EDITORIAL: Joe Manchin: Proudly Pro-Choice

HNN Staff
EDITORIAL:  Joe Manchin: Proudly Pro-Choice

Out of the three U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot this year--two Democrats and one Republican--just two of them can be said to be pro-life. 

Former Democratic Delegate Sheirl Fletcher and Republican John Raese have long supported the pro-life movement in West Virginia, supporting groups like West Virginians for Life with their time and financial contributions.  Fletcher served in the House of Delegates as a pro-life member from Mon County, and John Raese has been firmly pro-life throughout his 28 year span in state politics.

Only Joe Manchin remains to hoist the pro-choice banner high, as he has done quite well in his first year as the state's junior U.S. Senator.  Indeed, Manchin's votes on life issues lately have had a particular focus on making sure that taxpayers pick up the tab for abortions across the country, both through the controversial Obamacare legislation and also through the red-hot budget item, giving $330 million this year to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.

Clearly, Manchin has decided that he is proudly pro-choice now that he is outside of pro-life West Virginia's boundaries.  Now he and pro-choice wife, Gayle, can be invited to all the fashionable, progressive parties in Washington, without fear of being labeled "traditional" or "conservative."  Dreadful adjectives, those!  Even if they adequately describe 80% of Manchin's constituency back in West Virginia.

Unlike U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller--who has never denied his sympathies for the pro-choice cause--Manchin has always strived to at least appear pro-life in the past. It was good politics, especially for someone who had branded themselves as a "conservative Democrat."  But at least with Rockefeller, we knew what we were getting and no real surprises awaited us on votes like Obamacare and Planned Parenthood funding.

Manchin, however, engages in a level of subterfuge on the subject that is becoming insulting to the average voter, regardless of their position on the most controversial social issue of the age.  People can agree to disagree, even on subjects as emotion-laden as abortion. 

But how can one agree to disagree when one's Senator won't even be upfront and direct about where he stands on such a vital issue?  Manchin may be the first statewide candidate to alienate both sides on this dicey issue, because he is so unreliable to both sides. 

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An illustration from another longtime West Virginia political figure shows a better approach to those caught up in this issue.

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito started her career in the House of Delegates as a pro-choice Republican.  Though her father, the famous ex-Governor, had always been pro-life in his public statements, Capitol was like many women in her generation, wanting to assert the rights of the woman in the abortion debate.  However, Capito received good counsel from a variety of sources and began to see areas of agreement that she, a pro-choicer, could have with pro-lifers in her constituency. 

As a result, Capito found herself able to vote for a great many pro-life bills, even while remaining sensitive to her pro-choice friends' concerns, too.

That way can work for a politician in West Virginia, as pro-lifers have a certain willingness to help a pro-choice official see where they can overlap with pro-life sensibilities. 

However, Joe Manchin's approach seems to be one destined to backfire.  Having promised the pro-lifers that he was 100% with them over the course of his career, now he has literally torched his relationship with rank and file pro-lifers and taxpayers of every stripe: by supporting taxpayer-paid abortions, via his votes for Obamacare and multi-million in funding for Planned Parenthood.

Those are a pro-choicer's votes.  One might even say a brazen pro-choicer's votes.  They signify Joe Manchin's break, not only with rank-and-file pro-lifers but with West Virginia's conservative Democrats and Independents, neither of whom can be very enthusiastic about this kind of federal outlay for abortions nationwide.

What made him do it?  Who knows? Potomac Fever has many manifestations.  However, as many who observe West Virginia politics on both sides of the aisle can attest, there's something different about Joe Manchin these days.  He doesn't seem to be listening to his traditional West Virginia advisers anymore.

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