In the past six months since the inauguration of the 46th president, Washington, D.C., has become a tale of two Joes: President Joe Biden and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Operating at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the pair of old school Democrats put on a big show about bipartisanship, whimsically yearning for the days of yore when politics was more civilized.
Biden’s pledge to restore the “soul” of America has become as well-worn as his Amtrak anecdotes, while Manchin has relished his role as the literal lynchpin to the Democrats’ razor thin Senate majority. He has been the subject of countless thumb-sucking profiles by the national media, at times drawing the ire of the hard left galled at his “moderate” posturing.
Posturing is indeed the appropriate term, because the actions of both Joes fall far short of their purported images. For proof, look no further than their continued support of Tracy Stone-Manning to run the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Compared to the ringer that partisan Democrats put Trump nominees through four years ago, the confirmations for Biden picks have been sleepy until Stone-Manning came along. The lifelong eco-activist has come under fire for her past associations with an extreme environmental group called Earth First and their “tree spiking” campaigns of the 1980s.
By placing physical spikes in trees, their goal was ostensibly preventing the tree from being harvested, but only if the logger happened to see the spike in time. If they weren’t so lucky, the blade of the saw could shatter, sending jagged metal shards flying. The safety and lives of workers were jeopardized, a small price to pay for Earth First, whose motto declared, “No compromise in defense of Mother Earth.”
The exact details of Stone-Manning’s association with the group are murky, but what is known is that she mailed a letter to the U.S. Forest Service with the warning: “You bastards go in there anyway and a lot of people could get hurt.” Two people went to federal prison as a result.
Biden’s decision to nominate someone who has no problem palling around with would-be murderers is inexplicable, especially considering the BLM director comes with sweeping jurisdiction and oversees 10% of America’s land. It’s a long way from Biden’s inaugural pledge to “write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division.”
But he is a politician and knows where his bread is buttered. Green groups opened their wallets to bankroll campaign, and those IOUs are coming due. Earlier this year, a coalition of environmental groups launched a $10 million ad campaign urging action on their issues. Talk about a gentle reminder from so-called friends.
For Manchin, the calculation should be easy. He represents a state that went for Trump by nearly 40 percentage points – the largest margin in the country. In 2010, he cut an ad literally shooting a hole through President Obama’s “cap and trade” scheme, concluding correctly it was “bad for West Virginia.” The wood industry generates $3.2 billion annually to West Virginia’s budget and provides more than 30,000 jobs.
Opposing Stone-Manning should be a no-brainer. It’s good policy, which makes for the best politics. Even Obama’s BLM director said the tree-spiking incident “should disqualify her” and “her initial silence put people at risk.”
With an evenly divided Senate and the Republicans unified in opposition, any one Democrat senator can derail her nomination. While Manchin is the most obvious target, he has voiced support for her and already voted once to move her nomination to the full Senate.
This flies in the face of his constituents. Nearly 70% of West Virginia voted against Joe Biden. Blue collar workers form the backbone of the state’s economy: coal miners, frackers, manufacturers and even loggers, those very same loggers who were targeted for injury. It’s the classic Joe Manchin vote: his constituents or his party. Only one can prevail.
It’s still not too late for him to do the right thing, and here’s hoping he does. But one thing is clear: if Joe Manchin casts the deciding vote to confirm Manning to oversee our federal lands, his backslapping and “aw shucks” image is out the window, and our country is worse off for it.
Daniel Turner is the founder and executive director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DanielTurnerPTF