Senator Joe Manchin isn’t typically the most popular Democrat in the US Senate. He represents quite red West Virginia and can often be the most challenging Democratic vote to get on a progressive bill. Nonetheless, he comes across as a very earnest man who’s just trying to do best by his people.
I have seen him talk many times, and I’ve seen him a bit upset, but in a new interview with MSNBC, I saw him more visibly frustrated with the state of politics than I’ve perhaps ever seen him before. The result was that he “told it like it is,” which is what many of us crave from our politicians.
Senator Manchin admitted that the Democratic Party’s message simply wasn’t getting through to people in the last election. Despite being passionately on the side of working people and good jobs, that aspect of the party seems to be lost on many voters. He noted that if Republicans had been successful* getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, West Virginia alone would have lost 16,000 jobs. (The Republican Party tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act at the beginning of Trump’s presidency but surprisingly got blocked by then-Senator John McCain; and then the Trump administration sued all the way up to the US Supreme Court to try to have it repealed, a decision the Supreme Court should be making soon.)
Senator Manchin highlights that it’s Democrats who have gone in and protected miners from dangerous/deadly situations, who have fought for higher minimum wages, who have gotten or tried to get bills through Congress to advance renewable energy faster, a tremendous job creator. It is also Democrats who have advanced electric vehicle tax credits, large infrastructure bills to fix our crumbling infrastructure while creating many good jobs, and EV charging initiatives. Again, all of these things are true job creators and economy boosters, unlike tax cuts for the super rich.
As I wrote recently, the Democratic Party has a much stronger history on the economy. When Obama and Biden walked into office in 2009, they had the Great Recession to deal with. Thanks to a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate at that time, Obama and his fellow Democrats didn’t have to struggle too hard to get a big stimulus bill passed and save the economy. Much of that focused on renewable energy and other green topics. We may be walking into another economic crises as the covid-19 pandemic rages on, and it’s totally on the line what Biden and other Democrats will be able to do, because control of the Senate is up in the air.
If Democrats win the two seats currently going into a runoff election in January in Georgia, we can assume another big stimulus bill that will get funding to cities struggling to keep government staff, firefighters, police, and medics on staff. The bill will certain be packed full of cleantech-focused initiatives in order to boost solar energy, wind energy, energy storage, and electric vehicle growth across America. It will surely help the many working families and poor who have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic challenges.
If Democrats do not win those seats in Georgia, Mitch McConnell will retain control of the Senate. At that point, economic recovery will largely be at the hands of this one man. Historically — for the past 10 years — he has played the role of super-obstructor. Since Democrats took over the House in 2018, he has not looked at almost any of the many economic, cleantech, health, or infrastructure bills Democrats have put on his desk. Some are hopeful that he will be cooperative with a Joe Biden administration in this time of great need across much of the United States. However, most political insiders and close observers expect that he will play his usual obstructionist role and we will get very little to help with a strong recovery. If that ends up being the case, I think it’s close to guaranteed that we will face a some degree of economic crisis or at least recession in 2021. McConnell and Republicans will try to put all the blame on Democrats, counting on the idea that voters will blame Biden and his party since he will be the president. That could be a mid-term play to regain the House and grow the Republican advantage in the Senate, and if it is, this plan is surely already formulated in McConnell’s head.
With all of that in mind, keep Joe Manchin’s frustration and strong words in mind. The Democratic Party — as horrible as it is at explaining this — is the party of working people. It is the party that is intent on putting more bills into play that will focus on creating blue collar and green collar jobs in the hottest industries on the planet — solar, wind, energy storage, and electric transport. Voters need to look beyond bumper-sticker slogans and pay close attention to the bills that the different parties get into law, try to get into law, and are blocked from turning into law.
In that interview above, Senator Manchin also tore into social media and rampant spread of fake news across Facebook, Twitter, and other such networks. This is a critical topic that we probably need to bring up every week. Far too many people get their news from social media memes and short posts that lack an enormous amount of context, from viral social media messages may even be 100% wrong. The best way to guard against this misinformation is to understand how widespread it is. We all want to think we see good content, but what we actually need to do is examine the actions politicians take. We need to look at the roll calls — the minor ones as well as the major ones. We need to learn what our representatives vote for and what they vote against.
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