Joe Manchin: Naive, Disingenuous, Or... Even Worse?

On Monday Rachel Maddow spent some time on ALG Research's polling of West Virginia voters for the Global Strategy Group. It looks like it shows that Joe Manchin's statements about how he's blocking Biden's agenda because his constituents want him to, are at best misconstrued and, at worst, bold-faced lies. West Virginians are overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation Manchin is blocking and killing.

Ignoring the Beltway protocol that insists on calling right-wing Democrats "moderates," Maddow noted that "Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, he's the only Democrat in the Senate who is not signed on to sponsor the voting rights bill and this weekend said he doesn't support it. He made that as clear as he ever has in an op-ed that he published this weekend in a West Virginia paper. And it's interesting, Senator Manchin is not actually making any substantive case at all against the voting rights bill. It's not like he's laying out the things in the bill that he's against. He says he's against it purely and only because there aren't Republicans who will vote for it. I mean, Republicans wouldn't vote for COVID relief either and he supported that but, apparently on voting rights, Republicans saying no, regardless of why they're saying no, that's reason enough for him to say no to."

Maddow went on to analyze the polling data. "On the COVID relief bill which Joe Manchin voted for," she said, "that bill is wildly popular among West Virginia voters. COVID relief has 64 percent support in West Virginia, that's huge. Then they polled on Biden's infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Acts. Incidentally, that's another bill that Manchin says he won't vote for unless Republicans vote for it to regardless of why they're voting no. The infrastructure bill is even more popular amongst West Virginia voters. COVID relief sees a huge number in support, 64 percent. The infrastructure bills even higher, and West Virginia that has 68 percent support for the infrastructure bill, the jobs bill. But now look at this. The third piece of legislation they polled on in West Virginia is the For the People Act, the voting rights bill. It is more popular than COVID relief. It is more popular than the infrastructure bill. They had 64 and 68 percent for those two things. The voting rights bill has 79 percent support among West Virginia voters, 79 percent. Support among Democrats, 81 percent. Support among independents is 79 percent. Support among Republicans in West Virginia is 76 percent. More than three in four West Virginia Republican support the voting rights bill, the For The People Act. More than three in four Republicans! The senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, says he's against it. By 21 point margin, West Virginia says they'll be more likely to support Joe Manchin if he supports the voting rights bill. But he says he's against it. Every component of the bill, everything from making voter registration easier to stopping partisan gerrymandering to limiting amount of anonymous donations from special interests and corporations, all of it is very popular. All of it has way over majority support among West Virginia voters, but Joe Manchin says he won't vote for it because Republican senators won't vote for no matter why. No matter what their reasons for that are. He also says he won't change the filibuster rules so that Democrats can pass that bill and others with a majority vote... The West Virginia poll also shows that Joe Manchin is against the tide of his own constituents, his own voters on that. A majority of West Virginia voters say the filibuster should be eliminated or changed or they don't care either way. Nevertheless, Joe Manchin says that he won't vote to change it at all."

This morning, Atlantic columnist Ron Bronwstein dug a little deeper noting that Republicans around the country are proving Joe Manchin wrong. With Manchin "demanding that both parties agree on any further federal voting-rights legislation... Republicans have excluded Democrats from the passage of the restrictive voting laws proliferating in red states. In places such as Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, the most restrictive laws approved this year have passed on total or near-complete party-line votes, with almost all state legislative Republicans voting for the bills and nearly all Democrats uniting against them, according to an analysis of state voting records provided exclusively to The Atlantic by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. That pattern of unrelenting partisanship has left many state-level Democrats incredulous at the repeated insistence by Manchin... that he will support new federal voting-rights legislation only if at least some Republican senators agree to it."

