When I read yesterday in the Good News Roundup by arhpdx, that on June 18, 2022, “a base slate of over 50 Democrats took control of the West Virginia Democratic Party after winning a majority of committee seats executive and ousted the party leadership, thereby ending Manchin’s de facto control over the state party apparatus”, I was genuinely surprised and a little stunned, given the grip I thought Manchin had on the West Virginia Democrats.
After a six-year organizing campaign, all members of the old guard left except the treasurer, and a coalition of progressives, independents and moderates replaced them. “They are determined to revitalize the state and force renewed support from the national party. The June 18 victories mark the beginning of the end of an era defined by atrophy, plummeting electoral lists and a single statewide Democratic representative: Manchin.
Their hope is that, because they have won many low-level offices and care about the people of West Virginia instead of getting rich, “Manchin will no longer be the only candidate in the party who can run in any state and win.”
Politics in West Virginia has changed significantly over the past 25 years, when it has gone from deep blue to ruby red. When coal production was at its peak, West Virginia was a union town and voted Democratic. In 1992, Bill Clinton won West Virginia by 13 points.
But, in the years that followed, coal production was drastically reduced, and most West Virginians blame Barack Obama for that, although that’s not true. According to Atlantic, Appalachian coal mining jobs have been far worse under the Reagan, Clinton, and George HW Bush administrations than under Obama. always in In 2009, after Obama installed the presidency, part of his climate law goal was to “reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30%,” and it was that push that drove him left him and the Democratic Party deeply unpopular across the region.”
And, from the moment Joe Manchin, the former governor of West Virginia, began running in a special election in 2010 for Robert Bryd’s Senate seat, he ran on an anti- -Obama. “Manchin said he would have voted against Obamacare and would work to eliminate the “bad aspects” of it. He was suing the Environmental Protection Agency over restrictions on mountaintop mining and he denounced “the President Obama administration’s attempts to destroy our coal industry and our way of life in Virginia. -Western”. But, her condition turned red, and Manchin jumped on the bandwagon.
And, in West Virginia, the train continued to run increasingly red as the level of poverty in West Virginia rose. They are now the sixth poorest state in the country. In 2014, Republicans won the West Virginia House of Delegates for the first time in 83 years. By the time Trump ran for president in 2016, he had beaten Hillary Clinton by 40 points in West Virginia. And, in its State of the Union address, TFG said “there is a war on coal, that coal jobs will return, that the Obama administration’s regulations are responsible for its ills and that the actions he has taken in power can reverse his fortunes”.
While TFG lied about mining jobs and infrastructure jobs, things in West Virginia have changed drastically anyway. From Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 to March 2020, “West Virginia had the fastest labor force growth among the states. Whether this was really due to Trump is a debatable question. He had eased regulations on oil and gas development, and clean air, and accelerated pipeline approvals.But rising natural gas prices have also been helpful, prompting energy companies to expand across the region. one peak season there were nearly 16,000 pipeline construction workers in the state. Two major pipelines were under construction and there were all sorts of legal and environmental issues that ended up shutting them down. But for a year, there were so many pipeline workers that, for a few months, they even outnumbered the coal miners in the state.Nearly 75% of job growth in the state was related to the energy, according to Economist John Deskins of West Virginia University. It was a dramatic turnaround. They added almost 37,000 jobs during this period.
“Workers without a college education have seen some of the biggest job gains of Trump’s presidency — until the pandemic hit. After years on the sidelines, these Americans have started looking for work again, dropping out jobs in construction, warehouses, and oil and gas fields.The pace at which they found jobs surprised even some economists who had predicted that low-skilled Americans would face strong headwinds from automation and of the opioid crisis.
There weren’t that many jobs. West Virginians have described it as a “gold mine”. These companies were not just hiring, but at wages far beyond anything West Virginians had seen in decades. And all the pipeline workers who came to work needed places to sleep and eat. Residents were leasing their land to natural gas companies, and suddenly many West Virginians were making more money than they could have ever imagined. But then the coronavirus hit, there was a recession, the pipelines were shut down and all was lost. By the end of the Trump presidency, all gains had been wiped out and an additional 30,000 jobs had been lost in West Virginia.
And Trump’s claim to put miners back to work was as false as his failed attempts to use the Defense Production Act to prop up coal plants. Initially, 1,200 new mining jobs were created, but under his presidency, the number of people employed by the coal industry fell by 15%. Its trade wars haven’t helped, the pandemic has reduced demand for coal, and natural gas prices have plummeted.
So why did so many West Virginians vote for Trump in 2020? He has made “miners back to work” the cornerstone of his campaign, even though he lied about the results, claiming it had created 45,000 jobs. But West Virginians loved him and felt he was fighting for them. He campaigned there many times. But, perhaps more importantly, as Democratic strategist Mike Plante of West Virginia said, “He knew how to talk to people in the state who feel left out of the national conversation. Trump was telling a story. He said, “The elites are all looking down on you. I’ll stick it to people who stick it to you. And, West Virginia rewarded him with their votes.
On the other hand, Joe Biden never campaigned at all in West Virginia, but he did win the presidential election. The last time he was in West Virginia was in 2012 with Obama, and Biden made a number of gaffes that endeared him to no one. Although Biden was from a working class background and may have been the kind of person the people of West Virginia could love, he never came to West Virginia and they saw Trump as their savior. .
But, the bottom line is that, thanks to the Biden Infrastructure Bill, $6 billion was targeted for West Virginia, and while Biden could have used it as an opportunity to visit, he didn’t. While I was trying to figure out if the money improved Biden’s popularity, it didn’t. In West Virginia, President Biden receives his lowest approval rating at 21% and his highest disapproval rating at 73%. and, he lost a third of his voters’ support six months into his presidency. Although there are different opinions, in some articles I read that 68% of West Virginians support the BBB, although Manchin torpedoed her. In another article, I read that 72% of West Virginians support Manchin’s “no-vote.”
Yet, according to a Morning Consult poll from April 25, 2022, since Biden took office, Manchin’s job approval rating has jumped 16% to 57% in 2022, from 39% in 2021. That’s far the biggest increase. of any senator.
Yet, if this Democratic coalition that now controls the Democratic Party of West Virginia really wants to help its fellow citizens, supporting BBB would be the best way. And, maybe they should seek to meet with Biden on this rather than Manchin. Rumor has it that some people in West Virginia feel that Manchin is out of touch with his constituents. It may be because in a state with a median income of $48,037 and a per capita income of $27,346, Manchin drives an $81,000 Maserati Levante and lives in a house on the Kanawha River that he and his wife bought for $765,000 in January 2021. When they’re in Washington, DC, they live in a houseboat that cost $250,000.
In a December 21, 2021 opinion piece in the Subscribe~Herald of Beckley, West Virginia, titled WVa Working Families Need BBB Lifelines, the author points out. “Families in West Virginia are grappling with the cost of child care, home health care and education, rising prices for prescription drugs and other essential services. By extending the Child Tax Credit and providing paid family leave as found in Build Back Better, new parents will be able to offset the huge costs of raising a child while ensuring they can return to work. when ready, stimulating economic growth and actively fighting inflation. For my family, like thousands of other working families across the state, the prospect of lowering the cost of essential services like child care, education, prescription drugs and health care is a lifeline that is long overdue.
The question is: will their message get through to President Biden?