EDITORIAL: “The Silent Senator Capito,” A Justice Project Video


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By Douglas John Imbrogno | WestVirginiaVille.com | oct18.2020

I have friends and loved ones who still write sequential emails and calls of concern to Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. This happens every time an issue of immense importance lands in her in-box. Climate change. Voting for a judge who may overturn the Affordable Care Act. Abortion rights. Impeaching—or even seriously critiquing—a rogue president.

Or … [Your Issue Here].

Shelley inevitably punts. Or she doesn’t even get on the field. Or she says to a West Virginia reporter in a conference call—who tweeted about it recently— that Sen. Capito said she strongly objected to some new Trump outrage.

Yes, she does, you betcha.

There was, inevitably, no formal denunciation. At—you know—a microphone. Just a strategic tut-tut, whispered to a scrum of a few reporters. All to make it seem she might have some sane objections to the raging bull, who for four years has terrorized the china shop of American governance.


A screen image from the video above.

Capito hitched her votes these past four years to The Donald’s dumpster fire of an administration as it consumes itself in flames.


I myself have written these e-mails and made calls. I’ll do so again at my more-patient’s spouse’s urging. (“They need to hear from constituents!”) I’ll inevitably receive a stiff, ever gracious ‘I ain’t going there…’ response back from her Washington D.C., chop-shop.

I have climate change activists friends who meet regularly with her staff. They tell me she and her very competent staff ‘get‘ that something big needs to be done. They’re not dead-end climate denial crazies!

OK. So, prove it.

We’ll wait. But not too terribly long, since the planet’s burning, as we speak.



Yet while waiting on Capito to do the right thing—not just mouth the right thing—you may notice your hair turn another color and not from dye. So, WestVirginiaVille points its second Justice Project editorial video her way. (The apparently seriously homophobic West Virginia delegate John Mandt Jr., kicked off the series.)

Whenever the senator fails to do the right thing again, I notice two reactions on West Virginia Twitter and Facebook:

I tend to vociferously agree with the shoulder shrug, if not a vitriolic shrug, which, however, can throw my back out.

I was both amused and disgusted by the recent editorial endorsement of Capito by my former employer, the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Amused, because whomever had the unenviable task of writing it spent more time saying she needed to improve her work habits, even as “she has used her office to great effect.”

It was like a middling job performance review by an exasperated supervisor.

No, it was actually worse than that. It was perhaps the very final, embarassing nail in the coffin of the Ned Chilton-era, “kick-butt-and-take-names” legacy of the Charleston Gazette. (Here are some other nails.)


West Virginians who care about pulling this state into the 20th century from the 19th (I think we missed the 20th) need to play the long game of electoral politics. WV Can’t Wait’s slate is a start.


If the newspaper had such issues with Capito, why even endorse her with whatever remains of the paper’s fast-diminishing clout? If they could not bring themselves to endorse Shelley’s Democratic opponent, Paula Jean Swearingen, why not just shut up and not endorse anyone?

The editorial speaks to the confounding exasperation of West Virginia politics. Doug Reynolds’ HD Media operation is, no doubt, trying to retain favor with the yet-powerful Sen. Capito, whose votes will never be swayed, I suspect, by emails, calls, and letters from left-leaning voters.

The paper is hedging its bets. They see another six years of Capito as a rock-ribbed conservative yes-woman. Though it’s hard to see—if the polls hold up—what mask she’ll don after hitching most all her votes these past four years to The Donald’s dumpster fire administration, which now appears consumed in flames.


A screen image from the video above.

If the Gazette-Mail had any cajones left, they would have endorsed Capito’s Democratic opponent, Paula Jean Swearengin. Or they could have chosen not to endorse anyone and at least sketched Swearengin’s critique of the calcified tenure of “Capito Connects.

Swearengin’s campaign looks to be a hard-working, yet heartfelt tilting at windmills. And her message, campaigning, and style have not particularly caught this voter’s eye and ear.

Except she’s opposing Shelley. From the left.

I’m all in with that.

We must keep pressing onward with whatever it takes.

One thing you have to say about the contemporary, amoral, Machiavellian, wildly successful Republican Party—they play the long game extremely well.

A quarter century ago, they realized that if they quietly began laying the groundwork and strategy for winning statehouses, gubernatorial mansions, judgeships, sheriff’s departments and whatnot, they would gather some serious coin, power-wise.

And did.


I leave you with two things. West Virginians who care about pulling this state into the 21st century from the 19th (I believe we missed the 20th) need to play the long game of electoral politics. The ongoing slate of West Virginia Can’t Wait state-level candidacies—Swearengin is one of them— and Stephen Smith’s gubernatorial campaign earlier this year got many balls rolling, in that regard.

And even if Swearengin may not be your perfect progressive, liberal or even centrist cup-of-tea, she is in the game. Read the recent article in The Nation about her, titled: “Paula Jean Swearengin Wants to Turn West Virginia Blue”.


A screen capture of an Oct. 14, 2020 profile of Capito’s opponent, Palau Jean Swearengin in The Nation.

I dearly wish to believe—and WestVirginiaVille.com exists, in part—to support the article’s sub-headline: “In a state Democrats have all but abandoned, the daughter of a coal miner represents a growing progressive wave.

I’d vote for Swearengin over Capito just based on their couture alone. As the article notes, she descends from two generations of coal miners, while Capito belongs to a five-generation dynasty of West Virginia politicians:


… The century-long tension between the extractive-industry barons of West Virginia and the workers toiling in their mines is still on display around the necks of Swearengin and her Republican opponent: Paula Jean favors the red bandanna made famous by militant “redneck” coal miners, while Capito never fails to appear at committee meetings in pearls.


There are lots more reasons than that to support her. A pressing aim is to prove progressive politics has legs in the state, so as to not be written off on the national scene. As The Nation notes:


With no plans for an economic stimulus to replace the dying coal industry, the national Democratic Party has written off West Virginia, declining to flex its financial muscle in support of progressive firebrands like Stephen Smith during his gubernatorial bid and failing to focus any serious money or organizing resources on rebuilding power in the state.


Democrats’ refusal to support progressives in what was once a deep-blue union state, The Nation notes, “ignores the 23 percent of voters registered as independents, as well as the fact that more West Virginian voters are still registered as Democrats than as Republicans.”


So, it’s time to go long. Let’s garner as much support as possible for Swearengin. And dig in for a seige. If Capito cannot be unseated this time, six years is a lot of time to learn better seige tactics. Shelley Moore Capito does not appear teachable. As The Nation goes on to say:

As the state’s red hue deepens and Trump’s GOP drags Capito further to the right, those moderate politics are sure to change, one way or another.

WestVirginiaVille prefers to see politics in the Mountain State change for the better.

That’s our vote.


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