Props in politics are out of control.
Whether it's a snowball on the Senate floor (that apparently disproves climate change), photos of inauguration crowds, or enormous pieces of paper that describe regulatory processes, politicians in recent years are using more props — and stranger ones — than ever before.
And now we've reached the pinnacle of absurd political props.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (D) unveiled an actual plate of bovine droppings at the state capitol on Thursday. Or, as he put it, a plate of B.S.
“We don’t have a nothing burger today,” Justice said, uncovering the first of three silver platters, this one containing a sad, empty hamburger bun. “And we don’t have a mayonnaise sandwich,” he said, revealing — you guessed it — a mayonnaise sandwich.
“We all should take ownership for this,” he then said, “but what we have is nothing more than bunch of political bull you-know-what.”
And he had, well, a bunch of B.S. On a plate. In the statehouse. Some in the assembled crowd laughed or clapped, while a few appeared to be taken aback.
“For that very reason, I’m signing my name on the budget veto, and I hope and pray that the silliness will stop and we’ll do the right thing,” Justice finished.
Justice wants a state budget that adds a few new taxes to the West Virginia tax code, including increases in the state sales tax, business taxes and income taxes on wealthy individuals. But the Republican budget contained none of those and would also take about $90 million out of the state's rainy day fund.
This isn't the first time Justice has made headlines for his unorthodox tactics. Justice campaigned as a political outsider, a Democrat in name but not always in practice. The Fix's Amber Phillips wrote last year that the billionaire's pitch to voters sounded a lot like another candidate who went on to win in November: Donald Trump.
Justice is thought to be the state’s only billionaire, according to the Wall Street Journal. His net worth is “somewhat more than a billion dollars,” he told The Washington Post in 2011. “And that would be a very conservative number.”
Justice inherited his father’s coal and corn-farming business and has made even more money investing in coal, timber and corn industries. He’s perhaps best-known for buying and rehabbing one of West Virginia’s oldest, most famous and elite resorts, the Greenbrier, which glittered with presidents and celebrities as far back as the Civil War but fell into bankruptcy in 2009. (Side note: Apparently Trump passed on an offer to buy the Greenbrier, and the little-known Justice stunned West Virginia when he took it on.)
He’s a former Republican.
And a former independent. In fact, he has switched parties so much that Justice sounded downright disenchanted about politics when chatting with [The Post] in 2011. “Like everybody else, I get horribly frustrated when I see what our leaders do, but I’m just not going to get involved in trying to create things before elections.”
This election cycle, Justice has talked about the importance of West Virginia being a faith-based community. He was the only Democratic candidate for governor who questioned humans’ impact on climate change.
And that’s precisely what makes Justice so appealing to Democrats. A traditional Democrat doesn’t have much of a chance these days in West Virginia. Justice fits the mold of a new West Virginia Democrat. He’s small-business friendly; he’s coal-friendly. He’s someone who could be considered a Republican in many blue states.
Justice won the governor's race with his unique blend of West Virginia politics and his big personality. And it certainly seems to have stuck around.