CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Prior to the recent election, I asserted in this newspaper that Joe Manchin was unfit to enter the halls of the Senate of the United States to occupy the seat vacated upon Sen. Byrd's death. It gives me no joy to note that I have been proven correct more quickly than even I could have imagined.
With his shameful conduct in the debate over "Don't Ask Don't Tell," the entirety of America got to see Joe as many of us have seen him for years: a political craven, moving only when certain of the approval of his moneyed masters.
Sadly, in this modern exercise looking to what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature," Joe Manchin has been held in the balance and found wanting. He was the ONLY Democrat to side with the Republican Party in stopping the repeal of DADT as part of a larger Defense Appropriations Bill.
Imagine that! Joe Manchin's homophobia runs so deep as to compel him to endanger tens of thousands of American service personnel under arms so that the United States might prolong a vocal minority's prejudices against equally American homosexuals serving in shunned, shamed silence under the colors and in harm's way.
As I write (Dec. 18), the Senate has just cleared its final hurdle in the struggle to afford basic human dignity to the thousands of homosexual men and women serving in the military of the United States. It is past time it happened.
The repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is every bit as important as the racial integration of the military accomplished under the leadership of President Harry Truman.
Yet, when the roll was called, Joe Manchin had absented himself from the field. He didn't even vote. He ran away. He was the only Democrat to do so. Arguably terrified of the wrath of petty bigots and homophobes back home, he turned his famously deaf ear on an entire segment of the United States military.
To those of us who have struggled for years for basic human rights in Southern West Virginia, the turning of Joe Manchin's deaf ear was nothing new. Had we been asked, we could have easily told the gay community what to expect from Joe Manchin in the Senate.
For the six years in which he occupied the governor's mansion, Joe was as impassive as a graven image to the heartfelt pleas of people blasted, poisoned, uprooted and displaced by the ravages of mountaintop removal. No horror was dire enough that Joe Manchin would seek an end to the torment of thousands of citizens of this state.
This state's, and this nation's, gay population now knows how it feels to be something less than human in the eyes of Joe Manchin. They don't have multi-thousand dollar checks to give him, so they don't count.
Still, though the lives and essential human dignity of gay people and people tortured by mountaintop removal don't count to Sen. Manchin, our votes still do. It is past time for the various factions of the progressive movement in West Virginia to find the common sense and common cause that will lead this state into the future. Hidebound conservatism will not. Middle-of-the-road appeasement will not. Bigotry and fear will not.
In the weeks leading up to the election, some argued that Mr. Manchin would "help us preserve the Democratic majority in the Senate." How's that working out?
Kincaid, of Fayette County is an activist and one of America's 50 best internet broadcasters, according to "Talkers" magazine.