Unable to sleep, I awoke pretty early this morning and turned on the TV. "Next up, Senator Joe Manchin from the state of West Virginia" Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough said. I don't watch MoJo very often, but this I had to see. And after the commercial break I was blown away by what was said.
A bit of perspective: I am a young black male on the South Side of Chicago. The tragedy in Connecticut has struck me in a very real way, as the issue of gun violence in this country is one I feel very strongly about. While nothing of this magnitude has befallen my city, gun violence in Chicago has become all to normal. As first responders arrived on the scene of the Sandy Hook school that fateful day, 10 people were shot here in the city - one just five blocks from my home. All told, two people were left dead and 16 wounded this past weekend alone.
While Chicago will always be home, West Virginia has a very special place in my heart. My family hails from the Mountain State, and though I was born in New York City, West Virginia has always felt like a second home to me. I know this place fairly well, and know just how important the sportsman culture is.
And so I find myself squarely between two opposing viewpoints - one that argues any limitations are an affront to the Constitution and a time-honored tradition and another that argues that extreme measures must be taken as our own are being killed daily on the streets of a major American city. But it is exactly this kind of thinking that has hindered us from addressing this problem.
Senator Manchin is undoubtably one of the most conservative members of our caucus. On this particular issue, he may well be the most conservative. That is why I believe his comments this morning are so important.
West Virginia has increasingly become a ruby red state. While Manchin won re-election to his full six-year term with more than 60% of the vote, President Obama took just 35% to Governor Romeny - his worst performance with a winning Democratic Senate candidate on the ballot in any state last month. In fact, this was the President's worst performance with a current or incoming Democratic Senator. Period.
While he did not call for anything specific, his comments on assault rifles and magazine clip capacities should be acknowledged as a big deal. As is said, talk is cheap, but he went far and beyond the "all we can do is pray" and "now is not the time" rhetoric that too often follows these events. And in a state like West Virginia, this kind of talk isn't all that cheap. Even after the President's inspiring words last night, I was skeptical still that this would change much. Republicans have been disturbingly quiet in the wake of the tragedy, and red state Democrats seemed to be insurmountable.
I think Senator Manchin changes things in a very profound way.