J. Scott Applewhite /AP/WGBH.org

Joe Manchin, political Jesus

Crucified for the sins of his MAGA voters

Jeffrey Denny
4 min readJan 4, 2022


Jeffrey Denny

Did you take naughty delight in coaling U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s Christmas stocking after he killed the Biden Build Back Better bill?

Me too. How dare the West Virginia Democrat refuse to help sick and struggling families, especially during another pandemic holiday season?

But attacking Manchin lets the real Scrooges off the hook: West Virginia voters, in particular the 545,000 who gave Donald Trump an overwhelming 69% majority in 2020 — second only to Wyoming voters — and loom large over Manchin.

Manchin declined to support the Biden plan because he says couldn’t explain it to West Virginians. This raises troubling questions about his explaining abilities and/or his regard for voters’ intelligence.

Either way, only a fool would believe that’s the real reason. Manchin certainly worried that if he backed the Biden bill, WVA’s deep-red, super-Trump electorate would boot him in 2024 — possibly installing a whack-job MAGA — helping to return the Senate to Republican control and Make America Worse Again. Manchin is in a jam.

But Manchin isn’t the problem — he’s the symptom.

By controlling Manchin, a mere half-million Trump voters in a state with a population smaller than Brooklyn’s (as Bette Midler noted) are denying tens of millions of middle class and poor families across America — including fellow MAGAs — the help with child care, health care, housing, jobs and other support they desperately need.

The forehead-smacker is that few Americans need Biden’s help more than West Virginians, who are among the nation’s oldest, poorest, unhealthiest, and dependent on dying jobs. (It’s notable that the Biden plan would have extended the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for suffering miners, winning the support of the United Mine Workers.)

And while Trump supporters hate federal government, few Americans depend more on federal government than West Virginians.

As Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty wrote under the header, “Sen. Joe Manchin’s position on Build Back Better reflects the reality of West Virginia politics”:

“While West Virginians picture themselves as flinty and self-reliant (the state motto is “mountaineers are always free”), they are by at least one significant measure more dependent on government than any other state.

“…[A]bout 32 percent of West Virginians’ personal income last year came in the form of transfer payments — that is, government checks that include retirement and disability benefits, medical benefits, welfare payments, veterans benefits, unemployment compensation, and education and training assistance. Mississippi comes in second at just under 30 percent.”

Killing the Biden plan through Manchin is not the only way West Virginia voters are hurting America.

For instance:

West Virginians are a burden to America’s hard-working taxpayers.

WVA is a leading federal budget “taker,” drawing far more federal taxpayer dollars than putting in, depending on “giver” states, most of them Democratic, starting with New York, California, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

West Virginians are keeping the Covid pandemic alive and spreading.

As right-wing anti-vax misinformation and disinformation spread, WVA’s much-praised strong start on vaccinations has cratered.

Now fewer than 49% of West Virginians are fully vaccinated compared with 65% of Americans, and only 8% of WVA adults have boosted while almost 30% in all states have.

West Virginians are keeping coal alive and polluting.

Coal-fired energy plants emit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates, which spread crop-killing acid rains, respiratory illnesses, smog, haze, and lung disease beyond state borders. Not to mention extreme weather, natural disasters, destruction and death by climate change.

All this for just 11,000 West Virginians still working in its coal industry.

This is why Manchin has to be Manchin:

While I thought Senators were supposed to represent the nation as well as their states, Manchin obviously had no choice but to put West Virginians first, come hell or high water or both, however misguided they are.

But as I’ve written on Medium in, “Why Aren’t Horrible Voters Held Accountable?” few elite pundits — left or right — follow the power behind Manchin’s fail.

They blame Biden, the Democrats, AOC and the Squad, or Mitch McConnell. Or pontificate about political strategy, messaging, the messengers, the polarized state of politics today, or the impact of social media and its horrible basement-dwellers and bottom-feeders.

Some blame our political system.

As Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the far-left Nation magazine, declared, “The biggest source of the failure … is the pervasive corruption of Washington.”

It’s hard to argue with that, but then vanden Heuvel went on to blame “the comparative weakness of the citizen’s voice.”

“Essential reforms can be passed only if citizens overwhelmingly demand the change, turn out in large numbers to elect politicians committed to the change, hold those politicians accountable, and stay mobilized …,” she wrote.

But that’s exactly why Manchin killed the bill. He heard “the citizen’s voice” loud and clear, and he heeded. As Washington Post writer Charles Lane notes, West Virginians asked “what’s in it for me?” and found little.

This is what happens under minority mob rule — especially a mob ruled by the ugly, divisive, destructive likes of Trump.

A fraction of Americans, suckered and incited by their cynical, money-grubbing “pay-triot” media, MAGA movement grifters, and bottom-dwelling conspiracy spreaders, is voting against their own best interests, sawing off the limb they’re sitting on.

Poor dears. They don’t know any better.

So why care? Because they’re taking America down with them.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.



Jeffrey Denny

A Pullet Surprise-winning writer who always appreciates free chicken.