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Sen. Joe Manchin seems to be sincere about his desire to promote bipartisanship and national unity, and he has a unique opportunity to achieve both goals as long as he remains true to his principles.

As a Black public official who previously had the honor of serving in the West Virginia House of Delegates, I am very familiar with the tactics that many on the left use to shut down open debate. Instead of defending their policy positions on the merits, the hard left uses slogans and buzzwords to malign conservatives as racists, turning Black and brown people into mere pawns to advance the “progressive” political agenda.

That’s exactly what they’re doing right now in an effort to rig the electoral system in their favor. When Georgia passed a law that actually expands access to the polls while tightening up ballot security, for instance, Stacey Abrams called it a resurrection of Jim Crow. That’s absurd. We know racism when we see it. There’s nothing remotely racist about the legislation that passed in Georgia, and comparing it to Jim Crow does a disservice to the very real struggles that Black people have endured for civil rights. It’s also a disservice to voters, whose rights the law is intended to protect.

At the federal level, the left is trying to get Congress to pass radical legislation that would force states to abandon basic, common-sense election integrity laws — such as voter ID requirements and routine voter roll maintenance — and implement non-secure practices such as automatic voter registration and online transmission of ballots that can be printed at home. Opponents of this partisan federal takeover of our elections are labeled racists who want to “suppress” minority voters.

Just like there was nothing racist about Georgia’s election reforms, there’s nothing racist about opposing HR 1. Nothing about the bill would do anything to fix racism. All it would do is make lawlessness the defining feature of elections in this country.

Fortunately, Manchin doesn’t seem to be taking the bait. In addition to standing firm against calls to abolish the filibuster, he has repeatedly stated that he will not vote for election reform legislation that is forced through on a partisan basis.

That’s an excellent start. All politicians like to talk a big game about bipartisanship and unity in a general sense, but it’s more difficult to do so once specific partisan proposals are on the table. Manchin will undoubtedly face withering attacks from the left wing of his own party, including accusations of racism.

I’m here to say, in advance, that those accusations are unfair and unfounded. I’m also here to offer my help and support to Sen. Manchin, because I believe it’s vital for him to stay true to his stated principles on this issue.

If he does, we could well be on the cusp of a turning point in our national dialogue, one that begins the process of healing, restores confidence in our governing institutions, and brings about a rebirth of true bipartisanship.

Although Sen. Manchin is of the opposing political party, I want to applaud him for the steps he’s taken on behalf of bipartisanship, and I hope this can be the start of a movement to put America back together again.

I think Sen. Manchin is serious when he calls for unity and bipartisanship, and I hope he has the fortitude to withstand the inevitable partisan attacks from the left.

Jill Upson is a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

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