In the long history of our country, we have had, from time to time, an occasional gadfly cruising around against the tide whose intention was to gum up the works. Sometimes to prevent something bad from happening, sometimes to add punctuation to something good.
In 2021, after the slimmest of margins in the House and the Senate provide the opportunity for a Progressive/Populist agenda to succeed, once again, the gaflies flit around the light and the heat, looking for the chance. This time, the gadflies are Joseph Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, respectively Democratic Party Senators from West Virginia and Arizona.
This time, however, the gadfly’s bite may be felt by each and every one of us. Of course, I am not referring to the Right Wing billionaires, the Koch Family, the Mercers, and the others who may or may not be in the country at any given time, or, these days, even on the planet. Manchin and Sinema can do real damage to the American people, the Middle Class and Poor Working Families.
Who are these two and why are they working for the rich against the interests of the average American family, while pretending to be Democrats? Let’s do a quick bio of each.
Manchin is a long time political pol from West Virginia. He has interests in coal and a longtime history of elected office in West Virginia. He was secretary of State and Governor. He is called a moderate. On a scale of 1 to 50, Manchin is number 50, lowest on the totem pole, when it comes to being a Progressive Democrat. Sinema is number 49. Manchin is a Senator from the second-poorest state in the U.S., West Virginia.
Why won’t Joe Manchin work with the President, Bernie Sanders and the Progressive caucus to improve the lives of West Virginia natives? We could accept his words but we don’t do that with politicians, as their words are insignificant compared to their deeds, their votes. In this case, Manchin could make a gigantic improvement in the lives of West Virginia residents. But he is resisting. Why?
Manchin is from a small coal town, Farmington, West Virginia. He is connected with coal through his own investment and ownership and has played West Virginia “poor” politics since becoming the mayor of Farmington,a state legislator, the Secretary of State of West Virginia, Governor and now Senator. During all that time, what has Manchin done for West Virginia? Not much. But that is apparently not what West Virginia voters think.
Manchin won his Senate seat in a state where Trump won 69% of the vote. Amost the highest in the counrty. Poor, white, disinfranchised, uneducated citizens voted for Manchin, while the Republicans coasted to victory all around him, including a Republican governor. So, it is not surprising that Manchin is reluctant to support the Democratic agenda. He knows that he will be pummeled by the huge economic power of the Republican Party in West Virginia and the Republican Senate re-election committee with their almost unlimited bank account.
But Manchin must be called out. Let’s assume that he is a dumb, ex-football playing, somewhat arrogant, duplicitous, only moderately intelligent individual. If that were the case, then who would or could criticize him for trying to play both sides against the middle? After all, he claims to be for the Democrats and votes with them slightly over half the time. He says a lot of the proper things to make him a milque-toast Democrat. But if he didn’t stay on the Right a little bit, the other ignorant, racist, football-loving, illiterate, coal-mining citizens who make up West Virginia voters–apparently the majority–wouldn’t vote for him and someone much worse probably would be elected. So what can Joe Manchin do?
Well, Joe Manchin, if he is the Saturday-hero he seems to think himself to be, rather than merely the phony image of one, then he should go to the Democratic Party and tell them to give him a huge budget…find it somehwhere…and help him wage a war in West Virginia against ignorance, and poverty and hate and despair. Joe Manchin, with Bernie Sanders help, and Joe Biden’s help and the help of union leaders and church leaders and women’s groups, could put together a coalition that would–demand–not just accept the provisions in the reconciliation bill for negotiated drug prices, hearing aids, dental assistance, eyeglasses, child care and every other thing that West Virginians need more than every other state than one!
Joe Manchin could become the real tough guy that West Virginia miners respect. These people understand what it means to be strong in the face of adversity, illness, disease, grinding poverty and still come out patriots, Americans, and despite their lack of resources to educate themselves, because that’s how they have to do it, increasingly better citizens and better neighbors to all races and creeds.
Sure they’ve been duped. Still are, many of them. They haven’t figured out that coal mining is a 19th Century industry that is already obsolete and the only people who don’t know it are West Virginians.Because they’ve been lied to by coal companies and people related to Big Coal, like Joe Manchin. There are about 39,000 jobs related to coal in West Virginia. We need to replace those jobs with others, in the same places or in places like Charleston, Hunginton or Morgantown.
What about the essential issue…a poorer-than-average workforce needs jobs, preferably jobs above the national norm for the best unskilled labor of other states. All the people who now work in coal could be employed in other industries if the House and Senate made that a priority. The house, with Nancy Pelosi leading it, would do that. The Senate, with the billionaires, not wanting any spending at all, leading it, would not. But if Manchin got behind this kind of movement and could win over the trust of West Virginia voters, industry would move in, and the people could clean up the beautiful, wonderful landscape of West Virginia, including the lakes and rivers, and make their lives better. New energy jobs are going to last for a couple of hundred years. And the cost to the government for subsidizing training and incentives for national corporations could be repaid in five years with a new, more economically powerful West Virginia as a result. We could do all this for a loan to West Virginia that would be equivalent to the cost of less than one-quarter of a cent on a can of coke or pepsi or a root beer.
