REFLECTIONS: Ted Boettner on “Status Quo Joe”


Ted Boettner is a Senior Researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute and founding executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. His bio notes that his long public policy experience has been focused on “pathways that bring sustainable economic development and shared prosperity to the region through research and analysis.” We asked him to weigh in on the theme of this special edition of WestVirginiaVille: “Is Joe Manchin the Anti-Byrd?”


By Ted Boettner | Robert C. Byrd recognized West Virginia had given more to the American Dream and received less in return than almost any other states. As Byrd said:

“It is a state whose rich resources have been largely owned and exploited by outside interests. Absentee owners, while living outside the state, wrested from the West Virginia earth the wealth that made them rich — rich from the toil and sweat and blood and tears of the people in the hill country who worked out their lives, all too often, for a pittance.” ~ from “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields”

I don’t think Joe Manchin thinks public policy should be used to benefit working class people, but only those that own the great wealth of the nation — in the hope it will trickle down. He has always adopted the Clinton strategy of triangulation with the GOP.


Sen. Joe Manchin, reflecting on his power. | WestVirginiaVille.com illustration. | June 8, 2022

I remember during his first gubernatorial campaign, Monty Warner had advertisements calling Manchin “Status Quo Joe.” I think this was partly correct. 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. 

Manchin complained for years that nothing was getting done in Washington. And then, when he had a chance to get something done, he showed his true colors.


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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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