Feb 1, 2024
By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
The first thing long-time legislators told me about life under the dome was, “Your integrity is all you have.”
That rang true to me, as a lifelong West Virginian. When an Appalachian gives their word, it means something important to them and the person to whom they give it.
That may be the case across Appalachia, but it’s rare in politics these days. Our leaders say one thing…and do another.
I know what you’re thinking. Pointing out hypocrisy in politics is like saying it’s cold in the winter. Everyone knows! So why point it out? Because integrity matters. “Do as I say, not as I do” shows a lack of integrity, unbecoming of our leaders.
CLOSED PRIMARIES. The Republican Party in West Virginia likes to say it’s a big tent party that welcomes West Virginians from all walks of life. But this past week, they voted to close their primary. Meaning if you are an Independent who is used to being able to choose which primary you’ll vote in…that choice will soon be gone. Because starting in 2026, Republicans won’t allow Independents to vote in their primaries. You can’t say you’re a big tent while simultaneously kicking out Independents.
TAKE FEDERAL MONEY, BLAST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Governor Justice accused the federal government of waging “war” on West Virginia. Yet he spends many days handing out giant checks derived from federal investments in West Virginia across the state. (For example, the cover picture is from the Nucor groundbreaking ceremony. Nucor is a steel company that came to West Virginia thanks to federal funds given to West Virginia which the state used to incentivize the company. Plus, the company is thriving thanks to the federal infrastructure bill.) The reason he’s doing both these things is clear–he wants to pick a federal fight and hand out big checks in order to bolster his own race for Senate. If there was a war on West Virginia, how would he have so much federal money to hand out?
GUNS IN CLASSROOMS, BUT NOT CAPITOL. A bill allowing educators to carry guns in classrooms for the stated purpose of personal safety is moving in the House. But do you know where guns aren’t allowed for personal safety? The capitol, where our legislators work.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS? Governor Justice and Republican legislators made a show of introducing a women’s bill of rights this week, which was odd considering that many of the same Republicans signed onto a resolution in 2022 saying the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution expired in 1979 and wasn’t in effect in West Virginia. Their new women’s bill of rights even went so far as to say, “equal does not mean ‘same’ or ‘identical’ with respect to equality of the sexes.”
WOKE BAN. Most days, you will hear a Republican legislator on the floor or in committee pontificate against “wokeness.” They criticize political activism in social life. Yet, who rules by bans? Our Republican legislators. They ban everything! They want to ban books, ban recovery programs, ban certain words, and even ban bans themselves! You read that last one right; HB4434 is a ban on bans of fossil fuel-powered vehicles. You can’t make this stuff up. It’s just more “do as I say, not as I do.”
This viral hypocrisy takes away from the good, productive pieces of legislation that are moving. It takes all the air out of the room and de-legitimizes the entire process.
Our Appalachian roots value honesty and integrity. Your word is your bond. Your neighbor is your friend. Your actions matter. It’s time we got back to those basic lessons taught to us by our ancestors.
That’s the view from the back pew. May God bless each and every one of you!
Stephen Baldwin is a Presbyterian minister and the former Senate Minority Leader from Greenbrier County. He is the publisher of The Real WV.