The following is a transcript of an interview with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin that aired Sunday, November 8, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who joins us from Charleston, West Virginia. Good morning to you, Senator.
SENATOR JOE MANCHIN: Morning, MARGARET, how are you?
MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I’m doing well. I wonder if you agree with your Democratic colleague, Congressman Richmond, who said this was a wakeup call to senators this election, that it is a different day. Do you agree? And what should the president-elect’s first order of business be?
SEN. MANCHIN: Well, basically, Joe Biden has said he’s going to be a president for all of us, and that’s exactly what he has to do, bring us all together, bringing Democrats and Republicans together, because it is a wakeup call for all of us. The country is more divided now than any time in our history or basically any time since the Civil War, as far as I can see. And we don’t want to go back to those days, so we have to come together. Joe Biden got elected in a very, very contested primary, and all the nuances that were thrown on the Democratic Party is not who we are. He was not for any of this stuff- and I think Jim Clyburn said it best, that was an albatross around us. Basically labeling every Democrat as a socialist or supporting socialism, that’s not who we are. It’s not who I am is not how we were raised. And it hurt a lot of good Democrats in rural America, Montana, for one. Other places around the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, President Trump says he’s fighting for the forgotten men and women, and he seems to define that as non-college educated whites. 80 percent of the workforce in your state lacks a four-year college degree. It went ruby red for President Trump. Why didn’t the Democratic Party’s message break through?
SEN. MANCHIN: Well, it was a- it wasn’t a good message. I mean, we let them tag us before basically we could remind the people who we are, but we didn’t have a good message. I’ll be very honest with you, MARGARET. Here’s the thing, four years ago in rural America, in America in general, voted for Donald Trump because Democrats were mad, Independents were mad. They thought they’d been left behind. And I always said this, West Virginians felt like they were a returning Vietnam veterans. We did everything this country asked and now we weren’t good enough or you left us behind. There was no pathway forward. So they voted in record numbers. They went from being mad to being scared in 2020. They were scared of this socialism that was thrown out there by a radical part of the so-called left that was throwing all this out, that basically scared the bejesus out of people and that hung on and hung on strongly. And it’s not who we are. It is not who we are and it’s not what we’re about. And I have fought against that. Joe Biden has fought against that. We’re not for New Green Deal. We’re not for all the things that he’s talked about, Medicare for all. We can’t even pay for Medicare for some. We’ve got to take care of a lot of things.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to ask you about that, because there- I understand who- who you say Democrats are. But obviously there isn’t a lot of agreement at this point within the party. Your Republican colleague, Mitt Romney said, “This election shows conservative principles are on the ascendency. Americans don’t want to get rid of coal or gas. They don’t want Medicare for all.” You just said that The Green New Deal is not something that people want there. There’s a whole lot of fracking, I understand, in West Virginia and a whole lot of coal. But did the president-elect’s energy message hurt him? Is that also what you’re saying? It’s not just socialism, that it’s what Joe Biden said.
SEN. MANCHIN: What Joe Biden said, and what Joe Biden’s bill is, the Biden energy plan- and we’re working with that- is going to be an all-inclusive. You need all of the energy. First and foremost, you must be energy independent. To have the most powerful nation on earth we can’t be dependent on foreign- on any foreigners- foreign countries for our energy sources. So that means we’re going to use coal and we’re going to use gas and we’re going to use oil and we’re going to be able to- to use our renewables and be able to develop the fuels of the future. But we’re going to do it in the cleanest fashion. I believe in innovation, not elimination. And we’ve talked about this and what was said and what we’re going to do is two different things. And it did come across wrong, and it was very difficult. But that didn’t help at all. But I can tell you, Joe Biden is not against fracking. Fracking can be done. And we do it every day in West Virginia and do it in the safest manner. We capture the methane. We don’t let it escape into the air and all these things can be done better.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you what can actually get through because it seems in early reporting, the Biden camp will have to rely on a lot of executive orders, particularly if the Republicans hold on to the Senate as they appear poised to do. That would make it hard for him to repeal, for example, the Trump tax cuts. That would make it hard for him to repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers. I mean, is the message from this election that Democrats need to be moderate?
SEN. MANCHIN: Oh, I’ve always been moderate. I would- I would- I would encourage all Democrats to be moderate, find the middle if you can. We’re not going to be able to govern from the extremes or from the fringes. Never have been. But when you’re talking about the things you are- fiscal responsibility wasn’t even spoken about in this election, not in- our side. And Republicans- we piled on more debt in four years- in the last four years, more debt at a faster rate than any time since World War II. Someone should be concerned about that. So I believe I- I say- I’ve always said I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate. I believe most Americans are, my moderate Republican friends and the moderate Democrats. We’ve got to govern from that middle, that moderate middle. Joe Biden has always been there. He knows how to work across the aisle. He’ll reach out first and make this Senate work and give it every chance he can. And I can assure you, there are my Republican friends that are concerned about this runaway debt. They want to make sure that we’re able to do it in a fiscally responsible way. So you’ll be surprised. There’ll be more and more crossing over wanting to work in a more moderate, moderate Senate. I really believe that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We’ll see if that happens. Thank you very much, Senator Manchin. And we’ll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.. Stay with us.