Senator Joe Manchin’s outsized power subverts “our democracy” no less than Trumpublicans

The worst aspects of the U.S.’s profoundly undemocratic “democracy” is summed up in a single stunning situation. A New York Times article posted today begins like this:

“Joe Manchin, the powerful West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate energy panel and earned half a million dollars last year from coal production, is preparing to remake President Biden’s climate legislation in a way that tosses a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry — despite urgent calls from scientists that countries need to quickly pivot away from coal, gas and oil to avoid a climate catastrophe.”

Manchin, a “centrist” (read, “corporate”) Democrat, has repeatedly exercised outsized “up-or-down” clout in a Senate split evenly down the middle between the two major parties. Manchin supports the extraordinarily undemocratic (and extra-Constitutional) filibuster standing in the way of multiple progressive policies, is opposed to expansion of social welfare benefits commensurate with the severe and protracted economic crisis faced by tens of millions of Americans (even though his own state of West Virginia is one of the poorest and most economically ravaged in the country), and supports only relatively mild measures to combat aggressive Republican assaults on voting rights designed to ensure that Republicans regain congressional majorities in 2022 and capture the presidency in 2024. Given the Republican Party descent into Trumpist extremism, more than a few seasoned political observers see an all-Republican national government as a sure slide into an American-style fascist state.

But Manchin’s pivotal position in regard to the nation’s climate change agenda, as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, takes the proverbial political cake. The NYT article includes this telling tidbit – “In the current election cycle, Mr. Manchin has received more campaign donations from the oil, coal and gas industries than any other senator, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets, a research organization that tracks political spending.”

With the debate over the role of fossil fuels in climate warming and biosphere disruption over at last, the fate of the planet and every living creature on it literally hangs in the balance; only a radical and rapid reduction in fossil fuels reliance by the world’s industrial powers, not least of all the United States, can help us evade climate catastrophe. Despite this existential urgency (if you think the language of “existential” is hyperbole, just read the executive summary of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change –, the guy who gets to call the shots on the U.S. response to the crisis is a shill for the very industrial sector that least wants change, and will most tenaciously resist the kind of radical change we desperately need.

Is this the “democracy” that the American electorate “saved” from the climate change-denying Trump in the 2020 presidential election? Is Manchin any better than Trump? Is the enabler of evil any better than the evildoer?

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