Activist Paula Jean Swearengin says Manchin is Bought and Paid for, and invested in the demise of West Virginia
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Michael Sainato: I’m Michael Sainato with The Real News Network and here we have with us Senator Joe Manchin’s primary challenger in West Virginia, with brand new congress, Paula Jean Swearengin. Paula Jean S.: Hi. Michael Sainato: So, Paula. Thanks for being with us today. So, can you tell us a little bit about why Joe Manchin deserves to be primaried? Paula Jean S.: Because he’s corporate-serving and not people-serving. His daughter is the CEO of Mylan and she’s his second-top donor. He has a lot of investments in the coal industry. He’s not invested in our communities. For a long time, we’ve dealt with politicians like him, and Evan Jenkins, and Shelley Moore Capito, that have been bought and paid for. And they’re invested in our demise. And we have dealt with generation after generation of cultural genocide. But, we’ve also won many labor struggles. Our ancestors have fought and won. And that’s not gonna end in this generation. People in West Virginia are sick and tired of corrupt politicians not investing in a stable economy, not investing in a good economic infrastructure. They’re not invested in health care, and they’re not invested in education. And we have one of the biggest drug epidemics in the nation, and his pocketbooks are part of that. So, yeah, we’re just tired of being sick and tired. I’m a single mom in Coal City, West Virginia. I got tired of begging him every time I seen him for clean water, clean air. Progression in West Virginia, we just don’t have it. We’re one of the sickest and poorest states in the nation. And we have no return in our communities. And West Virginia’s rising up. Michael Sainato: And what do you make of Senator Manchin really embracing conservative outlets. He held an hour-long, off-the-record meeting with Breitbart. He praised Trump about the Paris Climate Agreement. So why do you think corporate democrats, establishment democrats have really been silent in holding Manchin accountable? Paula Jean S.: I don’t know why they’re not holding him accountable. But, West Virginia’s certainly holding him accountable. Because we asked for a progressive platform that we’re not receiving from the DNC or him. Michael Sainato: What hasn’t Manchin been doing in terms of addressing a lot of the issues? The opioid issue in West Virginia, the poverty issues. Paula Jean S.: Well, they’re not even trying to create a diverse economic infrastructure, because their funders are funded to making themselves rich. He makes decisions for his funders. Yeah, he’s not doing anything. And one of his funders, his daughter. You know, Mylan, I mean, it’s common sense. He doesn’t even want … We had medicinal marijuana come in to West Virginia. He calls marijuana a gateway drug. His daughter’s connected to that too, so it’s gonna benefit the pharmaceutical companies, but it’s not really gonna benefit West Virginia that much. We need greener technologies. We can build solar panels and wind farms in West Virginia. And we just don’t have it. We just don’t have it. And he’s not invested in giving it to us. So, by the people, for the people, we’re gonna take our state back. Michael Sainato: What do you have to say to democrats, and even some progressives, who write off states like West Virginia as Trump country. Paula Jean S.: In West Virginia, we’re [inaudible 00:03:51] against each other for basic human rights. And that’s putting food on our tables and water. Bernie won the primary in West Virginia, but Donald Trump came in and promised jobs. There was that little clip with Hillary Clinton saying that she was, “We’re gonna put coal miners out of work.” So people are afraid. I mean, people are really hungry and afraid in West Virginia. But we have some of the higher rates of birth defects, cancer, asthma. Some of our children are now getting some of the diseases that coal miners are known to get, because they, you know, working deep in the mines. So it’s just depression. It’s oppression and desperation. I hope America starts noticing and maybe investing in helping us a little bit. Because we are good, hospitable people. But you know, it’s a hard feeling to worry where your next meal’s gonna come from. Or if you’re gonna be able to pay your power bill, or keep a roof over your kids heads. That’s not fair, you know, to blame us because we have those basic needs that we’re not getting. Michael Sainato: How should progressives be holding the coal industry accountable? Because it seems people in West Virginia really do hold the coal in high regard because of the jobs it’s provided. But, what are the solutions to the automation and the coal industry declining? Paula Jean S.: Well, I’m afraid. Our leaders should have been looking at alternatives probably 20-30 years ago. And they haven’t. And I just said, “Why?” I’m afraid even if we start advancing to other technologies, we’re still gonna suffer for a while. We already experiencing depopulation, because people are having to move away for employment. That’s why we have … You know, trillions of dollars went out of West Virginia for coal. We need to put those trillions of dollars back. The Industrial Revolution was built on the backs of coal miners, their families, and surrounding communities. And this nation was powered by our blood. West Virginia now needs to invest and put that money back into our infrastructure. The taxpayers’ dollars is having to pick up the slack. Even like with the Reclaim Act in West Virginia now. And we’re having to pay for it, not the industry, not our leaders. So, I’d like to see West Virginia be put back on the map, as far as a good stable economic infrastructure. And give people jobs that’s not gonna kill them. And not gonna kill their neighbors. Michael Sainato: So, in the current climate with Trump president, and the republicans already controlling both houses, I think a lot of people are afraid of challenging people like Joe Manchin, who’s a corporate democrat. Because they don’t want to weaken him in the face of a republican challenger. What do you say to those people that say, “Look, like we have to just be thankful. It’s a democrat in office and we have to focus more on taking on republicans and, you know, expanding … Uh, you know, we focus on the White House and take, taking more seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives.” How do you respond to those kind of arguments? Paula Jean S.: Joe Manchin’s only a democrat by name. He’s got the same funders as Evan Jenkins. If people were worried about us not having democrats, then look at Joe Manchin, he’s not a democrat.