Manchin's Mad: A Democrat's Dissent

Ryan Heshmati

November 18, 2022

President Biden's presidency faces challenge after challenge, from working with a tight Senate to an economic downturn. Now, even the President's party members vocally dissent against his comments. In powerful words, Senator Joe Manchin attacked the President's recent anti-coal plant comments. President Biden said, "We're going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar." The Senator released a statement on November fifth, attacking the President's words. When even the President's party cannot rally behind him, it becomes difficult to see how President Biden can pass bipartisan legislation.

The Democratic Senator from West Virginia asserted the President's comments are "…divorced from reality," continuing by accusing them as disconnected from the problematic costs of energy in 2022 America. Coming from West Virginia, the influences surrounding Senator Manchin likely shaped his defense of coal. According to CNN's Ella Nielsen, his state is the number two coal producer in the United States, and he founded Enersystems, a private brokerage for waste coal. 

The Senator's remarks go deeper. He went after Biden, whose approval rating is far from ideal, reasoning, "Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden…." According to Gallup, the American people are deeply dissatisfied with energy policy, with only 27% expressing satisfaction with "the nation's energy policies" as of January 2022, and energy costs have only worsened since then.

The President's press secretary has criticized the portrayal of President Biden's comments as having "…been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended…." She contended that the President generally spoke about the direction the energy industry is transitioning. His press secretary worked further to applaud the coal industry workers for powering many integral parts of America.

Senator Manchin's attack is quite noteworthy, however, as he went so far as to accuse the President of flip-flopping, saying he gives the appearance that his "…positions change daily depending on the audience." These are powerful words from a Democratic Senator to a Democratic president, especially an influential one in the Senate of 2022 where the Republicans and Democrats both hold half the chamber.

Whether or not one takes issue with the President's words regarding abandoning coal in America, the implications of these words are severe. The potential of drawn-out infighting within the Democratic party is hazardous for them. For the party to be successful in future elections, it may need to reunite to increase its chances of winning.