Updated post, with this New York Times story: As Manchin blocks climate plan, his state can’t hold back floods
Having read my Oct. 3 column in The Sunday Sun, my friend Tom recalled a trip to the Louisiana Gulf Coast a few years ago to do some birding with his wife, Gaile. As they travelled around, they turned onto an unpaved road through an oil refinery. The oil refinery was a sprawling spectacle of pipes and tanks and ran as far as Tom and Gaile could see in any direction. Along a dock were six or seven semi-submersible drilling rigs waiting to be put to use. Tom recalled his shock at the sight in an email: “I turned to Gaile and said, ‘There’s no way they can walk away from this.’”
Then, he added this: “Certainly the same is true for coal and other exploitable commodities. Long-term concern for our existence stands little chance against shorter-term concern for money and the opportunity of those who have it to make more. The irony of all of this was brought home this week by videos of protesters in kayaks picketing Joe Manchin, who was looking down at them from an upper deck of his monstrous house boat, Almost Heaven, moored in the Potomac.”
Manchin, of course, opposes the scale of President Biden’s very popular Build Back Better agenda and he has built his personal wealth from fossil fuels, thus his resistance to the pace of Biden’s climate agenda.
In the column, I ruminate on that thing called human nature. I suggest that public men who have reached a certain age (Manchin is 74) might want their legacy to be more than a portfolio of stock in fossil fuels.
I realize that’s an old-timey notion and a naive expectation. It’s certainly not one I hold for any Republican, foremost their Senate leader, Mitch McConnell (age 79). But most Americans who voted for Democrats in 2020 expect that, above all, they will respect the Constitution, defend our democracy against Trumpism and make progressive decisions in the public interest and not their own.
Joe Manchin is not there. He’s not merely being “a Democratic moderate.” He stands fully in the way of Biden’s historic effort to fix things — bridges, the climate mess, income inequality — and, with its support for the middle class and poor, secure the Congress and White House for Democrats until Trumpism fades. Manchin is risking a livable future and a robust democracy for his 10 grandchildren and everyone else’s. You’d think that alone would move him, but I guess that’s an old-timey notion, too.