The story of one ambitious man’s rise to power, influence and breathtaking lack of irony.
Once upon a time there was a land where almost no one visited. The land was unblessed, except for one thing. Black, dusty stuff that came out of the ground. No one in this land knew what to do with this black, dusty stuff until one cold winter day, a man living in this unblessed land, after lighting his pipe, threw the still flaming match on a pile of the black, dusty stuff and, wonder of wonders, the black, dusty ignited, warming the man and all his friends nearby. On that day, no one in this unblessed land where almost no one visited was ever cold again.
Unfortunately, the black, dusty stuff didn’t come out of the ground by itself; it had to be taken out from deep below the ground, in places called mines, by men with picks and shovels. The work was hard and the men often got sick from the black dust the black stuff spread. The sickness these hard working men got became known as “black lung disease.” The miners, as they became to be called, made little money, barely providing for their families. The sons of these miners followed their fathers into the mines; their daughters married other miners. And so it went.
Although education wasn’t a priority for the people of this land, there was one thing they knew well. And that was the difference between north and south and east and west. And that the land just to the east of their land where almost no one ever visited was named, “Virginia.” So, in their geographic wisdom these people named their land, “West Virginia.” But, alas, the aura of Virginia didn’t rub off and they remained poor.
Many years later an ambitious boy from this land that almost no one visited, this land now called West Virginia, was born. Unlike many of their neighbors, the men from this boy’s family did not go under the ground with picks and shovels; this boy’s family were merchants and didn’t want this boy to become a miner. So, they sent him to college. The boy’s name was Joe.
When Joe went to college he discovered that he liked to party. So, although the most popular parties were the ones thrown by the GammaOmegaPi (ΓΩΠ)fraternity (or GOP), ambitious Joe thought it would be better for his ambitions to go to the parties run by the the school’s smaller, “Jackass Club” (soon to be called the “Donkey Club,” then, simply, the “Dems”) where there would be less competition and he could more easily become one of the leaders.
It worked, and soon after, Joe rose to the top, not only of the Dems but of all of the land now called West Virginia – ultimately to be named King of the Land.
But Joe was not happy being King. Despite having heard that much further north there was another king, Max of Bialystok, also known as the King of Old Broadway, was fond of saying, “It’s good to be King,” Joe didn’t think it was good. Frankly, he didn’t like all the work the King of West Virginia had to do. And he certainly didn’t like having to meet with the poor, poorly educated black-faced miners with black lung disease and their barely educated families (black-faced and diseased due to the dust from the black, dusty stuff, now called coal, that they had to dig up from the ground).
So King Joe abdicated and, still a Dem in a land where the majority of the people love the GOP, became Joe, Duke of Manchin, and was surprisingly elected to be something known as a senator where he was able to play out his ambitions across all the lands that made up the Empire of America.
Although when Joe, Duke of Manchin came to the Senate he was still a Dem, he realized that because the land of West Virginia, where no one ever visited, loved the GOP so much, he would have to call himself a Dem but act like GammaOmegaPi or he would end up going home to West Virginia, no longer a duke and with no one visiting him – because no one ever visited the land now called West Virginia. So, Joe, Duke of Manchin became known as a “DINO,” a “Dem In Name Only.”
As Joe, Duke of Manchin learned more and more about the rules of this place they called the Senate, he became more and more enamored of them. One rule he learned about was a thing called the “filibuster.” But since Joe, Duke of Manchin had only heard the word but never saw it written down, he first thought it was a “Phillybuster,” similar to a sandwich delicacy created in a land just north of West Virginia, in a land called Philadelphia, called a “Philly cheese steak,” only bigger and bustier.
But soon Joe, Duke of Manchin learned that the filibuster was not a sandwich and was, in fact, first established by an evil man named Sir Aaron of Burr, and was an arcane rule, that threatened democracy throughout the land. He also heard from his fellow Dems that this filibuster must be overturned if democratic legislation was to be passed and democracy was to survive. But true to his DINO status, Joe, Duke of Manchin sided with his old GOP friends and would not vote to overturn the filibuster no matter the consequences, saying, it was an institution of the Senate and that he was keeping with the wishes of his mentor from the land of West Virginia, Lord Robert of Byrd. The Duke’s position on the filibuster was derided by his Dem colleagues but was greeted by the senior GOP leader, Count McConnell of Moscow with many huzzahs!
As for the Duke’s Dem friends, even more difficult for them to understand than his position on the filibuster was his vote against a proposed law, the For the People Act, that would, in an effort to help to preserve American democracy, roll back dozens of partisan laws being passed by Republican state legislatures to limit early and mail-in voting, empower bi-partisan poll watchers, restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system. Among dozens of other provisions, it would also require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no excuse absentee balloting.
The Duke, not noting the irony, explained his position this way. “The fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.”
When confronted by voting rights expert, Reb Ari Berman of Brooklyn, who said, “I don’t recall Republicans asking for bipartisan support before they introduced 400 voter suppression bills & enacted 22 new voter suppression laws in 14 states so far this year, ” Joe, Duke of Manchin said that he was late for a meeting and was not addressing any questions. Reb Ari of Brooklyn never asked the Duke about the irony of his position, remembering that neither DINOs nor GOP members understood the meaning of the word.
Although the filibuster remained and the For the People Act was not passed, the Dems, in spite of DINOs like Joe, the Duke of Manchin and Kyrsten, Baroness of Sinema, rallied their forces and overcame GOP efforts to suppress voting; they won significant majorities in the elections in the year 2022.
And, Joe, Duke of Manchin? Despite his DINO status, and true to the nature of the land of West Virginia, the land that no one visited, he ran for reelection in the year 2024 as a Dem and was handedly defeated by a bonafide member of the GOP party. But by this point, it didn’t matter. And, neither did the filibuster. Why? Because the efforts of the Dems to overcome partisan voter suppression laws were so successful they ended up controlling this place called the Senate 62-40*. And everyone, except Joe, Duke of Manchin and Count McConnell of Moscow lived happily ever after under the loving reign of Queen Kamala of Oakland who was followed by King Pete of Buttigieg, who was followed by…
Wait, me thinks this fable is getting ahead of itself.
(*By 2023 the land known as Washington DC had become what is known as a state and was awarded two senators, expanding the Senate to 102 members. And, in 2025, the land known as Puerto Rico also became a state and was also awarded two senators, further expanding the Senate to 104 members. Subsequent to this second expansion, in the election of 2026, the Dems controlled this newly expanded Senate, 64-40.)