“I’m a Democrat.”
Those words were uttered almost exactly a century ago by cowboy humorist Will Rogers and they are as true today as they were then.
It’s an interesting feature of Democrats that they have very widely and often different views of what is valuable in the political conversation we call Congress. It’s one of the reasons they never really dominated the political scene even when they held both houses of congress. Contrast that with Republicans, on the other side of the aisle, who signed a pledge nearly three decades ago to never raise taxes.
Contrast it further with a GOP that votes as a single voice, denies the outcome of a national election and, even though they do not hold a majority in the Senate, refuse to bring over 400 pieces of legislation to a vote. That is the sole purpose of the United States Senate; to advise and/or consent to bills sent down to it from the House of Representatives.
Democrats don’t march in lockstep
Never have and (if we’re lucky) never will. Fascists and autocratic dictatorships march in lockstep. As irritating as it may be to have democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema hold the legislation required to set America back on its feet socially, financially and environmentally at gunpoint, there’s a long and honorable history to their resistance.
But it comes at a price
And the price is painfully steep at the moment. To our great political misfortune, Manchin's and Sinema's hands are not as philosophically clean as we might like.
(CNN) Back in 2010, when he won as a Democrat in a red state in a very red year, Manchin did it by running an ad in which he literally fired a bullet into climate change legislation. That legislation, the last major attempt to enact climate change legislation, did fail.
Eleven years later, the effects of the climate crisis are all the more apparent and frightening, but Manchin is still out to get climate change legislation he thinks will hurt his state. It could also hurt him. His family's wealth is directly tied to coal.
One man, one vote, cast for personal interest
That’s the core of the American republic, the system we fight and die for. Each and every one of us exercises that right to better our own life at the ballot-box. And if I don’t agree with your choices, I abide with them when they win. That’s my pledge to you and yours to me.
But it is not my right to cancel the voices of the many, unless I am in Congress and have majority interests to defend. And that’s where we have a problem, Joe.
Not to give a civics lesson here, but America is not a democracy, it’s a republic. In a democracy, the majority rules. In a republic (which is what America is), we vote for a representative of our wishes, and they legislate on our behalf.
At least they are supposed to. West Virginia is a coal-state and Joe Manchin is a coal-guy. His family fortune was (and continues to be) made on the backs of black-lung-disease, poverty and early death for miners. Turns out that coal is also largely responsible for the early death of the environment.
But polling in West Virginia supports coal
I tried very hard to gather some polling stats that supported the national statistics on Green New Deal or Build Back Better. I really did.
Nationwide, 64% favor and 24% oppose these environmental and social solutions. West Virginia likes the social platform better than the environmental plan, but they’re slightly under 50% on either issue.
But polling numbers tell us we don’t like much of anything these days. Biden has an approval rating of 42%, Trump 37%, Congress 27%, and the Supreme Court 40%.
Manchin and Sinema have wider responsibilities
Not because they are such swell people and fun to be around, the first folks you'd invite to a picnic, but because they are the determining votes on Biden’s legislative package. At the moment, that gives them enormous power.
If Joe and Kyrsten shoot down our last best hope of human survival on this lovely planet, it won’t only be West Virginia and Arizona at risk.
Even if we act immediately, the world we grew up in will never be the same again. Seas are rising, deserts forming, wildfires, floods and hurricanes raising hell and species disappearing from the earth at a rate of 150 per day. Meanwhile, drunk with power, Joe and Kyrsten ponder the political fallout of their shitty, small-minded, worthless and destructive actions. The whole of humanity is floating on the edge of a whirlpool that will soon be inescapable, the vortex of which spells the end of the human experiment.
“If you want to know the true character of a man (or woman), give them power.” --Abraham Lincoln
Truth is a rare thing in this world but some truths, like Lincoln’s, are forever.
Image Credit: Salon.com