Virginians. They considered this an economic threat and an insult to their Appalachian culture. They fled to the open arms of the GOP.

States have pride, and when you attack their number one industry they are threatened. And when you denigrate their culture on top of that, they not only get mad, they get even – and never forget. Few states in America have shifted politically faster and more decisively than West Virginia in the last two decades. The dark blue state turned forever red in 2020, and “Democrat” is a dirty word.

The state government in West Virginia has been a Republican trifecta since 2017 and it gets more red with each election. Their Congressional delegation consists of four Republicans and a tough, gun-brazing, motorcycle-riding, pro-life, patriotic conservative Democrat who’d rather fight than switch parties.

“If people know you’re working for them, they don’t care about your party.” – Joe Manchin

Manchin is a political dinosaur, considering his governor, Jim Justice, left the Democratic Party to become a Republican six months after taking office. And he did it at a rally aside President Donald Trump.

Anyone who believes that Manchin’s survival is an anomaly needs a refresher course in politics.

Blue dog Democrats were placed on the endangered species list when Barack Obama was elected president, but that never phased Joe Manchin. He not only refused to move into the progressive camp, he shifted to the dead center-right in order to safeguard the social and economic integrity of his state. And his moderate record had progressives threatening a primary challenge against Manchin in 2024.

Progressives are blind to reality by chastising Manchin. No Democrat elected from West Virginia would be more liberal. When Trump was in office, Manchin voted with him 50% of the time. This is identical to other Congressional Democrats who represented states or districts Trump won in 2016.

“Whoever is president, my priority is the same. I look at what’s best for West Virginia.” – Joe Manchin

When Manchin recently refused to support President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act unless the left cut back this economic monstrosity to $1.5 trillion, Biden and the progressives came unglued!

Outraged socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News that the West Virginia Democrat was out of touch with today’s Democrats. “We can’t negotiate with someone who is stuck in the past!”

When Biden’s $3.5 trillion BBB bombshell was first dropped on Congress, Manchin told Biden and the House that he wouldn’t support a spending bill that large. Biden’s albatross was a progressive wish list that Santa Clause and all his elves couldn’t fill in a century of Christmases. Instead of gutting it to resemble something real, they piously pitched it in the court of public opinion where they lost it!

“It’s not a question of party or politics, but how much more can we afford to spend?” – Joe Manchin

In January, when Biden’s BBB scheme was touted as a “fix-all for everything” by the left, Manchin warned Democrats they were “digging a hole they couldn’t get out of.” He said the passage of any more stimulus bills was unnecessary, and would lead to “runaway inflation” and derail the recovery.

Since Manchin first aired his concerns, inflation has increased dramatically with no end in sight. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer prices rose by 6.8% over the past year, a 40-year high. The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) reported producer prices rose by a record 9.6% last week. If today’s CPI is tracked by the old CPI formula, it is worse than Carter’s.

Since the CPI no longer includes housing prices, which they indexed until 1983, this means that the current CPI doesn’t account for housing prices that have increased by 19.5% over the last year. Economist Peter Schiff remarked, “If the CPI still included housing prices, it would be around 11%.”

Reacting to the Democrats’ recent bloodbath in Virginia, U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) said, “We need to focus more on family values.” But Manchin sees it a bit differently. He stated that Virginians voted against Biden because he thinks that he was elected to be the next FDR, and he is not.

During a recent CNN interview, Manchin defended his arguments over the social spending and climate package stuck in Congress. He argued that Democrats and Biden will both suffer more losses if the party moves too far to the left. He said, “This is not a center-left country. We are a more center-right country, and it means that we ought to be able to recognize that to succeed.”

Manchin calls himself a “responsible West Virginia Democrat.” He says he is “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.” And his party needs to work together on what can be done and what cannot be done. He cautiously implies that progressives have lost their way and need to unify with the rest of the party.

“We shouldn’t accept mediocrity as the best a politician can do.” – Joe Manchin

Aristotle told us, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” During his political career, Manchin always has done what he believes is best for his state and the nation. He has a habit of keeping his party guessing while he finds a way to cut deals with Republicans and deploy his back-slapping brand of bipartisanship. While the GOP tried to take him out last election, they quietly kissed and made up.

Manchin could easily do what Justice did in 2017 and switch parties without batting an eyelash. Instead of continually battling his own party, Manchin recently made official what his colleagues had privately suspected for months, that he won’t be returning to Washington next year.

Progressives have no love for Manchin and bankrolled a far left challenger against him last election, who lost by double digits. West Virginia is a very red state and Manchin’s voting record reflects it. His constituents will miss him dearly as well as those in Congress who have brokered many deals with him for years. Manchin has been more of a threat to progressives than he’s been to the GOP. Manchin has always been a true statesman in Congress and in his state. He is Mr. West Virginia.

We’ll miss you Joe.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They’ve got to see it and feel it. And it’s for real. And that’s all. Just be who you are.” – Joe Manchin

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