It’s a pretty great joke that Senator Joe Manchin, putative Democrat, has pulled on the country and, especially, on the people of his state, West Virginia. It’s honestly irrelevant at this point whether Manchin actually believes the shit he’s shoveling about the need “to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love,” as he wrote in his laughably dumb opinion piece for the Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper (motto: “We’re trying so damn hard to save you idiots, but you keep voting for the people who poison our goddamn water and keep you hooked on opioids. Did you even read our reporting? Fuck.”).
But what matters is that he has created a lovely myth about Democrats and Republicans working together that makes absolutely no sense on a basic logical level. That’s the joke. All over the country, Republicans, without the votes of Democrats, are making it harder, sometimes ludicrously so, for Democrats to vote, especially non-white Democrats. They are doing that to assure Republican (and, let’s be honest, white) control of not just the states, but of the federal government, especially the presidency. Manchin says that he opposes the For the People Act, which, while not the greatest piece of legislation, would restore some semblance of sanity to the nation’s voting laws, despite cosponsoring it in 2019. And he says that it’s because Republicans oppose it that he can’t support it. You got that?
However, and continue to follow this shitstream of consciousness here, but he will support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which essentially unfucks what John Roberts’ Supreme Court fucked by ripping the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act) because one Republican, Lisa Murkowski, supports it, and that he thinks he can get more Republicans on board, which, of course, he hasn’t and he won’t, at least not 10 of those depraved fucks. And why would they vote for it? They benefit from the extravagantly fucked new laws being masturbated into full release by the nutzoid state legislatures. It’s like telling the Nazis in 1941, “Hey, we won’t defend our allies if you don’t say it’s cool to do so.” It’s fucking embarrassingly laughable.
But Manchin doesn’t give a fuck. He’s reached that lazy point in his late career where he’s had his lips pressed to corporate asses for so long that he can’t breathe without Wall Street farts in his face. The man is rich, and his chances of getting reelected again are spiraling into the Trumpian paradise that West Virginia is. There’s no sense in acting like he can somehow make Republicans give up their complete intransigence, which they’ve had since Barack Obama was elected. So it’s just what he fucking knows. And it sure smells kind of racist.
It’s so goddamned frustrating because we can sit here and say, “Well, why can’t leadership lean on him? Why can’t he be stripped of committee assignments? Why are Democrats so feckless?” And the answer is that we fucking need Manchin, galling as that is, because without him, Republicans control the Senate, and that way lies madness. I could go a long fucking time without hearing Lindsey Graham squawking about how unfair it is to help poor people and migrants or holding Hunter Biden/Burisma hearings from now until 2024 as the chair of a committee, like it’s Benghazi times Monica Lewinsky levels of outrage.
Meanwhile, we have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who always looks like he just found his wife’s big, black dildos, not just saying that he wants to block President Biden’s agenda, but, as he said today, that he doesn’t support the John Lewis Voting Rights act because “There’s no threat to the voting rights law. It’s against the law to discriminate in voting based on race already. And so I think it’s unnecessary.” In other words, democracy can just suck his pruney balls.
But the other joke of the whole fucking thing is that even as Manchin stays a Democrat, without his vote, it will be almost impossible to get anything passed, whether it’s through reconciliation or a majority-vote Senate. If Manchin balks on using reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill, then it’s fucked, even though that’s allowed by the goddamn rules he supposedly worships. Get rid of the filibuster, and, yeah, it’s entirely possible that Republicans might vote for something when they’re forced to vote for it. But it’s also entirely possible that some Democrats get skittish about progressive shit because they believe fuckery like the Wall Street Journalsaying that Manchin’s a fucking genius and is playing chess and is saving Democrats’ majorities because people don’t want progressive legislation, even though that legislation has supermajority support in polls.
By the way, you know what else is massively popular? The For the People Act. You know where it’s massively popular? Fucking West Virginia.
I don’t know how to make Manchin have his come-to-Jesus moment, but I think it’s more likely to get Romney or Murkowski or, hell, even Bill Cassidy to come on board for infrastructure and thus pleasure Manchin. It’ll be half-assed compared to what a unified Democratic vote could have gotten, so that’s extra fucking special. But on voting rights? If bipartisanship were a boat named for Manchin, that fucker is going down, but it’s gonna drag a whole lot of us down with it.
There’s supposedly a ghost in West Virginia called “Screaming Jenny,” and her story is a tragic metaphor for so much. Back in the 1800s, the railroad left abandoned storage sheds along its line, and in the town of Harper’s Ferry, poor people would live in those sheds. One of them in the late 1800s was a kind women named Jenny. She had no family, and she fell on hard times and had to leave her home and live in the shed. In the cold winter, she kept a fire going in her shed, and, legend goes, one night sparks from the fire ignited her skirt and set her aflame. In a panic, she ran out onto the train tracks towards the station, seeking help, but she was screaming and engulfed in flames and didn’t know that the train was bearing down on her. Yep, the train hit poor Jenny and finished the job the fire had started. The train stopped, and the conductor and others found her still burning, mangled body. They doused the flames, and she was buried in a pauper’s grave. A month later, another train was coming into Harper’s Ferry when the engineer slammed on the brakes upon seeing a figure that looked like a person on fire. When he looked for a body, none was found. The stationmaster told the engineer about Jenny, figuring that her ghost must have returned. Even today, engineers claim they still see the flaming, screaming Jenny on the anniversary of her death.
Your metaphor mileage may vary, but in my most despairing moments, I kind of feel like Democrats are Jenny, forced into the shed, catching on fire, and running madly into doom. And the worse part is that we had hoped going into 2021 that we’d be putting the GOP into the ground.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on June 8, 2021 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.