Joe Manchin: Why I Won’t Seek Re-Election to the Senate

From a Wall Street Journal commentary by Joe Manchin headlined “Why I Won’t Be Seeking Re-Election to the Senate”:

I have always been a responsible pro-life advocate, but polls and elections like this week’s ballot initiative in Ohio show that most Americans want the balance found for the past 50 years in Roe v. Wade.

So last year I pushed for a bill that would have codified the 1973 ruling into law. At the time, Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. We should have had the votes to pass the bill.

But the Senate Democratic leadership and the majority of the caucus refused to allow a vote on the floor because they wanted to expand abortion rights beyond Roe v. Wade. They put politics over the will of the people.

Later that year, the same thing happened on the other side of the aisle with a bill to reform energy permitting. America’s energy security is and will continue to be threatened without such a law, and passing one has long been a Republican priority. This time the Republican Senate leadership and the majority of their caucus killed the bill because they were angry that I had helped pass an energy-security bill they didn’t like. Again, they put politics over the will of the people.

Like the Democrats on abortion, Republicans refused to take yes for an answer. Both events demonstrated the kind of self-defeating political tribalism that has become all too common in Washington.

The U.S. has a lot of problems that desperately need solving. Our economy isn’t working for many Americans, who face rising costs of food, fuel and everything else. There are immigration and border crises with drugs illegally entering our country and killing Americans every day. Our national debt is out of control, and Americans don’t feel safe in their own communities.

We are providing critical aid to two of our allies fighting wars for their survival, and we must avoid being pulled into a major war ourselves. These aren’t Republican or Democratic challenges. They are American challenges. They affect every one of us, and we need to face them together.

There are enough votes in Congress to solve or at least make headway against every one of these problems. A genuine commitment to legislating would put America on firmer footing for the next 20 years. But the Democratic and Republican machines have no interest in solutions. Instead, they stoke outrage because doing so brings them fame and funding. Today, the business of politics is about monetizing anger and getting paid for it. And business has never been better.

Not for me.

After months of deliberation and long conversations with family, I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia. I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I won’t run for re-election to the Senate. I will finish my term while traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is interest in building a movement to mobilize the middle, find common ground and bring Americans together.

Serving the people of West Virginia as a state legislator, secretary of state, governor and U.S. senator has been the honor of my life. I am proud of having worked every day of the past 42 years trying to make things better in the Mountain State.

But this moment in the nation’s history is so filled with peril and political dysfunction that I want to work not only for my beloved West Virginia but for all Americans. Working together, I want to eliminate what is standing in the way of so many obvious and popular solutions. While the Democratic and Republican parties increasingly cater to the extremes, most Americans are moderate, levelheaded folks, and they are plain worn out.

We need to reaffirm that country should always come before party, but there are real structural issues to get there. Today, the incentives in politics reward bad behavior and demand party purity at the expense of problem-solving. Too much money flows to too few candidates, who stay so long in their offices they are no longer responsive to the people. We have primaries that limit who can participate and elections that are almost never competitive anymore. Democracy is supposed to give the people a voice, but Citizens United v. FEC, toxic gerrymandering, closed primaries and the lack of term limits are silencing that voice. It’s time to give power to more people and hold our elected officials more accountable.

I know our country isn’t nearly as divided as Washington wants you to believe. We share common values of family, freedom, democracy, dignity and a belief that we can overcome any challenge together. We want leaders who will fight to unite Americans instead of fighting each other. It isn’t too much to ask for.

Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from West Virginia.

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