Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks during a news conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on December 14, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Al Drago for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As Poverty Haunts West Virginia, Joe Manchin Has a Chance to Help His State

No more time need be wasted on negotiations that are designed only to fail.

Jesse Jackson

 by Chicago Sun-Times

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin stands at the bridge. He has immense influence—virtually a veto—on whether and how this country makes progress in the Biden administration.

Not surprisingly, he's under immense pressure. The right-wing Koch network has launched a barrage of ads calling on Manchin to stand against Biden's American Jobs Plan and the For the People Voting Rights Bill. Progressive groups are organizing on the ground and in the air to push Manchin to vote for reform. Across the country, citizen movements are building to call on Congress to act on challenges—from climate change, to entrenched racial inequity, to extreme inequality—that can no longer be ignored.

His embrace of the filibuster—effectively giving Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell the power to obstruct Biden's agenda—effectively condemns the country to political paralysis.

Manchin's recent statement that he would demand bipartisan support for any election reforms, even as Republicans push partisan election reforms at the state level, triggered howls of outrage. His embrace of the filibuster—effectively giving Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell the power to obstruct Biden's agenda—effectively condemns the country to political paralysis.

One can understand Manchin's fervid embrace of bipartisanship in an age of hyper-partisan divides. Trump won 69% of the vote in West Virginia in 2020, the highest of any state. Manchin is the only Democrat elected statewide in West Virginia as it has turned more and more Republican over the last decade.

Even as the Democratic Party has become increasingly the party of the suburbs and the cities, of people of color and the professional middle class, 69% of West Virginia voters are whites without a college degree. These voters—who have every reason to feel abandoned by the new Democrats—are the heart of Trump's base.

Yet Manchin is no coward. In contrast with Republican senators who cower for Trump's approval, Manchin voted to impeach Trump and to set up a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 sacking of the Capitol. In these cases, he voted for the national interest—and for common sense—over any personal political interest.

West Virginia is an epicenter of deaths of despair.

Now he faces the same choice. Manchin represents one of the poorest states in the union. With the collapse of the coal industry and the closing of manufacturing plants, West Virginia is an epicenter of deaths of despair. It leads the nation in drug overdose deaths. By 2016, it suffered one death by overdose every 10 hours.

Poverty haunts West Virginians. The state suffers the highest rate of adult diabetes, the highest levels of obesity, the worst rate of smoking and lung disease. Extreme poverty means inadequate access to healthy food, decent housing and health care, with growing levels of financial stress and threats to personal safety.

Because of its poverty, West Virginia is already one of the states most dependent on federal assistance. If its people have any hope, it is that federal investment will do for West Virginia what it has done for regions across the country—provide the resources for modernizing infrastructure, seeding new industries, cleaning up toxic dumps and environmental hazards, funding education from pre-K through college and more.

In contrast with previous presidents, Joe Biden offers the vision and the promise for that rebuilding. His American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan provides the resources needed for America to begin to meet the challenges it faces. Given his importance, Manchin could ensure that West Virginia stands at the front of the line for the resources involved. He could make a historic contribution to the revival of his state—and to the revival of this country.

Conservatives like the Kochs cannot match that possibility. At best, they offer Manchin only a marginally better chance at re-election in a state that will continue to decline.

In 1964 and '65, as the civil rights movement galvanized the country's "better angels," Lyndon Johnson cemented the support of the Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen by combining an appeal to history with an appeal to Dirksen's specific interests.

That is the task before Joe Biden now. Republicans under McConnell have shown that their sole priority is to obstruct Biden in the hope of strengthening their hold on power. No more time need be wasted on negotiations that are designed only to fail. Biden now needs to do a Lyndon Johnson on Manchin: to offer him the chance to both make history and to benefit his own state, to serve his principles and his interests. The time has come to move.

© 2021 Chicago Sun-Times
Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to form the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·

'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·

Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·

'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo