The Fringe Is Now the Normal

Tomorrow there is a primary for who will be the Republican nominee to challenge Senator Joe Manchin (D) for the senate seat in West Virginia. There are three candidates for the seat but the one that is giving the GOP the biggest headache is a racist ex-con millionaire and coal baron Don Blankenship who hasn’t resided in the state for nearly a decade. In 2018, Blankenship was found guilty in federal court of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards. That violation was the direct cause of the mine explosion in 2010 that killed 29 miners. His one year probation ends on May 9, one year after hid release from prison.

It has been a really nasty campaign with Blankenship involved in a high profile fight with GOP leaders who fear if Blankenship wins the nomination the result would be another Alabama. Both Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have urged voters to back either of the other two candidates, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), who have been engaged in their own battles. Manchin has been running ads attacking Jenkins, the candidate Democrats least want to face. Right now the race is a dead heat.

So why is Blankenship even a thing? He has been running a typical Trumpian campaign stating that he is “Trumpier that Trump” that even has Trump campaigning against him. His campaign ads have been mono-tonal, nasty and racist. In one he called McConnell “Cocaine Mitch,” an apparent reference to a report that, years ago, drugs were found on a shipping vessel owned by his wife’s family. He claimed that McConnell’s “China family” gave him “tens of millions of dollars” and that Mitch “got rich creating jobs for China people.” When Blankenship was called out by the press over the racist term “China people”, he was nonplussed stating:

“We’re confused on our staff as to how it can be racist when there’s no mention of a race,” he said, according to Roll Call. “There’s no race. Races are Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian. There’s no mention of a race. I’ve never used a race word.”

In a last ditch effort to stop Blankenship, Morrisy is running a campaign ad with a mug shot of Blankenship labeling him a convicted criminals. There are also robo calls with the same theme and during a Sunday press conference he reiterated his opponent’s past.

In his Sunday “Last Week Tonight” opening segment, John Oliver explains how the “fringe guys are no longer the fringe.”