Voices From West Virginia: Open Letters to Our Senator, Joe Manchin

10 mins read
Stop the Filibuster Protest

Dear Senator Manchin,

We hope this correspondence finds you well. As your constituents, we feel it is our duty to reach out to you because we are troubled. We have supported you in countless elections. We know that in politics you can’t always get what you want. But time and time again, we have sent you to Washington, D.C., with hopes that you will at least get us what we need. Time and time again we have voted for you and put our faith in you only to watch you consistently choose apathy and claim your actions were fulfilling your bipartisan ideological dream; when it was time to vote on seating Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court position in 2018, you procrastinated and stayed silent until your vote was meaningless, and then you decide to be the only Democrat to vote “yes” and saved face by correctly stating that many West Virginians supported your vote. 

This time, sir, you have upped your game. You have hitched your political career to the filibuster, and you have indirectly used it to, once again, choose indifference over representing the people of West Virginia. You knew you could proudly display defiant opposition to the For the People Act, then vote for it at the last minute because your devotion to the filibuster was exactly what allowed the Republicans to stall the bill. After all your adulation of bipartisanship, you stood in your own way, but more importantly, in the way of progress for the people of West Virginia as well as voters across the nation. Why do you prioritize gaining and maintaining Republican support instead of doing your job and representing us?

Senator Manchin, the Republicans in the legislative branch do not respect you nor support your quest for bipartisanship. Instead, they mock you for being a pushover. In a recently released video of a discussion about the For the People Act, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said, “No, no, no, no, we don’t want the people’s will to be done immediately because we have the passions of the majority…. our Constitution was set up to protect who? Minority rights, not the majority rights.” In the same video, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) boasted, “Fortunately for us, the filibuster is still in effect in the Senate. Without that we would be dead meat.” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) went on to praise you and outright bragged about how easy it was to pull one over on you. The rest of the conversation consists of sweeping appreciation toward you for keeping the filibuster in play for them. 

Is THIS your definition of bipartisanship? 

With all due respect, why do you think this is a productive means of governing as a senator in the legislative branch of our government? You are blatantly playing loose with our democracy, Senator. Your apathy mocks complacency as you openly crusade for bipartisanship with a group of people who use you as a tool to benefit their own agendas and ideology. You have successfully used the filibuster to stonewall your own party and the progression of the state as well as our nation. I am infuriated by your recent behavior. 

Our friend and former West Virginia senator, Richard Ojeda, would now like to take this opportunity to speak to you about his concerns.  

—April Edwards


Senator Manchin,

For decades, you have campaigned and presented yourself as someone who is for the working people of West Virginia, but now it seems that you are not willing to support them. The truth is, Joe, you have gone the other way and left the people of West Virginia behind. When you are a representative, your job is to represent each and every one of the people in West Virginia and set aside your own self-interest. Instead, you have decided to take your own route and branch out on a blind quest to save the filibuster at all costs. 

By doing this, you have outright refused to represent the people of West Virginia, and many of these people I speak to regularly feel like they should fire you. Why should the people choose to send you to D.C. if you are not doing anything for us? It is time for the people of West Virginia to vote for a new representative, it is just that simple. The days of you getting a pass while not representing anyone must end.

You are the only Democrat in the country who has never had to play by any rules. You are just not the Democrat that we expect you to be anymore, even though you have been able to do what you want and maintain the majority of votes in West Virginia time and again. You control the West Virginia Democratic Party, including the state executive committee, and they only have one task: Not to make sure Democrats across the state get elected, but to make sure it is you, Joe, who stays in authority.

I don’t think you ever wanted this to happen. I think the Democrats winning the majority caught you off guard because you talk about doing stuff for people but when it comes to actually doing anything, you’re just not up for it. The filibuster has turned into a crutch you use when you have decided you will not do what the people of West Virginia want. This time, we can no longer pretend that you are not an asset to the Republican Party. Three of them openly chuckled with one another about how much you do for them. Aren’t you embarrassed by the way they blatantly disrespected you as well as the party you represent?  

Republicans do not want bipartisanship; they want absolute power. They make overwhelmingly oppressive voter restriction laws and utilize gerrymandering. These tactics work for them every time. Republicans are more likely to vote straight down the ballot, I would like to know why that doesn’t seem to bother you? Is it because you identify as a Republican but have not yet broken this to the people of West Virginia, Joe? Actions always speak louder than words, and the Republican Party has expressed the utmost gratitude for your dedication to the filibuster and your insistence on stonewalling progress at every turn.

Right now, you are gambling with your legacy. Do you want to be remembered as a Democrat who fought the good fight for the people who need you the most, the good people of West Virginia? Or are you going to turn your back and support the Republicans? Your decisions have caused many West Virginians to continue struggling for scraps from the filthy rich, and you have prevented our state from progressing for far too long. I hope you take a good long look in the mirror and choose to look out for the working people in West Virginia who have always paid their fair share AND managed to make donations to you. So now, the ball is in your court, Joe.

—Richard Ojeda

You may also want to read Adam Cohen’s open letter to Sen. Joe Manchin and Cheryle Johnson’s article, “Sound and Fury,” expressing her frustration at Manchin’s refusal to end the fillibuster.


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Richard Ojeda is a retired U.S. Army major who served in the West Virginia Senate. April Edwards is a writer and activist. Both live in West Virginia.

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