×

Centrism Is Prudent For W.Va. Politicians

This will come as a shock to tens of millions of Americans, perhaps to you:

Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden is wrong all of the time. Neither of them is right all of the time, either.

And — brace yourself again — the top priority of leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties is winning elections.

Don’t believe me? Ask Joe Manchin. Ask Shelley Moore Capito. They’re U.S. senators. They know.

What brought this up was a syndicated column by Laura Hollis several days ago. Her focus was the sharp leftward shift of many in the Democratic Party’s leadership — and the fact that many voters registered as Democrats are far more moderate.

“There are Democrats who see what’s happening,” Hollis wrote. “Some including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Joe Manchin are trying to work within the party (despite being courted by the GOP) to bring about the changes they see as necessary.”

One interesting thing about Hollis citing Manchin and Gabbard as Democrat centrists is the constituencies they represent. During the 2016 presidential election, West Virginia gave Trump the highest percentage of votes of any state. Hawaii, which Gabbard represents, gave Hillary Clinton the highest margin.

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran up for re-election this year, is paying a price for her moderation. A recent public opinion poll showed her approval rating in Hawaii at just 44%.

Manchin is different. He gets away with what to radical Democrats would be viewed as near-treason. For example, he was the only senator of his party to vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

How does he Manchin manage that? Because West Virginia Democrats refuse to drink the kind of Kool-Aid prepared by folks such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. By and large, they’re moderates of the kind Hollis believes are a silent majority.

Many of them voted for Trump the last time around. Many will again this time.

A measure of the displeasure many moderate Democrats have had with their party has been the tidal wave of those who switched their registrations as voters. For decades, West Virginia was a solidly Democratic state. Now, Republican and Democratic voter registrations are nearly equal.

If you’re a national-level Republican leader, be careful not to draw the wrong conclusion. It’s not that Mountain State voters are becoming die-hard GOP loyalists. The point is that many are apolitical in their public policy views.

Consider the people we send to Washington. The Lugar Center uses multiple metrics to rate members of Congress on bipartisanship — that is, willingness to concede that sometimes, the other party has good ideas.

In its last rating, the center had Manchin as the 27th most bipartisan senator. But he’s not the champ.

Our other senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito, was 7th on the bipartisanship list.

And in the House of Representatives, Rep. David McKinley, the Republican who represents this area of West Virginia, was ranked 10th out of 437 lawmakers in that chamber (some non-voting representatives from territories and the District of Columbia were included).

In other words, centrism is prudent politics in West Virginia. At one time, it was wise in many states. I wonder if that has changed as much as some Democratic Party leaders think it has.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

COMMENTS

Starting at $4.39/week.

Subscribe Today