20
Mon, May

The Madness of Senator Joe Manchin

GUEST WORDS

GUEST COMMENTARY - Dick Tuck, a political prankster who made a satirical run for public office years ago, got less than 10% of the vote.

Conceding defeat, he quipped, "The people have spoken, the bastards."

These days, the West Virginia corporate Democrat is mad—in both senses of the word.

Tuck's jab at voters was in jest, but it exposed an awkward political truth: While people generally have little respect for today's elected officials, many officials harbor even less regard for The People they supposedly serve.

Exhibit A: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. A multimillionaire coal baron, Manchin is devoted to serving the machinations of profiteering fossil fuel corporations, so he doesn't even disguise his disdain for "busybodies" (unions, town leaders, nature defenders, farmers, climate activists, et al.) who dare stand up to any god-awful scheme of plunder and pollution the barons dream up.

In the last year, Joe's been especially PO'd at thousands of commoners who've blocked his latest political pipe dream: the 300-mile-long Mountain Valley Pipeline. Pushed by a consortium of huge utilities, it would pump toxic fracked gas through watersheds, towns, farms, etc. in three states for export abroad. "NO!" shouted locals, who spent years exposing the destruction MVP posed, successfully denying permits to build the thing. In short, the people won!

Then, thanks to Big Coal Joe, they lost. Manchin cut a secret dirty deal with top Democrats, including President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass a special federal requirement that the MVP be build—the people be damned. Worse, the cabal agreed to slip it into law without Congress even voting on it.

But hold it—progressives in Congress rallied grassroots people all across the country to rebel against the raw stench of this arrogant, autocratic power play. In October, they forced the lobbyists and lawmakers to pull down their anti-democratic ploy—and they forced Manchin into a Dick Tuck moment, blasting his own constituents as radicals for opposing his pipe dream.

If you sometimes wonder whether Congress is obtuse, narcissistic or just stupid, Manchin is evidence that the answer is yes.

These days, the West Virginia corporate Democrat is mad—in both senses of the word. First, he's mad at Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Raul Grijalva, Ro Khanna and other gutsy progressive members of the U.S. House. They rose up against their own Party leaders this month to kill Manchin's corrupt, backdoor effort to force his massive Mountain Valley Pipeline project down the throats of rural and small-town people in his own state. Local people have repeatedly defeated this foul fossil fuel boondoggle, but their senator kept conniving with industry lobbyists and congressional leaders to revive it, trying to stiff the public will.

His latest gambit was to hide the MVP scam in the humongous $850 billion military budget, hoping no one would notice. But Jayapal, Grijalva and a few other progressive leaders did notice... and they had the chutzpa and the votes to strip it out of the Pentagon bill.

This drove the plutocratic senator from being mad (as in angry) to going mad (as in nutty). The defeat of his political scheme, he wailed, was the result of "toxic tribal politics," adding: "This is why the American people hate politics in in Washington."

Get a grip, Joe! You're the one in Washington sneaking around to help the superrich corporate tribe rig government rules to extract more profit from actual toxic contamination of people, whole communities and Mother Nature. You, and your corrupt cohorts, are why millions of Americans hate Washington politics.

Oh, by the way, senator: If you really think toxic fracked gas pipelines are essential for America's energy future—why don't you and your industry funders run some under your neighborhoods for a change?

(Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the books "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow"(2008) and "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion" (1998). Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks. This article was first published in CommonDreams.org.)