All in favor….say die

“Either I’m dead right, or I’m crazy!”- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

You may not be interested in politics, and who can blame you?  Boring arguments about the same old issues getting rehashed over and over again, and no matter who wins you are guaranteed to get blasted in the ass (credit: Dennis Reynolds).  In fact some nerds academics have suggested that not voting is more rational than voting.  But something that even boring political junkies and boring apathetic cynics should all agree on is that if there is one thing that makes our democratic form of government interesting, it is crazy ass politicians trying to win elections.  For instance, if you weren’t paying attention in 2010, you missed a re-virgined ex-witch and a mentally unstable accused sex offender each receive their party’s nomination for the US Senate. 

Thanks to some very high profile crazies, there were a few politicians with very high crazy potential who flew under the radar.  These are people you want to pay attention to when you’re looking for high entertainment in your politics.  One of these individuals is Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia.

West by god Virginia is an interesting place politically.  In most federal elections it tends to go pretty reliably for the Democrats.  It hasn’t sent a Republican to the US Senate since 1956.  There are really only two reasons for this.  First is that Democrats have traditionally shown stronger support for unionized labor, meaning the 99% of West Virginians who either work in coal mines or have a family member who works in the coal mines.  The second reason is that Robert Byrd, who served in the Senate alongside John C. Calhoun for forty-one years and funneled billions of federal dollars back to West Virginia, was a Democrat.  But aside from those two factors, West Virginians are, by and large, conservative on every other issue.  They are the people President Obama was referring to when he described Americans who cling to guns and religion.  So even though they favor Democrats, the more liberal wing of the party doesn’t sit too right with them.

Needless to say, Obama didn’t do so hot in West Virginia

The aforementioned Robert Byrd died in the summer of 2010, meaning that a special election would be necessary to fill his seat.  Enter Joe Manchin.  Manchin was a two-term Democratic governor with a 70% approval rating.  He was a shoo-in.  What could go wrong?

Pictures like that one literally jeopardized Manchin’s career.  Being associated with Obama is political poison in West Virginia.  Obama is seen in the mountaineer state as the epitome of evil, big government liberalism that wants to take their guns, open the borders for illegal immigration, and (worst of all) stop Americans from getting their energy from coal.  Also, I’m not going to spell it out for you, but if you use your imagination you can probably come up with some other reasons people in West Virginia might not like a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama.

Joe Manchin, 70% approval rating and all, found himself in a dead heat in the polls with his Republican opponent because West Virginians associated Manchin with Obama.  So what did he do?  The only thing he thought was reasonable at the time:  pull out his gun and pepper cap and trade legislation with bullets.

Whether you hate cap and trade or think it is the tops, I think we can all agree that expressing your opinion through marksmanship isn’t the most sensible thing in the world.  The US Senate considers itself “the world’s most deliberative” body, and here is Joe Manchin telling his constituents that after deliberating he likes to shoot things he disagrees with.  He’s also telling them his basic campaign message, which was: “The Democrats are wrong on just about everything.  Vote for me, the Democrat.”

And the best part of the story is that it worked.  Joe Manchin’s campaign strategy of shooting cap and trade and vowing to oppose his party’s agenda helped him win the election fairly comfortably.  Since taking his position in the Senate, Manchin has tried to keep a low profile on the craziness front.  He skipped some important votes on immigration reform and gay rights to attend a Christmas party and allegedly started a baseless rumor that the Republicans want him to switch teams.

Why am I telling you all of this?  The election Joe Manchin won in 2010 was only to finish a term Robert Byrd won in 2006, meaning he has to do it all over again in 2012.  And this time, I don’t want you to miss out on the fun.  2012 is a presidential election year, meaning the political crazies are going to be out in full force, so it might be easy for poor Joe Manchin to get overshadowed…

But I don’t want you miss out on the fun of seeing what tricks Joltin’ Joe will have up his sleeve this time.  He knows that when West Virginians drive their homes to their polling places, they are going to see his name on the ballot right under Obama’s.  He is going to have to pull some pretty amazing stunts to stand out.  I think he’s up for it.

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