December 23, 2021: The word “principled” is stripped of all meaning
Today’s Wheeling Intelligencer editorial on Senator Joe Manchin: “A Principled Man in the Senate”
From the editorial:
Manchin has been able to resist enormous pressure through this process precisely because he answers to West Virginians, and he knows it.
I'm curious. Does he answer all West Virginians or only those with whom he gets money from or agrees?
What about the Intelligencer and the WV Trump Party, who support his position?
How about West Virginia's rich whose taxes will go up if BBB is enacted?
What about those energy lobbyists that call him on a daily basis?
But what about these West Virginians?
Today West Virginians held a vigil at Manchin's office. Numerous local groups&UMWA put out statements in support of Build Back Better. These folks have been working for months to get Manchin on board with life-saving funds for their families. They're heartbroken but not stopping. pic.twitter.com/QugiDKG4GE— Domenica Ghanem (@DomenicaGhanem) December 21, 2021
Paul Wildman in today’s Washington Post poses a similar question when he asks: "What has Manchin been fighting for?"
Wildman answers “nothing”:
[H]e says he’s defending his state’s interests. But that means he wants to keep the state just as it is, ranking at or near the bottom compared with the rest of the states in per capita income, educational attainment, life expectancy — we could go on.
So is Manchin fighting to help West Virginians? For instance, his opposition to measures to address climate change supposedly comes from his deep concern for constituents who have relied for so long on the coal industry. But coal has been in a long decline in the state; according to government data just 11,000 West Virginians still work in coal.
Manchin’s vision for the future of coal country seems to involve nothing more than letting the state’s ownership class — including him and his family — squeeze the last drops of wealth from a dying industry, then leave the people who labored in that industry with few economic prospects.
Manchin the coward
Manchin has said all along that the Senate must compromise in order to work. I raised this as a question on Monday, but I still have not seen an answer and so I'll raise it again: despite all his rhetoric about working with colleagues and the other party, when has Manchin ever compromised? The President and the Democrats, for their part, have reduced the scope and cost of Build Back Better and what has our senator done in return? Nothing. And, apparently, that was his plan from the beginning:
After announcing his opposition to Democrats’ Build Back Better Act, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) explained in an interview on Monday that he never planned on compromising with fellow Democrats to support crucial portions of the bill – and that he preferred instead to essentially axe the bill altogether.
(Emphasis mine.) So, our senator who constantly argues for compromise and working across the aisle never intended to compromise.
Manchin’s rhetoric has fooled some journalists. For example, Nicholas Goldberg, political columnist for the Los Angeles Times, explains how he thought Build Back Better would finally pass:
In the end, I said smugly, there’d most likely be a package, probably including universal pre-K, expanded healthcare access, an expanded child care tax credit and lots of dollars to fight climate change. Some members of Congress would feel it was not enough and others would feel it was too much — but they’d all stand at the podium and declare victory.
And really, it would be a victory.
That’s what I actually, foolishly, naively believed until Sunday, when it turned out I was entirely, embarrassingly wrong.
Because Manchin, whom I was defending despite my deep disagreements with his neo-Republican politics, broke the rules of the game. He walked away. Instead of doing the hard work of crafting a compromise, as he had promised Biden he would, he declared he was at his “wits’ end” and backed out entirely. Instead of fighting on, he took the coward’s way out, perhaps because he’s sincerely concerned about inflation and the federal debt, perhaps because he felt irked that his concerns weren’t being adequately tended to by the White House or perhaps out of fealty to the coal industry in his state.
Whatever it was, he took his ball and went home, dealing a most likely fatal blow to the $1.75-trillion legislation that was to have been the cornerstone of Biden’s domestic policy.
Yes, that was our "principled" senator.