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Editor’s note: The below article was published on May 12, 2016. Read an update to this article (Feb. 1, 2017) at the bottom of this page.
I have been young, but now I’m old and in the course of the span of my life, I’ve seen some pretty unbelievable things take place. Men have walked on the moon. I can communicate with someone on the other side of the globe by clicking a single button. And coolest of all, I can view my home from space via a satellite.
Yet all of these recent developments pale in comparison to the one thing I thought I’d never live to see – the death of the Democratic Party of West Virginia.
As a boy, I remember riding through Mingo County and seeing thousands of election signs – all of which were touting how great of a Democrat the particular candidate was. In the coalfields of Southern West Virginia, the only contested races were for the Democratic nomination, if you could win the glorious “D” beside your name, you were a shoe-in for victory come November.
My grandmother often joked that she would vote for a dog before she’d vote for a “[Insert any expletive you wish] Republican.” And she wasn’t alone. The Democratic Party controlled the state’s senate from 1933 to 2015 and the House of Delegates from 1930 to 2014. During this same time, only two different Republicans served as the state’s governor. If there ever was a Democratic stronghold it was in the hills of the Mountain State.
Today, however, two days following the state’s primary elections, we are just a handful of years from the total decimation of this most established West Virginia entity and no one stands to lose more than Democrat Joe Manchin, the state’s once beloved former governor, Mountaineer football star and successor to the legendary Robert C. Byrd.
Allow me to begin by stating that I have no personal vendetta against Senator Manchin. Each time I have met him, he has shown himself to be friendly and honorable. At the end of the day, however, neither of these attributes will be powerful enough to keep him in office for another 6-year-term.
I submit to the reader five reasons why Joe Manchin will not be reelected in the 2018 election.
1. Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is probably the only person in the entire Northern Hemisphere that would lose an election to disgraced former WVU head football coach Rich Rodriguez in the State of West Virginia.
Why? Because of a number of reasons – most recently when she stated in a Democratic town hall debate that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of a job…” Never mind the context of her remarks, it was a soundbite that stuck and one that will forever echo through the hollers of coal country.
Yet, Senator Manchin has stood resolute, unwavering in his support for Hillary – even when the cries of angry and unemployed former Democrats, clad in their mining uniforms — holding signs of the Republican Presidential nominee — could be heard inside the room of a non-public campaign stop in Williamson just the other day.
Our boy Joe may have used up a little too much political capital helping a woman who will never win in the Mountain State.
2. FDR Democrats are all Dead
Two years ago, we buried my grandfather. He was the last of his generation. A veteran of the CCCs, he survived the Great Depression and a World War and he’d just assume give the credit to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt as he would God… and because of his disdain for Herbert Hoover, love for FDR, Truman and Kennedy, he always punched the “D.”
Unfortunately for Senator Manchin, my grandfather died between the 2012 and 2016 election… and so have a lot of other people’s grandparents.
Their replacement: Out of work young families who have a total disdain and distrust for “the establishment” and when you’ve held some type of public office since 1982, you’re going to have a hard time convincing these young families that you still need a little more time to solve their problems. Especially when your party oversaw the state’s population decrease over a 75-year span while in power… when the entire planet’s population expanded three-fold during this time.
These young families were raised Democrat, but they’re jumping ship and they’re doing it fast.
3. The National Democratic Party has left the people of West Virginia
I mentioned my grandfather in point #2. He owned more guns than any other person I have ever known. He mined coal nearly all of his life. And he was a firm believer in what we now refer to as “traditional values.”
My grandfather was not unique among the coalfields of West Virginia – and neither are his children, heirs who continue in these values.
The reality is this – the people of West Virginia are not leaving the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left the people of West Virginia generations ago… it’s just taken the people this long to come to the realization that their marriage to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton is irreconcilable.
If the Republicans can tie Joe to the “party of the godless,” which will be far easier this time around than in 2012, they’ve already won half the battle.
On top of all this, Joe Manchin, the lifetime NRA member who literally shot one of Obama’s cherished pieces of legislation with a hunting rifle is going to have a hard time competing for funds against true liberals who run in Democratic donor circles. Why would an elite leftist support the campaign of moderate Joe, when they can support an open socialist who actually stands a chance at winning?
Demographics reveal that on a national level, the future is looking well for Democrats, but those same demographics also show that on a state level the party doesn’t stand a chance moving forward. National Democratic leaders are recognizing this and can be expected to shift their resources to markets they can win – perhaps in Ohio or Virginia… two states that are far more politically powerful than ours.
