First thing this morning, Axios' Jonathan Swan warned that progressives are fed up with Manchin and their patience has run out. He talked about "threatening payback" and pressuring the White House, "believing they have a narrow window to change voting rules at the national level, to ensure they don’t get swept out of power due to Republican structural advantages."
Swan: "For a prominent Democrat to directly link Manchin to some of the most odious and racist laws in American history represents a new stage of the intra-party battle over voting rights. Many Democrats feel that if they fail to pass H.R. 1 before November 2022 they could be locked out of power for years... [Y]ou're going to see progressives beseeching Biden to turn his bully pulpit against the most prominent Democratic senators standing in the way of filibuster reform-- Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema."
Last night, in an OpEd for the Washington Post, James Downie wrote that Manchin's whining about bipartisanship is sincere and earnest (unlike Sinema or Susan Collins), while asserting that the problem isn't even just the "laziness of Manchin;s centrism. Rather than a mix of substantive policy stances, some left and some right, Manchin simply takes the middle of the two parties’ stances. For example, President Biden wants a 28 percent corporate tax rate, while Republicans want 21 percent. So Manchin backs 25 percent. Democrats want a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while Republicans want $10? Manchin supports $11. One gets the sense that if Manchin were told one side believes two plus two equals four and the other side believes it equals eight, he’d conclude that it equals six-- and that saying otherwise divides the country. But this approach is not unusual in Washington, particularly among media voices who cling to a “both sides” view of politics. So that is not the crux."
But in neither his op-ed nor in his Sunday interviews did Manchin cite specific policy concerns, and here we begin to reach an answer. “Voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,” he wrote-- without explaining how. He repeated the point on Fox News: “If we continue to divide [the country] and separate us more, it’s not going to be united.”
And as for passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in a nonpartisan fashion, Manchin doesn’t have suggestions. “It’s starting out to be bipartisan,” he told CBS’s John Dickerson, before listing exactly one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska-- far short of the 10 he’d need to pass it (or anything else) without a filibuster. When Dickerson asked why Republicans would vote for a bill that would restrict their gains at the state level, Manchin replied, “If we can’t come to an agreement on that, God help us, John.” God help us, indeed.
This hopeful haplessness was evident when Fox News’s Chris Wallace asked Manchin whether he was being naive to expect Republican support, given Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s promise to block “100 percent” of the Biden agenda. “I’m not being naive,” Manchin insisted. “I’m going to continue to keep working with my bipartisan friends and hopefully we can get more of them.” Again, he has hope but no “how”-- the epitome of naivete. Worse still was his claim on CBS that “my Republican friends and colleagues see the deadlock also. This is not something they desire or wish.”
That’s past naivete or foolishness-- it’s straight-up delusion. Manchin has become the Senate’s Walter Mitty: a man who believes himself the champion of a fantasy and who has hope but no plan. He believes he will save the country by recruiting “10 good Republicans,” even though dreaming doesn’t will into existence that many Republicans who will cast a fair-minded vote. Anything that would snap him back to our partisan reality he either ignores or treats as divisive. Meanwhile, McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party laugh all the way to the ballot box.
That’s what makes Manchin so infuriating. In his mind, he’s the hero of this story. In truth, he’s the patsy. And the country pays the price for his delusions.
Even Fox's Chris Wallace told Manchin he is empowering GOP obstructionism. "If you were to keep the idea that maybe you would vote to kill the filibuster, wouldn't that give Republicans an incentive to actually negotiate. By taking it off the table, haven't you empowered Republicans to be obstructionists? ... Aren't you being naive about this continuing talk about bipartisan cooperation?"
In two seemingly unrelated pieces last night and this morning, the AP delved into the agendas of the two parties. Steve Peoples and Gary Robertson wrote that, basically, the GOP agenda is no longer much more than a list of Trump grievances. "Republicans," they wrote, "are fighting to seize control of Congress. Just don’t ask what they’d do if they win. Look no further for evidence of the GOP’s muddled governing agenda than battleground North Carolina, where party leaders packed into a convention hall Saturday night to cheer former President Donald Trump. Even with a high-stakes U.S. Senate election looming, the Republicans there were united not by any consistent set of conservative policies or principles, but by Trump’s groundless grievances about the 2020 election and his attacks against critics in both parties. The lack of a forward-looking agenda stands in stark contrast to successful midterm elections of past years, particularly 1994 and 2010, when Republicans swept into power after staking clear positions on health care, federal spending and crime, among other issues. Without such a strategy heading into 2022, Republicans on the ballot risk allowing themselves to be wholly defined by Trump, who lost his last election when he drew 7 million fewer votes nationally than Democrat Joe Biden and who has seen his popularity slide further, even among some Republicans, since leaving office in January... The GOP’s embrace of Trump’s self-serving priorities has almost completely consumed the party’s long-standing commitment to fiscal discipline, free markets and even the rule of law. That leaves Republican candidates from North Carolina to North Dakota unwilling or unable to tell voters how they would address the nation’s biggest challenges if given the chance."
Meanwhile, early this morning, AP's Linda Mascaro, tackled a very different problem the Democrats are facing with their policy and reform rich agenda: Time ticking away, Democrats face wrenching test on agenda. Because of Manchin, Sinema and other conservatives Democrats they're fronting, infrastructure, voting rights and other priorities are stalled and making the party look weak, hopeless and unattractive to voters looking for elected officials who will fight for their interests. "Six months into the party’s hold on Washington," she wrote, "with Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats controlling the House and Senate, there is a gloomy uncertainty over their ability to make gains on campaign promises. As Democrats strain to deliver on Biden’s agenda, the limits of bipartisanship in the 50-50 Senate are increasingly clear: Talks over an infrastructure package are teetering, though Biden is set to confer again Monday with the lead GOP negotiator, and an ambitious elections overhaul bill is essentially dead now that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced his opposition Sunday."
Mascaro: "Fed up by the delays, some senators are ready to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster, which they blame for the inaction... But Manchin, in announcing his opposition to the voting rights bill Sunday as the 'wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together,' also restated his refusal to end the filibuster-- for now, denying his party a crucial vote needed to make the rules change that could help advance its agenda. Without support from Manchin or others, including Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who also wants to keep the filibuster, Schumer is all but warning that Democratic senators will be forced to confront the limits of their fragile majority. That could exacerbate party divisions and expose Democrats to criticism from Republicans eager to show that Biden’s party cannot govern."
Democrats-- and especially Schumer-- are not learning the lesson of the inevitability of disaster from nominating and backing conservatives to key positions, conservatives who do not embrace Democratic Party values and principles, conservatives like Manchin and Sinema. Today, Schumer is trying to manipulate Senate races in North Carolina (again), Florida (again), Pennsylvania (again), Wisconsin and Missouri against progressives who back the Democratic agenda, backing instead crap, corrupt conservatives who will just fill the Senate up with more stinking garbage like Manchin and Sinema. That's why I included the 2022 Blue America Senate thermometer above. Us sit to help support proven progressives like Alan Grayson (a Schumer nemesis), Chris Larson, Erica Smith, Lucas Kunce and Colin Byrd.