Monday, August 02, 2010

West Virginia Democrats Deserve A Real Primary-- Meet Ken Hechler, The Progressive In The Race


When Ken Hechler announced his campaign for the open U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia, the D.C. Establishment immediately dismissed him as a feeble old crackpot. He is old-- in his 90s-- but as you can see from the video above he's anything but feeble and far from a crackpot. Dave Neiwert introduced me to a friend of his, Bob Kincaid, a liberal radio host in West Virginia who agreed to write a guest post for us about this primary race. His report:

Something very important is happening in West Virginia on August 28. That's the date of the Democratic Special Primary to see who will run for the unexpired term occasioned by the passing of Robert C. Byrd.

At present, the front-runner is Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s present, term-limited governor, and a Democrat In Name Only (DINO). Think: “Ben Nelson.” Think: “Blanche Lincoln with better hair.” In the Senate, Manchin’s “pro-business” voting record will make the likes of Nelson and Lincoln look like Ted Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson.

Lucky for Liberals and Progressives, a hero has stepped up to challenge him, a voice from our liberal roots, a man who knew and advised those whom we hold as heroes.

Ken Hechler served nobly in the Second World War, even authoring the classic history The Bridge At Remagen. As a field historian, he interviewed the Defendants at Nuremberg, including Hermann Goring. 

Hechler was a friend, confidant and adviser to President Harry Truman, and the only member of Congress to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Selma. Do we need a man with that kind of courage in the Senate of the United States? How many politicians do you know who are willing to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience? In June 2009, Ken Hechler was. Ken Hechler has more courage at 95 years of age than the entirety of West Virginia’s political establishment taken together. 

During his eighteen year career in the House of Representatives, Ken Hechler showed the real meaning of leadership when he proposed and passed the first-ever coal mine safety legislation over the lupine howls of the coal industry. Thousands of American families owe their lives and well-being to Congressman Hechler, including the widows and orphans for whom Black Lung compensation proved life-saving. 

As West Virginia’s multi-term Secretary of State, Ken Hechler pursued electoral corruption with vigor and tenacity. He helped send people to prison who sold votes to the highest bidder.

Ken's 95 years old, and at 95 is sharper of mind than Joe Manchin was at 40. He's committed to a vision of an Appalachia no longer ravaged and abused by the coal industry and its thuggish leadership, among them Massey Energy's Don Blankenship. He’s also committed to a nation that takes care of its people, and can be counted on to vote the way Progressives and Liberals, themselves, would vote. Social Security will be safe with Ken Hechler. He will be a voice against fool’s errand wars, a voice for environmental stewardship and an advocate for the forgotten middle and lower classes.

The same cannot be said of Joe Manchin. As noted, Manchin is a shameless ConservaDem, an enabler of corporate rapine and pillage. As a coal industry insider, Joe Manchin will work tirelessly to do the bidding of the coal industry in the Senate of the United States. 

Senate seats no longer have meaning only to the individual states. In this particular case, Joe Manchin will personally make sure that NO climate legislation ever reaches the desk of President Obama for the rest of President Obama’s present term. Why? Climate legislation, and anything touching upon CO2’s toxic impact on our lives, is anathema to the coal industry, of which Joe Manchin is a wholly-owned subsidiary. One may fairly say that, to some degree, the fate of the nation and the world rides on this Special Primary election. Again: Joe Manchin will STOP any climate legislation from reaching President Obama’s desk in the remainder of not only the President’s first term, but in a second, as well.

If he goes to the Senate, Joe Manchin will stick his thumb in the eye of every liberal and progressive in the United States. Want proof? Back when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was trying to stop the EPA from following science in making determinations about the dangers posed by carbon dioxide, Joe Manchin issued a statement praising Senator Rockefeller for siding with the Republicans.

While Ken’s campaign against Manchin is deemed a “long shot,” it's still a shot, and we badly need to garner support for Mr. Hechler. Nothing would be better than for Liberals and Progressives to step forward in support of Mr. Hechler. He is the last of the great mid-century Progressives and he not only needs, but deserves our support if we are to be true to our principles. He needs financial support, phone-banking support, media support (get to it, bloggers!) and on-the-ground volunteer support. Beating Joe Manchin in this primary would serve notice that working people, liberal and progressive activists, will not simply let themselves be steam-rolled by corporations flush with Citizens United cash.

It is easy to engage the rhetoric of crisis in an election, and we are all familiar with such tactics. My advocacy on Mr. Hechler’s behalf has that sense of urgency, but in this case it is very, Very, VERY real, not only for West Virginia, but for the entire nation and the future of the Republic. In this election, in this brief span of time, we have a chance to put a stick in corporate America’s spokes by electing Ken Hechler to run in November for the unexpired term of his former colleague, Robert C. Byrd.

By the way, the Latin root for “senate” is “senex,” meaning “old.” Let’s not pretend that the Senate, the nation’s repository for its ancient wisdom, has no business with a nonagenarian in it. You can visit Ken Hechler's campaign website here.

UPDATE: If Rand Paul Wins A Senate Seat, He And Manchin Could Work Together

Most Democrats who read Rand Paul's crackpot and dystopian law-of-the-jungle worldview are horrified. But when the same bullshit is spouted by Joe Manchin, who isn't getting the media scrutiny Paul is, no one complains. Can anyone in West Virginia tell me how Rand and Joe (who also take money from the same sleazy corporate interests differ here:
Reform-minded lawmakers in both the House and Senate are pushing legislation to bolster the work-safety protections for miners working underground. But don't try to convince Rand Paul.

The Republican running to replace outgoing Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) in the coal-mining hub of Kentucky said recently that Washington has no business formulating mine safety rules.

"The bottom line is: I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules," Paul said at a recent campaign stop in response to questions about April's deadly mining explosion in West Virginia, according to a profile in Details magazine. "You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs." 

"I know that doesn't sound …  I want to be compassionate, and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"

Democrats in both chambers in recent weeks have introduced legislation designed to rein in mining companies with a history of ignoring work-safety rules in order to maximize coal production.

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At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Appalachia Rising said...

Join us on September 25-7 in Washington, D.C. at Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal and surface mining. Appalachia Rising is is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia.
Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining.
Appalachia Rising will consist of two events. First, the weekend conference, Sept. 25-26, Appalachia Rising, Voices from the Mountains will provide an opportunity to build or join the movement for justice in Appalachia through strategy discussions and share knowledge across regional and generational lines. The second event on Monday, Sept.27, is the Appalachia Rising Day of Action which will unify thousands in calling for an end to mountaintop removal and all forms of steep slope surface mining though a vibrant march and rally. An act of dignified non-violent civil disobedience will be possible for those who wish to express themselves by risking arrest.
For more info, visit

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is DWT going to add him to an ActBlue page? He doesn't have an online contribution method.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

We're trying to. We can only put someone up on Blue America if they sign up with ActBlue and I understand Ken is putting the necessary paperwork together. As soon as he does... up he goes. In fact, we're hoping to have him for a live session at Crooks & Liars asap.


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