Welcome to this special edition of WestVirginiaVille.com, devoted entirely to the conundrum, the spectacle, the confounding political theater of a U.S. Senator named Joe Manchin. In this roundup of interviews, articles, cartoons, and even doggerel, distilled from varied viewpoints within and without his home state, we examine the senator’s current role as a sort of all-powerful ‘Prime Minister Manchin‘ of America.
The stakes are very high. November’s fast-approaching midterm elections could not merely slam the door shut on the sweeping aspirations of the Biden administration. They could simultaneously fling open a frightening Pandora’s box of autocratic, theocratic rule in America.
And so, WestVirginiaVille lays before you this modest effort at Joe-collation, commentary, and cranky scrutiny. Not just to belittle and disparage the man, although there will be some roundhouse punches, irritable cartoons and grouchy rhymes, but to appeal in dire times to what remains of the better angels of the senator’s nature (unless they have all been laid off due to inflation — Joe’s inflation into powerbroker par excellence).
Also, perhaps, to underscore that push has finally come to shove for ‘Manchin Whisperers and Influencers.’ (And, yes, we have a short list of them here in the state, and progressives have been passing it around madly this year). To spur those influencers to step determinedly into their friend’s headspace, as America rounds third and heads home toward these decisive midterms.
The Biden Administration needs points on the board, or Democrats up and down the ballot will get shellacked. And for folks who have Joe Manchin’s ear, it is high time to smack the senator upside the head, metaphorically speaking, right above that ear that they have.
A harrowing reality presents itself in this Summer of America’s Growing Discontent. It’s no hyperbole, either, given the absolutely amoral, power uber allers mind-meld of Donald Trump’s narcissistic, vicious nihilism and what used to be the Republican Party. Much of the entire, nearly 250-year American Experiment is very much on the line.
And this brings us to the theme that drives this special issue. It is an essential question for both West Virginia and the United States of America:
“Is Joe Manchin the Anti-Byrd?”
~ By Douglas John Imbrogno | Editor, WestVirginiaVille.com | June 8, 2022
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STORY INDEX: A shorthand guide to the stories in out Manchin-Byrd Special Edition, JUNE 8, 2022
EDITORS/NOTE: ‘The Curious, Confounding Case of Joseph Manchin III’:
Our modest effort at Joe-collation and sprawling, sometimes grouchy commentary is not just to belittle the man, alhough there are roundhouse punches and cranky cartoons, but to appeal in dire days to what’s left of the better angels of Joe Manchin’s nature. Unless they’ve been laid off due to inflation. His — into the Prime Minister of America.
INTRODUCTION: Is Joe Manchin the Anti-Byrd?:
However complicated his life, Robert C. Byrd left a legacy of accomplishment that benefited the state and nation. His career’s end game also set the example of what a senator looks like when they object to America running off the rails. So, a key question about Joseph Manchin III: Is he the Anti-Byrd? Or can he finally rise to the occasion and help rescue the Biden Administration in the midterms?
FIRST/PERSON: Traveling West Virginia’s backroads in the Byrdmobile:
J. MICHAEL WILLARD: “I once worked for a man who had been an Exalted Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan — and I’m proud of it. Not because he was a Klan member more than three-quarters of a century ago, but because of what he became afterward …”
REFLECTIONS: Ted Boettner on “Status Quo Joe”:
“I don’t think Manchin thinks there is anything fundamentally wrong with business as usual and that the inequality we see today is just and acceptable. Byrd, at least partly, seemed to believe in a higher purpose beyond himself. I don’t see that with Manchin, who seems mostly motivated by financial interests and political gamesmanship.”
Q&A: Author Denise Giardina on comparing Byrd and Manchin
Byrd had “a quality that is too rare in human beings: the ability to continue to learn and grow over time.” With Manchin, “it’s a story as old as Greek tragedy — hubris, hubris, center of attention, power, power, money, money.”
FIRST/PERSON: Lessons learned from the Roman to the U.S. Senate
MARK FERRELL: “A big part of his identity in Washington was being a poor, orphaned son of the Appalachian coalfields, largely self-educated, who rose through the ranks to the world’s most august deliberative body and could match wits with any man in Washington of privileged background and Ivy League pedigree.”
MANCHIN/BYRD COMMENTARY: The word outside of West Virginia
“Byrd rails against the mendacity and militarism of the Bush administration, raising a bold if lonely voice in defense of our civil liberties and national character …”| When confronted by his coal industry ties, “Manchin argued the country needed ‘dependability’ in its sources of energy. In sinking the bill, he has frustrated efforts to definitively move beyond coal.”
CARTOONERY: Black By God acidly sketches Joe Manchin’s life & times
‘BLACK BY GOD: The West Virginian’ revives a potent tradition in the state — the zinger, draw-truth-to-power editorial cartoon and Joe Manchin has been a favorite zingee of this “storytelling organization centering Black voices from the Mountain State.”
MANCHIN/BYRD COMMENTARY: The word inside of West Virginia
“Assuming Manchin does not come home to his party on Build Back Better, voting rights, and Roe (a safe assumption at this point), he’ll have lost many more votes on his left side than he could ever hope to pick up on his right … If he doesn’t come back to his own party in really stunning fashion soon, you can expect Joe Manchin will be driving his Maserati to K street, instead of the Capitol, come 2025.”
‘HEY JOE’: Harmonically urging Joe to take climate action
In late 2021, a harmonic convergence of West Virginians came together on the statewide music video “Hey Joe,” urging Joe Manchin to take decisive action on the climate crisis.
DOGGEREL:’ The Ballad of Bobby & Joe’
‘Joe turns out to be, right now, / the guy who stops all bills, / to bring more billions back to West Virginia / and its rolling hills. / And maybe there’s a Byrd somewhere / who’s spinning in its grave, / as Joe keeps sucker-punching bills / the world needs to be saved …’
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Thank you for reading and commenting, Barbara! Much appreciated.
Excellent issue!! Truth to Power. Thank you!