White-Managed Democracy

A Tale of Two Parties — and a Coal Mine

Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash

Here it is again in case you missed it, democracy according to Joe Manchin: The people form a majority government that can pass laws according to the will of the people, but the minority government in the other party gets the right to block the winning majority with the help of someone from the winning majority, thus preventing the will of the people from being enacted, so that the democracy won’t be weakened. Huh?

OK, if you are scratching your head, Mr. Manchin said in his statement that the reason he is against the “For the People Act” is because “partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.” This kind of seem contradictory, that the will of people should be stopped because of the will of the people. It’s like we are getting the runaround. Democracy, which is meant to be contentious and partisan, can be weakened by partisanship, which is democracy in action.

Until you remember what is being voted on and where he is from. Context is king (since democracy isn’t working it appears, we need to revert to authoritarian metaphors).

The idea of majority rule in West Virginia means white majority rules. Since whites form the basis of almost 94 percent of the population, ole Joe has to get power from a majority of white voters. If he is seen siding with ‘blacks’ for some idealist piece of legislation, like the “For the People Act” that seeks to stop black voter suppression, then he will be voted out. The West Virginians already tipped to Trump, and vastly so. Trump got 68.62 percent of the vote. The t-shirts probably read: WV Whites Wild for Trump. It’s amazing that Manchin is still the democratic senator. The only other state where Trump won every county was Oklahoma, where the whites come sweeping down the plains.

So, voting for Manchin is not about ideals and ‘doing the right thing’. He saw his winning margin drop from 61 percent to under 50 in his re-election in 2018. That means he got back in power thanks to the ‘blue wave’, and probably thanks to many white semi-Republicans who didn’t show up at the polls because they were embarrassed by Trump. Perhaps some felt a bit betrayed when not one single coal job came back, with some even disappearing.

Now Manchin must face the white coal miners who feel further threatened by Biden’s push to eliminate coal and fossil fuel altogether. At this point, Joe M. is trying to hang onto his job, maintain the 50 votes the Democrats have. And that means voting “white”. Voting repression is NIMBY in West Virginia (they don’t have a lot of blacks in their backyards), a problem that doesn’t exist like in the South and Florida. Instead, it’s place where the democratic candidate must pander to the white, not to some abstract pool of ‘big tent’ ethnic city dwelling democrats.

And that’s how the blacks lose out. The majority of democrats on the large scale might be ideal and representative of the future of democracy, especially on the coasts, but on this smaller red state scale, it is about practicality, real world politics, white rule — their own private Idaho.

It’s like in Russia, where the new term is ‘managed democracy’. This is a type of democracy very popular across all former Soviet countries. A ‘strong man’ took power after collapse of several centuries or a millennia of dictator rule. The new strong man, not really culturally having experienced anything else, simply banished the opposition when elections rolled around by charging them with a crime, and then stayed in power by cruising to an easy win at the polls (see Kazakhstan, Belarus, etc.) Thus, Putin is managing democracy in that he is managing to repress it, though it remains on the books as existing in an ideal, if unlived, state of existence. Erdogan in Turkey, Duterte in The Philippines, are among examples outside the form Soviet Union, though Hungary, Venezuela and Egypt and others fit this mold.

The same could be said in the U.S., home of the revolutionary, enlighten based democracy of freedom and justice for all. But the constant struggle we experience is that of true democracy versus that of ‘white-managed’ democracy (done through voter suppression, Jim Crow, separate but equal, gerrymandering). That struggle continues as it always has since our founding — unfortunately.

This struggle probably happens within some people who must manage the ‘bridge’ between the white GOP and the pluralistic whites that side with whites (white abolitionists, freedom riders, other white who sided with blacks), like Joe Manchin. To be fair, he probably internally wrestles with his decision. Other democrats serve as predecessors of compromise for him, to name a few: the Clintons from Arkansas, Jimmy Carter from pre-Stacy Abrams Georgia, LBJ from pre-Civil Rights Texas, etc. — Joe Manchin is not a maverick, but rather in good company.

These ‘bridge’ Democrats are probably torn and tempted to go full Republican at times.

Thomas Jefferson, the famous Southern Liberal, was similarly torn, as he owned slaves that were valuable and didn’t give them up most likely for fear of losing his property, wealth, status; and on the other side the bridge, he made his liberal ideals widely known, and became president based on them. Probably he was afraid his white fellow Southern slaveholders would not have supported his presidency and his existence if he suddenly renounced slavery, freed all the blacks, and made Sally first lady.

Instead, Jefferson remained silent, the first ‘managed white democrat’ (of either party) in a long line that led up to Manchin.

The white Democrats north of the Mason-Dixon line were happy to remain idealists and openly unconflicted. They don’t have to be hounded down the hallway by a gaggle of reporters like Joe is as they move to their office (even after the blacks headed north under the great migrations, they ‘were put’ in the inner city and separated with red-lining — out-of-site out-of-mind laws that allowed these ideals to remain mostly idealistic).

I started off this morning puzzled by this seemingly anti-democratic statement of Senator Manchin. But by working through it, I believe I kind of get him a bit more. Personally, I’m against the filibuster as it started off as a racist tactic as put in place by John Calhoun, the father of the confederacy. It began in the 1840’s as a way to repress blacks and allowing minority rule to stop abolitionists from ending slavery. It continued to be used solely as a way to repress blacks from getting power until the Civil Rights Act.

It is still used today, which McConnel has done by repressing any of legislation from reaching a debate, stopping us from witnessing the pluralistic diversity from debating on the Senate floor with him and his white party (excuse me, white until Tim Scott). That would have been bad optics, debating with ‘those kind.’

Now we see that status quo of a filibuster maintained explicitly in the case of Mr. Manchin to ‘white-manage’ democracy.

I’m for the “For the People Act”, which is the ‘idealist democracy’ law meant to stop voter repression. I don’t like the ‘third way,’ of Manchin, and have the filibuster simply because of its long racist history. But power is addictive, and when you fight to get it, it is hard to let it go because of some ideal. Maybe like Jefferson he’ll find a way and free his slave-wife and children in his will.

In the meantime, we’ll “just have to live with” the teaming up of the populist Trump GOP — the white majority party who won’t be investigated for their January 6th insurrection — and the ‘third party’ of white-managed Democrats repressing the minorities in an attempt to keep ‘bipartisanship’ alive. For whatever that’s worth.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Bren Kelly

Bren Kelly


Engaged in new Ideas and old Inequalities, putting the system back into systemic, born on the 50th Anniversary of Women's Lib Day, still seeking injustices.