Progressives are outraged at West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin following a town hall where he dissed Bernie Sanders.
Sanders won in all 55 counties in West Virginia in the 2016 presidential primary. Manchin, however, casted his superdelegate vote for Hillary Clinton. When asked why he defied his state’s Democratic Party voters’ wishes, he answered, “I was a committed delegate before [the state primary] so I already committed on that. Bernie’s not a Democrat. Bernie won’t register as a Democrat. Bernie doesn’t run as a Democrat. Bernie had to list himself as a Democrat because they wouldn’t let him put Socialist on his ballot”.
This is the same argument used by establishment Democrats who refuse to accept the Sanders wing of progressives and continue to alienate them, ultimately casting themselves off from moving the party forward in the unity they supposedly desire.
Manchin, one of the most conservative Democrats, has been known to vote along Republican Party lines more than any other Democrat in the Senate. In the 2016 elections, he even considered switching party affiliations to give Republicans majority rule should there be a 50-50 tied Senate.
Manchin is essentially a Democrat in name only; he is pro-choice, pro-gun, and an advocate for fossil fuels, especially coal. In the same town hall, he voiced opposition against a single payer healthcare plan using the same lies told by Republicans of how such a system would eliminate choice and freedom to access healthcare services like it has in Canada.
His stance is easily explained by his campaign donor list, with pharmaceutical and insurance companies donating over $580,000 in the last five years. Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that infamously raised EpiPen prices by 600%, is listed as a top 5 contributor. His daughter is the CEO of Mylan.
Progressive groups like Justice Democrats have already been calling for Joe Manchin to be removed from party leadership since he voted “yes” for the majority of Trump’s cabinet nominees. He is the only Democrat to vote for Jeff Sessions, who is now facing calls to resign.
On February 24th, Manchin’s constituents called him out on a conference call for his approval of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, to which he exclaimed, “What you ought to do is vote me out! Vote me out! I’m not changing. Find somebody else that can beat me and vote me out! That’s what you ought to do!”.
And that is exactly what Bernie Sanders supporters and Democrats who think he leans too far right are planning to do when his Senate seat is up for re-election in November 2018. We Will Replace You is an activist group co-founded by former Sanders campaign staff that threatens to primary any Democrat who fails to resist Trump.
FiveThirtyEight published an article earlier this week saying pushing a progressive challenger against Joe Manchin in a 2018 primary would be foolish. Using their statistical models, they predict a populist non-incumbent would not survive against a Republican, and Manchin has a far better off chance at winning in the general election. They argue it’s silly for progressives to want to unseat him for not voting against the GOP and that he aptly represents West Virginia demographics.
But let’s remember how FiveThirtyEight using those same statistical models incorrectly predicted a Hillary Clinton presidency.
We can also take a look back at history when Charlotte Pritt ran on a progressive platform in the 1996 gubernatorial Democratic primaries and beat Joe Manchin and a handful of candidates with 40% of the vote.
By Lydia McMullen-Laird