When Joe Manchin announced his plan to retire from the United States Senate, he offered the following explanation: "I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia." Manchin went on to add that while serving out the remainder of his term, he will also be "traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in building a movement to mobilize the middle, finding common ground and bringing Americans together."
Which was another way of saying that, although nominally a Democrat, he will consider running as a third-party candidate for president on the "No Labels" ticket, possibly drawing enough votes away from President Joe Biden to return former President Donald Trump to the White House.
The stated purposes of the No Labels enterprise, which supposedly aims to bolster democracy while conducting its business behind closed doors, without accountability or transparency, are not plausible at all. Its principal leaders are Mark Penn, the pollster best known for being thrown out of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, and his spouse Nancy Jacobson, both amply discredited already. The company they keep (or purchase), including such figures as former Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Nation of Islam official Ben Chavis, will not improve their operation's image.
Nobody should be surprised to learn that the financiers of this dubious outfit are the usual Republican billionaires whose real aim is to bring back Trump. They're the same fat cats who have become the biggest donors to Manchin in recent years. These rich right-wingers find the West Virginia senator charming, despite that "D" next to his name, because he is actually a wealthy coal baron. He opposed the child tax credit because, he told colleagues, parents in his state would use the money to buy illegal narcotics — a very Republican remark, just brimming with compassion.
What remains puzzling is why the No Labels grifters would expect Manchin to have any great appeal as a national candidate. In the Senate he helped to kill voting rights, opposed abortion rights and did what he could to frustrate Biden's clean energy agenda. So he won't draw young, minority or female voters away from the Democrat.
For that matter, why would anyone support Joe Manchin? In departing the Senate, he boasted about a long list of political triumphs. But on closer inspection, that vaunted record consists chiefly of the federal spending projects he brought to his home state — an argument that cuts sharply against his claim to have protected the nation from Biden's "excessive spending." (That spending looks quite wise at this point, since it boosted employment and protected us from the horrendous recession predicted by so many alleged experts.)
"I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia," said Manchin as he patted his own back. What did he accomplish, though? The Mountain State is still impoverished, underinvested, poorly educated and lacking in most of the things that people need to thrive — and that government is supposed to help provide.
The latest state rankings by U.S. News & World Report, a nonpartisan news outlet, tell the dismal story of what Manchin has in fact accomplished. In short, not much. West Virginia ranks at or near the very bottom in public health and health care quality, infrastructure, transportation, employment, economic opportunity, education and income inequality. Although the state is a top producer of coal and natural gas, it even ranks near the bottom in power grid reliability. And Manchin's beloved state is at 46 in overall livability.
Of course, life is a lot better if you're a West Virginian like Joe Manchin, who is worth a fortune, drives a Maserati and lives aboard a $700,000 yacht on the Potomac River. Yes indeed, he did a wonderful job as senator, at least for himself. It will be amusing to hear him explain why the average West Virginian's life improved so little despite his herculean efforts — and why he felt that job was done — if and when he runs for president.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.