4. Donald Trump
Allow me to go on record and say that I positively despise almost everything about the man Donald Trump… But make no mistake about it – The effect of “The Donald” in the Mountain State will be “YUGE” for years to come! State Republicans owe him a debt of gratitude for putting GOP signs in yards that one would have never imagined seeing such a sign only a decade ago.
As President (which is a YUGELY unlikely scenario), Trump Force One will come rolling down the tarmac at Yeager in October 2018 and the walking taupe will exit the plane and stand before a Presidential podium – pointing out all of the bad things “Lie’n Joe” or “Traitor Joe” (or whatever clever name he chooses) has done throughout his political career. This will rally the base against Little Joe and ensure a Republican tidal wave.
If the experts are right, however, Senator Manchin will find himself in a midterm election in a state whose already miserable economy will be even worse two years from now– at a moment in history when voters are really, really, really angry at the President – who just so happens to be of the same political party as he.
Southwest Virginia’s longtime Democratic coalfield Congressman Rick Boucher found himself in this exact position during the midterm election of President Obama’s first term. The voters of Virginia’s 9th Congressional District couldn’t wait to vote Obama out of office and kicking Boucher out (who had held the seat for over a generation) simply was a good stress reliever for them as they anxiously waited – don’t think for a moment that Joe Manchin is above having this happen to him as well… especially if he continues to remain so loyal to such an unpopular figure.
5. Things are really bad in West Virginia
I hate to say this, but if you haven’t noticed, things are really bad in West Virginia right now. Our prescription drug abuse rate has grown into a national tragedy, our people are out of work, our life expectancies are a decade less than the rest of the country and frankly, there aren’t a lot of rays of hope on the horizon.
Every politician — including all of those elected this past Tuesday — have said that they’re going to fix things, but in reality they’re largely powerless to the many forces affecting the economy. In the end, the voters always realize that the emperor has no clothes – it simply takes more time for some than others.
If Senator Manchin is smart, he’ll ride off into the sunset with a flawless election record, but if he’s like most career politicians, he’ll have to get that last win… unfortunately for him, I just don’t see it happening this time around.
So who will be the individual that will turn the entire West Virginia Congressional delegation red? Who will this mystery candidate be that will topple the unstoppable?
My guess is that it won’t be Bill Cole, John Raese, but he or she is out there and the odds are, they are probably already silently preparing for the fight of their life!
Update: February 1, 2017
Well for starters, so much for the wisdom of those “experts”! Looks like Trump Force One may very well be cruising down the runway of Yeager in the fall of next year… Who’d ah thunk that?!
The developments of the past eight months reveal one simple reality: Who can say? Who can say Manchin will lose? Who can say Manchin will win? Who can say Rich Rodriguez won’t come back and win the Senate seat as an independent candidate? If we can take any lessons regarding politics home with us after reviewing the past year, it is this: Ain’t nobody knows nothing anymore!
With this said, I think I’m going to hold to my initial prediction concerning Manchin – even though the state proved in last November’s election that it has no qualms in voting for a Democrat for governor while only giving the same party’s nominee for President 26% of the vote… on the same day. That’s pretty extraordinary!
So Manchin still can get reelected with a (D) beside his name in West Virginia (feels weird to have even said this), but to do so, he will have to distance himself from the National Democratic Party… exactly what Jim Justice did in his successful run for Governor in 2016.
Unfortunately for Manchin, he’s already shown his hand and it’s pretty much too late to jump off the DNC ship at this stage in the game… And even if he could, doing so would only throw him into the unenviable position of taking fire from both sides. A reality that’s already the case for the Senator: Many self-described “progressives” have long been frustrated with the Senator and talk openly about their desire to see him gone.
Tack on to this the fact that in the coming weeks, Joe’s days of riding the fence line are going to reach an abrupt end when the Senate votes on the nominee for education secretary, Supreme Court nominee, and the possible repealing of the Affordable Care Act and the man simply can’t win… not matter which path he chooses.
Speaking of healthcare, wasn’t there something in the news about EpiPens this past summer?
Oh yes, I remember now… the CEO of Mylan was accused of raising the price of the EpiPen by nearly 500 percent since 2009… And who was she? That’s right, Heather Bresch, Manchin’s daughter. I’m sure that’s going to go over well with folks on the left… and the right.
With all this in mind, I think I’m going to double-down on the title of this article.
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