Having Joe Manchin in our party is a bit like waking up and finding a rattlesnake in your sleeping bag. You wonder how you could sleep so late. But after considering it for a while, you decide that the snake liked the warmth.*

Voting rights legislation is absolutely critical for the Senate to pass. Republicans in the states already passed new laws that will severely limit the number of votes Democrats can get in future elections—including Electoral Votes in 2024—making it difficult if not impossible to get fair elections. It is likely that without a new federal law, Democrats will be permanently locked out of power. Given the fascist tendencies of the Republican Party, it’s hard to see how we will get democracy back. Ever.

There is one person who could change this right now, and that is Sen. Joe Manchin. He could do that by changing his position on the filibuster enough for a voting rights bill to pass the Senate. Once signed into law, that would restore much of the balance between the parties.

Time is up for Sen. Manchin. Until substantive voting rights passes the Senate, I will continue my campaign to drive him out of the Democratic Party. I’m calling on you, and every other Democrat, to unfriend Joe Manchin.

Last week, I asked the Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates to take a stand. Which of them will unfriend this danger to democracy? Do you know any of them, and will you ask them to help us give him the heave-ho?

This week, I’m looking at where Manchin gets his money. Most of his personal income appears to come from his interest in Enersystems, which provides waste coal to be burned for electrical power.

When coal is mined, most of it is coal product, which can sold. The buyer burns it in an industrial furnace for power (see here) or uses it in a manufacturing process. But a significant quantity of waste is generated by the mining process, and this coal refuse has piled up outside mines for decades. Joe’s company provides this coal waste to a power plant so it can be burned.

Waste coal can be reprocessed and used, but it has high quantities of toxic materials, such as aluminum and mercury, which make it both dangerous to store and complex to burn without toxic emissions. According to a report in Sludge, waste coal normally “contains four times more mercury than bituminous coal and higher levels of sulfur”. (Manchin Profits From Coal Sales to Utility Lobbying Group Members) Leaving it lying around the mines is also dangerous, as it can pollute the area, sometimes catastrophically.

Enersystems provides waste coal to the Grant Town Power Plant, in the northeast corner of West Virginia (near the borders of Pennsylvania and Maryland) from sources near the town. Grant Town is not far from where Joe Manchin was born, in Farmington, WV. This plant is controlled by Edison International, and it burns waste coal in a process called fluidized bed combustion. (See more on Wikipedia at Grant Town in Wikipedia.)

Burning waste coal has some advantages, in that it tends to clean up the environmental destruction caused by historical coal mines. But there’s a significant issue: It’s still burning carbon into the atmosphere, at a time where this is increasingly dangerous to life on the planet.

So I ask: Is it appropriate for a coal baron to be a critical part of the Democratic Party?

Manchin isn’t the only politician in the Democratic Party with a troubling tie to an unpleasant past. But his past is a clue that perhaps we should examine the sources of power keeping other politicians in office. Manchin is a warning we should take a look at others in the party.

Are we going to wake up in bed some day with one of them and wonder how we could have slept in so late? Should we have awoken to the danger just a bit earlier? Are they going to bite us when we least expect it and can least afford it?

This article is part of a series urging members of the Democratic Party to push Joe Manchin out of the party unless he takes the actions necessary for a substantive voting rights bill to pass Congress and get signed into law. Previous articles can be found here:

Part I: Explored why Manchin is wrong to oppose the reconciliation bill and announced the 15 September deadline for him to get voting rights passed. Poll shows the vast majority of voters on Daily Kos believe Manchin is helping the Republicans more than the Democrats.

Part II: Postponed the deadline until 22 September because Manchin reached agreement with Democratic leadership on a voting rights bill.

Part III: No voting rights bill passed. Urged Democrats in the West Virginia Senate to unfriend Manchin.

Part IV: No voting rights bill passed. Urged Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates to unfriend Manchin.

Next week, I plan to explore the way President Joe Biden provides cover for Manchin. What could Biden do to move Manchin on the voting rights bills?

There are many groups of people Sen. Manchin needs to consider. I’m going to go through these groups one at a time and urge them to unfriend Manchin until he has no friends left.

Or he gets voting rights through the Senate.

* This is an allegory, not an account from a hiking expedition.


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