In a new opinion piece published in The Charleston Gazette-Mail — a newspaper that serves the West Virginia hometown of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — attorney, pastor, and interim Brandeis University vice president and chief diversity officer David Fryson tore into the disgraceful legacy of West Virginia’s only current Democratic Senator. Manchin has recently become known for his damaging blockade of key components of the Democratic agenda, including the Build Back Better Act, which he recently announced during an appearance on Fox that he would be opposing. If enacted, that bill would provide substantial tranches of federal support for initiatives like fighting climate change and improving health care access.
There’s more to the Manchin story, though, as Fryson laid out. Throughout Manchin’s time in the public spotlight, he has undercut the Democratic Party in West Virginia. In one example, Manchin lost the 1996 Democratic primary race for the governorship of West Virginia to progressive Charlotte Pritt — and then, Fryson explains, Manchin, who was the then-Secretary of State in West Virginia, refused to support her. Instead, he supported Republican contender Cecil Underwood in a campaign season that featured “brutal attacks on Pritt, culminating in the defeat of the up and coming progressive and leading to the ruination of her political career,” as Fryson recaps.
More recently, Manchin threw his support behind Jim Justice’s 2016 Democratic campaign for governor in West Virginia, although Justice had just recently been a Republican… and not long after Justice took office after winning that election, he switched his party affiliation back to the GOP. As Fryson laid things out:
‘At some point those of us who voted for Manchin in the past have to realize that he only cares about creating wealth for his family and wielding personal power. History will not be kind to Manchin, no matter what he does in the future. The fact that he represents West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, with some of the worst health outcomes that is being devastated by the opioid crisis and yet he does nothing to speak to these issues is shameful.’
I have to admit after years of living with the struggles that Manchin family caused #WV families, it's gratifying to see @Sen_JoeManchin catch a little hell. It's a shame it's just theatrics to cover up the deeper corruption that we all will have to deal with years from now.
— Paula Jean Swearengin #PeoplesParty (@paulajean2020) December 24, 2021
Even more directly, Fryson added as follows:
‘Manchin is very powerful in West Virginia and in Congress, yet no one can recount any positives for the state that derive from his power. Yes, he has become a multimillionaire who lives on a boat, drives an expensive car and has a daughter who became wealthy on the backs of poor people, but what has he done for his poor constituents?’
It’s a question worthy of consideration — without an easy answer. Fryson summarized that Manchin “continually weakened West Virginia Democrats and has done the same to the national party and the Biden agenda to the detriment of the poor and marginalized in West Virginia and nationally. History will not be kind to the Manchin name.” Check out more at this link.
Manchin is Manchin. But what kind of healthy democracy is structured in a way that can allow one man elected by 290,000 voters in one of the least populous states to thwart the agenda of his party and the President who was elected with 81 million votes. We need structural change.
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) December 19, 2021