Manchin makes principled decision
By Miles Layton
Monday, October 8, 2018
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the only Democrat to vote for Brett Kavanaugh to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, so he may be taking some heat for “switching sides” during this divisive confirmation process.
As I no longer live or work for a newspaper in the Mountain State, thus my words won’t be parsed by partisans, I can tell you what I know about Manchin and the West Virginia values that should be guiding the nation.
West Virginia is a small state where everyone gets to know everyone. As a member of the press corps, I interviewed Manchin on numerous occasions and spent a lot of time in his neck of the woods.
Manchin grew up in Farmington, a very small town that was the site of a mine disaster where his uncle was killed. Like much of West Virginia, Farmington is filled with kind people who will not hesitate to help a neighbor in need.
The trick to living in a small town, where independent-minded people share a variety of opinions, is to find common ground. The themes and values that unite a community, the bonds that people share, are more important than what divides folks. Moreover, if you create too many enemies in the hills n’ hollers, when you need a helping hand while up the creek without a paddle, you better learn to swim.
Manchin has the common touch much like his uncle, A.J. Manchin, a popular and influential state leader who dominated Charleston politics until he died.
During Manchin’s time as governor, he led a bi-partisan effort to improve mine safety in the wake of the Sago mine disaster where 12 miners were killed. Time and time again, Manchin reached out across the aisle to pass state budgets and did much to improve the quality of education.
Manchin was elected to fill that vacancy left when Robert C. Byrd, the nation’s longest serving U.S. Senator, died in 2010.
Manchin is frustrated that he is not as easily able to reach across the aisle to Republicans or even his fellow Democrats to pursue policies that would benefit the nation. Because of Manchin’s willingness to pursue a moderate course, he has become a target of partisan political attacks from every angle. It’s not easy being your own man in a country that may be more divided since the Civil War, certainly since Vietnam.
Fast forward to the present when Manchin votes for Kavanaugh. The Left and his own party are screeching at what they consider as betrayal. The Right and the GOP are skeptical and even cynical of Manchin’s choice because they think his vote was motivated by his need to persuade voters to support his bid for re-election in a coal state that proudly supports President Trump.
When Trump was in Wheeling recently for a nationally televised campaign rally held in support of Manchin’s Republican opponent, he touted poll numbers favoring Kavanaugh’s confirmation while condemning the man who was most likely to help him win that fight.
Essentially, Manchin had a tough decision to make. If he supported Kavanaugh, he risked losing Democrats. However, if Manchin voted “no” then he would most certainly lose Republicans and independents. And certainly, a vote to confirm would alienate the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but that’s the political calculus.
Unlike senators from both parties who had their minds made up long before casting a vote, Manchin attended the confirmation hearings, studied the FBI report, spoke to Kavanaugh and listened to thousands of his constituents before making a principled decision to support the nominee.
“I have reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing,” Manchin said in statement made Friday. “And my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced any type of sexual assault in their life. However, based on all of the information I have available to me, including the recently completed FBI report, I have found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him. I do hope that Judge Kavanaugh will not allow the partisan nature this process took to follow him onto the court.”
While there are many politicians prattling about proclaiming their support for principle in the face of overwhelming evidence, Manchin took a tough stand by doing his duty to serve not only West Virginia, but the nation.
Much like Tarheels, West Virginians value working together toward finding common ground, treating adversaries with respect and making independent decisions that are guided more by principle than politics — ideals that are needed to guide our country more than ever.