Although progressive Democrats have been expressing their frustration with Sen. Joe Manchin for continuing to oppose the Build Back Better Act, the West Virginia senator has his share of defenders — many of them centrists, moderates, independents and Never Trump conservatives. Manchin has some liberal defenders as well, and they will typically point out that being a Democrat in West Virginia is much harder than being a Democrat in California or Massachusetts.
But West Virginia native David M. Fryson is vehemently critical of Manchin in an op-ed published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Christmas Day 2021, arguing that he has “continually weakened” the Democratic Party in his state.
Fryson is presently based in the Boston Area, where he is serving as interim vice president of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. But his roots are West Virginia. Fryson is a lawyer in that state as well as pastor of the New First Baptist Church in Charleston.
“You gain an interesting perspective watching your home state from afar,” Fryson writes. “Watching commentators like Morning Joe Scarborough attempt to paint Sen. Manchin, D-W.Va., as a type of political Svengali centrist that is using his talents to survive in red state West Virginia is maddening. The progressive party in West Virginia did not just die; Manchin killed it.”
Fryson continues, “At some point, those of us who voted for Manchin in the past have to realize that he only cares about creating wealth for his family and wielding personal power…. Manchin is very powerful in West Virginia and in Congress, yet no one can recount any positives from his state that derive from his power.”
Manchin, Fryson argues, “almost single-handedly destroyed the progressive movement in West Virginia.” And he goes on to note that West Virginia does, in fact, have a “progressive history.”
Discussing West Virginia politicians of the past, Fryson points out that “conservative Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd…. always brought resources back to West Virginia.” Fryson describes Sen. Jennings Randolph as a “Roosevelt progressive” who “left office in 1985.”
“Manchin continually weakened West Virginia Democrats and has done the same to the national party and the Biden agenda to the detriment of the poor and the marginalized in West Virginia and nationally,” Fryson writes. “History will not be kind to the Manchin name.”