MANCHIN/BYRD COMMENTARY: The word inside of West Virginia

WestVirginiaVille.com illustration. | June 8, 2022

‘I pray for West Virginia …’

“He sat in his office, very sad, and talked about the death of his grandson, John Michael Moore, who was his daughter Marjorie’s son. He said, “Perhaps I need to retire and spend more time with my family, but I’ve got so much I need to get done for the nation.” And he then talked about — he said, “I hope West Virginia knows how much I care for them, that every night I get down on my knees and I pray for West Virginia.” He was as sincere and honest about that as I’d ever seen about it. That was 1995.”

~Robert C. Byrd Legacy Project: Oral History Interview | Bobby Taylor | June 21, 2013

Giving away his edge

“… Many have noted Manchin’s fondness for attention over the past 18 months and his willingness to keep himself up in the air as a way of soliciting courtship. Manchin chafed heavily in the minority caucus of a do-nothing Senate, but has come alive as a deal-maker in the current thinnest-possible majority. Above all though, Manchin hates to lose. He has not lost a race since 1996, an event that angered him so much he subverted his own party’s nominee out of pique in the aftermath. He certainly does not want to lose his last race …

While liberals are not what people picture when they think of a West Virginia voter, they do exist. Twenty-one percent of the 2018 electorate in the state identified that way and Manchin won that group by 66 points. If Build Back Better dies by his hand, and Roe v. Wade is overruled by a majority including two Trump Justices that Manchin supported (Kavanaugh and Gorsuch) some liberal West Virginians will stay home, or at least withhold their vote from Joe. Fifty-four percent of West Virginians wanted Roe left alone in 2018 and those voters broke 2-1 for Manchin. Any erosion there would be very harmful for him as well.

Manchin would remain a big favorite in a Democratic primary, but his sky-high national profile will be an advantage to a progressive challenger who will easily fundraise off progressive donors nationwide who are deeply angry at how Manchin has kneecapped the Biden Administration. That money will be spent driving his negatives with Democrats as high as they can go — think video of his yacht in D.C. and the Maserati he drives, juxtaposed with West Virginia poverty exacerbated by the end of the expanded child tax credit.

West Virginia’s Black population is not large, but there are still tens of thousands of Black voters in West Virginia and with Manchin having killed the push to protect voting rights, he should expect to lose votes there, as well as among non-Black progressives for whom voting rights are a critical issue …

Assuming Manchin does not come home to his party on Build Back Better, voting rights, and Roe (a very 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. He’s building a profile that might win a Senate seat in a swing state, but West Virginia is not going to be one. The winning coalition in West Virginia will start at one edge or the other, and Manchin has given away the edge he had.

[David] McKinley lost by almost 20 points, to a carpetbagger, in what is mostly McKinley’s old district. Manchin doesn’t want to go out like that. If he doesn’t come back to his own party in really stunning fashion soon, you can expect that Joe Manchin will be driving his Maserati to K street, instead of the Capitol, come 2025.

~ CHRIS REGAN | Excerpts from Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed “What does 2024 hold for Joe Manchin?” | May 21, 2022


‘An institution within an institution’

Robert C. Byrd served 51 years in the United States Senate, longer than anyone else in history, and with his six years in the House of Representatives, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. But it was how he used that record tenure that made him a pillar of Capitol Hill, fighting, often with florid words, for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and building, always with canny political skills, a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money … He had become an institution within an institution, as President Obama suggested in a statement of tribute on Monday, hours after Senator Byrd died at the age of 92 in a hospital in Fairfax, Va.

NEW YORK TIMES | “Robert C. Byrd, a Pillar of the Senate, Dies at 92” | JUNE 28, 2010

Triple the climate disasters

… Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., grew up in these glorious mountains, too, in the small coal-mining town of Farmington. Just like me, he was raised to value family and hard work. He talks proudly of the influence of his grandmother, Mama Kay, who inspired him to serve and taught him about compassion and helping those less fortunate. 

Such altruistic values are vital. As Manchin has carved out his West Virginia success story, working hard to serve in our congressional delegation and founding a successful coal brokerage business, other West Virginians are struggling. 

Coal has given much to the world but, unfortunately, working this land, rich with biodiversity and resources, has also resulted in dirty water; contaminated soil; lack of investment in education; physically, emotionally and mentally sick workers; addiction aggravated by hard labor, injury and uncertain times …

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as temperatures continue to rise, heavy rainstorms are becoming more frequent in West Virginia, and the intensity of floods is likely to increase. Our state is more exposed to worsening floods than anywhere else in the country, meaning our residents will suffer disproportionately, if we do not slow global warming …

It’s estimated that today’s children will live through triple the amount of climate disasters their grandparents did, if drastic action is not taken to curb emissions. 

I’m glad Manchin was raised to value compassion. He is in a complex position — caught between his family coal business and the future of his constituents — but I believe he will come good for the most vulnerable in his care. 

His actions can safeguard the future of a whole new generation. May they grow up with a stable climate, carefree and wild, basking in West Virginia’s abundant natural beauty. 

~ CHEYENNE CARTER | Excerpts from Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed | June 2, 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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