In 1972 Dalton Trumbo published his account of the "up is down" era of the anti-Communist inquisition in Hollywood. It was a short set of essays entitled "Time of the Toad." The title refers to an anecdote about Emile Zola during his famous defense of Dreyfus in the ugly anti-Semitic attacks in France in the 1890s. When asked how he could tolerate such hatred and calumny, Zola replied: "Each morning I eat a live toad - then I am assured nothing worse will ensue the remainder of the day."
Progressives in West Virginia are indulging in toad in their efforts to elect the current Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, to fill the late Robert Byrd's U.S. Senate seat. Manchin is anti-choice and anti-gay and takes a lot of money from both coal companies and coal unions. He is a "concerned" but nonetheless still supporter of mountaintop-removal mining. He supports the health care bill, but has been "conservative" on needed future stimulus. This last constraint is difficult to take, as West Virginia already enjoys, mostly thanks to Senator Byrd's efforts over the years, more money in federal benefits and subsidies than it pays out in federal taxes.
Nonetheless, Manchin's opponent, John Raese, a multi-millionaire (by inheritance), is an extremist Republican who would like to throw everything back to before child labor laws, repeal health care AND Social Security, substitute Sunday school for public education, and is a firm believer in the social philosophy of: "The hungry dog hunts harder". Naturally, Don Blankenship, the top executive of Massey Mining, rabidly anti-union, blatant buyer of Supreme Court justices, as yet un-indicted ringleader behind the death of 26 miners this year in West Virginia, is fully behind Mr. Raese.
With coded hat-tips to various racist and extremist elements in the tea party wing of the Republican Party, Raese hopes to leverage past segregationist tendencies in the state to make the election a referendum on conservative religious critics of Obama and their various preposterous falsehoods about the president's citizenship, religion and agenda.
Polls make this race too close to call. Some are having a hard time swallowing the "toad" of Manchin - but if they do not, something much worse will happen, both in West Virginia and the nation.
Photo: West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, left, in a very tight race with far-right Republican John Raese, right, for the open U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia. (wvgov.org/flickr/cc/JohnRaese4Senate, via talkingpointsmemo.com)