Ask Washington Anything: Senator Joe Manchin

The West Virginia Democrat answers crowd-sourced questions in a new video series from Reddit and The Atlantic.

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"Hello Reddit! Let's get started," Senator Joe Manchin says cheerfully before diving into a list of questions for Atlantic Video's Ask Washington Anything series. Earlier this week, 3 million members of Reddit's Politics community had a chance to submit and vote on questions for the lawmaker. Manchin tackles the top ten in the 20-minute video above, covering gun control, drugs, coal mining, and more.

One of the few remaining moderates in an increasingly polarized Congress, Manchin approaches these wide-ranging issues seeking what he calls "balance." Although he's in favor of developing renewable energy sources, he points out the country's ongoing reliance on his state's coal industry. When asked about his thoughts on gay marriage, he is frank: "I was raised in little Farmington, West Virginia, and I don't believe in any aspect of discrimination. With that being said, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I know that might be [different] from other people, but that's my view."

What Is Ask Washington Anything?

The interview kicks off a new series called Ask Washington Anything, produced by Atlantic Video in partnership with Reddit. Inspired by the social media site's popular "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer sessions, we've reached out to politicians and other Washington insiders to field queries from Reddit users. Our first three videos feature Manchin; Grover Norquist, president and founder of Americans for Tax Reform; and Sam Kass, Executive Director for Let's Move! and former White House chef. 

How Does It Work? 

On Monday, Reddit's general manager Erik Martin invited members of Reddit's Politics community to "ask Senator Joe Manchin anything." Twenty-four hours later, we gathered the ten best questions (more on that below) and on November 13, Manchin answered them on video. We're grateful to everyone who took time to submit questions and vote the best ones to the top. We'd also like to thank Erik and all the moderators for welcoming this experiment and making it possible. 

In the interest of making sure all ten questions got answered in the limited time we had, we decided to excerpt just the questions from the comments. Users often wrote long and detailed comments, which you can read in full here. We realize some users might be upset that we couldn't include the full text of their comments, but we believe shorter questions make for more watchable videos and helped ensure that all ten questions were covered. Moving forward, we'll be sure to make these constraints more clear in advance so that users can format their questions accordingly. The ten questions we asked, sorted by "best" and edited for length, are: 

1. ederoos asks: What are your thoughts on the state of gerrymandering, and if you would support reforming the process upon which congressional districts are drawn? If yes, how would you propose doing so?

2. nowhathappenedwas asks: Senator Manchin, On March 23, 2013, you voted for an amendment to require all voters across the country to show photo IDs in order to vote in any federal election. Why did you vote for this amendment? Do you think significant fraud occurs because voters are not required to show ID? Do you disagree with studies that show Voter ID laws suppress voter turnout for young and minority voters?

3. bigfatlush asks: As a West Virginian, I understand the importance of coal to our state. However, I think it is inevitable that our nation move into post-coal energy dependence. What are your ideas for transitioning West Virginia's economy beyond protecting and expanding West Virginia's coal and oil and gas reserves?

4. DeaconNuno asks: Our great state has a drug problem, as you know. It's something we need to address before it kills any more of my friends and neighbors … What are your plans to improve the way we look at and deal with our citizens who have developed a drug problem?

5. 75000_Tokkul aks: As a West Virginia resident I would like to know what your stance on gay marriage and gay rights in general is currently.

6. UsefulCongressman asks: I'm wondering if you would be in favor of co-sponsoring or sponsoring a bill to end the practice by which Federal Representative may use their campaign funds for personal use as first reported by 60 Minutes. Also, would you be opposed to requiring 501(c)3 organizations to list their donors? If you are not opposed to it, would you draft or co-sponsor legislation to end such practices?

7. redtown asks: Will you pledge to help implement the next generation of renewable energy infrastructure?

8. Trying2BaWiseGuy asks: As a proponent of the 2nd Amendment who has searched for compromise on the issue of gun control, do you see any hope for passing any kind of bill remotely related to gun control anytime in the near future, or is it a lost cause? If it is possible, what might that compromise look like?

9. GibsonLP86 asks: Senator, what are your thoughts on the excessive (some would say abusive) use of the filibuster? Would you support changing senate rules to cease the historic use of this procedure to block political appointments?

10. wattmeter asks: Why do you want to force the EPA to scale back carbon emissions rules on power plants?

What's That Handwritten Sign?

AMA contributors often take a photo of themselves with handmade signs to put a face to their typewritten answers (and provide identity verification). Bill Gates, for example, made a particularly nice sign for his AMA. We didn't technically need to verify any of the interviewees' identities since these conversations are captured on video—but we still thought the signs looked cool.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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