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Sen. Joe Manchin’s position on the For The People Act, as put forth in an op-ed published in the Gazette-Mail, is neither pro-democracy nor does it reflect the will of his constituents.

This is a point-by-point response to his piece, “Why I’m voting against the For The People Act.”

  • Point 1: “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy.” Manchin nailed it. Without free and fair elections, we might as well be Russia. Therefore, nothing — including Manchin’s desire for Senate bipartisanship — is as important as protecting our sacred voting rights and the integrity of our electoral process.
  • Point 2: “The right to vote

...

  • should be above party or politics.” Yes, in a better world than this one. The problem is that the Republican Party, having decided the For The People Act will cost them electorally, has united against the passage of this act. So, whether the right to vote should be above politics has been rendered moot by the same party Manchin hopes will now act in a bipartisan manner. Manchin should know that train has left the station.
  • Point 3: “The fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized.” It has indeed. But by who? By the same party, the same senators, that have chosen politics over country by blocking a 9/11-style independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The GOP’s disingenuous message — the “Big Lie” — that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen has already led to the greatest nationwide attack on free and fair elections since the end of Reconstruction, rightfully labelled “Jim Crow 2.”
  • Point 4: “Democrats and Republicans

... [must come] together ...

  • or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to defend and protect as elected officials.” First, see point 3 above. The division and destruction Manchin fears is already well in progress across the country, courtesy of those Manchin often refers to as “my Republican friends.” Secondly, I would direct Manchin to a just-released poll of West Virginians (margin of error, 4 points) taken by a group called End Citizens United. Seventy-nine of Manchin’s constituents, including 76% of West Virginia Republicans, support the same act that Manchin has just promised to vote against.

So, for Manchin’s constituents and for the country as a whole, the For The People Act isn’t a partisan issue at all; the groups that are inarguably partisan on this issue are the GOP and Congress itself — and Manchin hoping it will be otherwise will not change it.

  • Point 5: A quick note on the filibuster: Until recently, Manchin said he supported changing the filibuster rules to make it “painful” to invoke — a good compromise alternative to either keeping it as is or eliminating it altogether. But Manchin is silent on this in his Gazette-Mail piece.

Why? In the face of such reckless anti-democracy, will Manchin not fight for us to amend the filibuster? Is preserving it in its current, rife-for-abuse form truly more important to him than protecting our voting rights and elections? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Manchin quotes himself by saying, “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” OK, he’s explained it — and his explanation, well-meaning as it is, is a pitifully weak one. As laudable as Manchin’s wish for Senate bipartisanship is, it is nothing when viewed beside two infinitely greater duties: To protect our sacred voting rights and the integrity of our elections, and to represent the clear will of his constituents on the issue.

Manchin has claimed many times over the years that he is in Washington to represent the people of this state. So, on this issue he correctly claims is “fundamental to our democracy,” he needs to represent us.

Gary Reynolds is a part-time farmer and musician living in Edmond.

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