Whatever your political affiliation, most people want to see some political compromise. In fact, only about 21% of people think their representatives should never compromise, even when that would mean complete gridlock.
The vast majority of people accept some compromise may be necessary to get things done… and there are some areas where we all can agree that compromise is just not appropriate: you can’t make your big tent so big that there are people who are unsafe sleeping in it.
But there are also some areas where a proposed compromise is incredibly revealing, like this one: Senator Joe Manchin is compromising our democracy by stripping ethics reform from the senate’s version of the voting rights bill.
Think about how damning this is: the only way Manchin will agree to protect our democracy is to make sure it can remain a corrupt democracy.
In West Virginia, many of us have been very clear since HR 1 was reintroduced that he’d never vote for it, if it imposed controls on corporate money. He’s disappointingly predictable, if nothing else.
So, every ethics reform has been removed from his version, including things like closing a nepotism loophole, authorizing the Department of Government Ethics to conduct investigations and issue subpoenas, setting limits on the revolving door between lobbying and politics, creating controls on dark money, and more.
Compromise must not abandon your values
No matter our party, we should all have the same goals for our democracy: we want our country to be a place where hard work is rewarded, where we have functional infrastructure, where we have the opportunity to improve our lives, where our loved ones get the care they need, where we are protected from exploitation… and where this is the case for all of us, not just a lucky or wealthy few, not just those of a certain color or sexual orientation, not just those of a certain religion, or sex… not just those of a certain class. Most people understand that there can be different good faith approaches to get there, even within the same party.
That there is debate as to which route is the shortest path to our goal is fine. That we have a driver intent on taking us to a dangerous place we don’t want to go—so intent that he’s willing to drive us all off a cliff if he doesn’t get his way—is not fine.
If a thief demands all of your property, compromising by agreeing to let him steal only half of it is NOT a good move. Compromising by allowing him to steal all of your neighbor’s property is also not a good move.
So the thing to understand by looking at Manchin’s demands is that his goal is not your goal. He wants to maintain the legality of the corruption the rest of us are appalled by. He doesn’t share values with most Americans or even most West Virginians.
“The Senator has never hidden whose side he was on. This is just the latest proof,” explained Stephen Smith, co-chair of WV Can’t Wait, a multi-partisan movement of West Virginians focused on “building a people’s government” in the Mountain State.
Compromise must not surrender our democracy.
The wealthy must not be permitted to rob the poor and middle class, if they happen to be in the way of corporate profits. Officials mustn’t legislate that it’s okay to steal from someone so long as the thieves are campaign donors, and the victims don’t recognize the power they have if they unite against corruption at the ballot box.
Make no mistake: Manchin knows the corruption is anti-democracy, just as much as the rest of us do.
Here’s the thing: he doesn’t care that it’s wrong, as long as it’s legal.
If you can vote, but your choices are limited chiefly to millionaires and billionaires funded by dark money—and more than half of them win—then we have a plutocracy… not a democracy.
Should the new Voting Rights Bill pass?
Absolutely. Even though he has removed the ethics provisions, all of them, we still need to protect voting rights, because among other things voters need to keep the power to remove Joe Manchin from office—and every corrupt politician like him.
West Virginians, especially, must never forget what values this bill abandons, what corruption it allows, and why Manchin is willing to be the public face of political corruption. He’s willing to fight against ethics reform publicly because he thinks there are enough uninformed voters who will vote for him no matter how much corruption he stands for.
Keeping corruption legal is the hill Joe Manchin wants to die on.
He is so confident that the corporate money raised by compromising our democracy will allow him to buy his next elections, indefinitely, that he’s not even doing this in secret.