I could name thirty jobs in about a half-hour for various companies that could be parts of smaller companies that could move to West Virginia. And Joe Manchin is just the guy who knows the country and could lead the effort to change West Virginia from a mining dumpyard to almost literally a paradise for workers. The countryside, with its misty mountains and lakes and forests and beautiful rivers is gorgeous. Manchin knows it better than anyone. There are already many stately wind turbines placed carefully throughout the state without damaging a single leaf or drop of water. Energy, in all forms can continue to be the employment of choice for West Virginians long after coal is gone and into the next several centuries.
This isn’t Manchin’s job entirely. Bernie Sanders has to get behind him. Sanders could win over voters in West Virginia. Biden is generally accepted as a real man of the peopple–which is why he is so hated by many of the Right Wingers in the Republican/Fascist Senate, .He could get down to West Virginia and assure West Virginians that as we shut down the mines, up will go solar plants and electric vehicle plants and battery plants and other kinds of small manufacturing that would be duck soup for a miner, used to much more demanding physical work. The Democrats need to come from Rhode Island and Oregon and Chicago and let West Virginians know that all Americans understand the changeover from oil and gas to renewables and that coal will go first. But not at the sacrifice of West Virginia’s economy. Manchin can lead this. But first, Democrats need to share in the political risk.
Sinema is a different story. Really different. And tough to beat. Whatever the reality of her upbringing, just believe this much: she was really, I mean really, poor for at least a good part of the time growing up in Florida. But what is not in debate, after the details of exactly how poor she was, is the fact that she somehow graduated from high school as the valedictorian at age 16. She went to Brigham Young University (she’s a Mormon) on a scholarship and got her undergraduate degree in two years! She eventually got a Ph.D. and a law degree. She has risen up the ranks in the Democratic Party in Arizona winning elections along the way, variously, eventually as a Member of the House of Representatives and then and now, as Senator from Arizona. Not bad. She’s considered ambitious, cunning, negotiable when it suits her, and now, a relatively Conservative Democrat.
She could make a difference in the lives of many Arizona citizens whom she once helped as a social worker, right out of BYU. She could change their lives with one vote, if one of her favorite Senators, Joe Manchin would also focus on the immediate needs of his constituents. Sinema would not have to change so much as one of her positions in order to vote for better health care, for aid to retired citizens, day care for hard working mothers, a gigantic, actually a sea-change in our approach to the climate, and moderate tax increases, from a percentage standpoint, on those who make more than $35,000 a month but more directly those making over $1,000,000 a month and above. Why won’t she do it?
Is it the $3.5 trillion dollar pricetag? I can’t imagine that. She thought Trump was a pretty good guy and before the pandemic, he had already locked in to the national debt about $10 trillion more over the time period that his tax cuts were in effect and about the same amount immediately as the proposed Biden legislation she says she’s against. It may or may not be the truth, but we’re not merely talking about a lie over whether she had a bathroom as a child, or electric lights. Now we’re talking about whether she really believes this bill is too expensive (she understands, I think, that in this country we print our own money, and basically the financial standard for the rest of the world…so debt is not the same for the U.S. as your car payment coming due.) We’re talking about whether little old ladies on tiny, almost nothing, Social Security payments can afford to get their cavities filled or get hearing aids, which are now very expensive for the poor, to be able to listen to the television. She was a social worker, wasn’t she? She should know this.
But there’s a lot of mining in Arizona, too, and some oil and a lot of people, many more than in a normal social situation, who think that Trump was elected or was cheated. There are people out there…always have been…who think we can colonize Mars or Saturn. There are people out there who think that National Monuments and National Parks should be dug up and the dirt all spread around. Or that Native Americans don’t really need running water or electricity, as Sen. Sinema said said she lived for a period as a child. So why doesn’t she want to help them get electricity and running water…or at least why doesn’t she want to keep people from digging up the National Park system?
Look, Sinema may have problems with kooks out there in Arizona who have been radicalized by the kinds of nutcases who lie about things democratic, with a small “d” because they are paid to by owners of radio networks paid by billionaires or who are themselves Right Wing billionaires. Keep people with guns going around shooting people. Keep the pressure on Muslims and Hispanics. Keep the debate going about the border, when we all know–Democrats as well as Republicans–that we need to tighten it up, if not literally shut it down until we can get Sinema or, someone, to find a middle ground on illegal aliens, illegal immigration. So, we knkow she is in a bind, living in that God-forsaken political environment. They just had a recount of votes by people who know nothing about voting or voting records or tallying them or quite probably tallying anything. Just a complete demonstration of Neo-Fascist political power within the Republican Party. Trump wants to be a dictator and Kyrsten Sinema seems to have very little objection to that. If she did, she would come out with her own, strong, positive piece of legislation to take care of the huge numbers of people who need help in that gun-toting, cowboy mentality, violent, ignorant and substantially racist area of the country.