Manchin is “acting like Republicans and Democrats are working together on this stuff, and Republicans in Arizona have completely shut the Democrats out of the [legislative] process,” Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state there, told me in an interview. Similarly, Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic whip in the Iowa House of Representatives said, “It is unfathomable to me that we would look at this issue and say we have to bring Republicans along, in this political climate, in order to make true change. I don’t see anywhere where Republicans are inviting Democrats along, or inviting Democrats to the table. Why are some Democrats saying ‘I won’t do this unless it’s bipartisan?’”
In its latest tally of state voting laws, the Brennan Center says that since January, 14 states have passed 24 laws restricting voting access. (That’s not likely to be the final tally, because the center also reports that dozens of other restrictive bills are still pending across another 18 states.) Of the new restrictions that have already passed, the Brennan Center qualifies 17 in nine states as “highly restrictive,” imposing the greatest barriers to participation. In all of those nine states, Republicans hold unified control of both the state legislature and the governorship, except for Kansas, where the GOP-legislature overrode Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of their voting changes.
Every state-legislative Democrat casting a ballot voted against 13 of those 17 laws, according to the Brennan analysis. A single Democratic state House member in Arkansas and Montana, and a single state senator in Wyoming, voted for three of the other bills.
...The Republican offensive has been spurred by former President Donald Trump’s disproved claims of widespread voter fraud and abetted by conservative groups, such as Heritage Action for America, which has published model principles for reconfiguring voter laws and taken credit for the quick GOP actions in several states. Republicans around the country have dismissed charges from Democrats that the GOP’s inability to prove any significant fraud in 2020 shows that the new restrictions are unnecessary. As the Texas Democratic State Representative Jessica Gonzalez put it during the floor debate there, “What are we trying to fix here that is not broken?”
In Arizona, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill earlier this spring that would remove up to 200,000 voters from the state’s permanent early-voter rolls, which qualifies residents to automatically receive an absentee ballot every election; voting experts anticipate a disproportionate number of those culled as a result to be Latino. No Democrat in either the Arizona state House or Senate voted for final passage of the bill, which was quickly signed into law by Republican Governor Doug Ducey.
...In May, during a live appearance on Fox News, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a sweeping bill that made it more difficult to obtain mail ballots, stiffened voter-identification requirements for such requests, reduced the number of drop boxes, and essentially prevented outside groups beyond family members from collecting ballots from voters. No Democrat in either legislative chamber voted for the bill; every Republican except one state senator supported it. Democratic State Senator Tina Polsky, who sits on the Ethics and Elections Committee that considered the bill, says that unified opposition from bipartisan county election officials persuaded Republicans to back off some of their most extreme proposals (such as completely banning drop boxes) but that Democratic input was limited to extremely peripheral issues (such as rules governing third-party candidates.)
...In his calls for bipartisanship, Manchin is effectively giving Senate Republicans a veto on whether Washington should respond to an offensive against voting rights that red-state Republicans are advancing. Martinez Fischer echoed all of the state-level officials I spoke with when he told me that although the bipartisanship Manchin wants on voting rules might be ideal, it ignores the reality of how Republicans are acting in the states today. “You have a very noble standard in Washington as to how you’d like to operate, but when you pull the curtain back, you are going to see hyper-partisanship at its worst,” he said.
Manchin has been vague and elusive on why bipartisanship should be the standard for voting laws in Washington when it’s clearly not the rule in the states, or why he believes that congressional Republicans will agree to undo the partisan advantages their state counterparts are pushing into law. (His office did not respond to a request for comment on those questions.) Privately, other Democrats and voting-rights advocates have debated whether he is being naive or disingenuous in insisting that a critical mass of Senate Republicans will ultimately vote to protect voting rights. The new Brennan data, by so starkly documenting the partisan nature of the offensive against voter access under way in the states, may point the needle further toward disingenuous as the explanation if Manchin remains adamant in his refusal to act without Republican consent.

I hope you read the Noam Chomsky interview in the new Jacobin. Ana Kasparian began by asking him why Congress continuously tells the American people that it will not deliver on policies that have overwhelming public support. His response is worth thinking about in terms of Joe Manchin, whose name is never mentioned but could easily have been:

Well, one place to look always is: “Where’s the money? Who funds Congress?” Actually, there’s a very fine, careful study of this by the leading scholar who deals with funding issues and politics, Thomas Ferguson. He and his colleagues did a study in which they investigated a simple question: “What’s the correlation over many years between campaign funding and electability to Congress?” The correlation is almost a straight line. That’s the kind of close correlation that you rarely get in the social sciences: greater the funding, higher the electability.
And in fact, we all know what happens when a congressional representative gets elected. Their first day in office, they start making phone calls to the potential donors for their next election. Meanwhile, hordes of corporate lobbyists descend on their offices. Their staff are often young kids, totally overwhelmed by the resources, the wealth, the power, of the massive lobbyists who pour in. Out of that comes legislation, which the representative later signs-- maybe even looks at occasionally, when he can get off the phone with the donors. What kind of system do you expect to emerge from this?
One recent study found that for about 90 percent of the population, there’s essentially no correlation between their income and decisions by their representatives-- that is, they’re fundamentally unrepresented. This extends earlier work by Martin Gilens, Benjamin Page, and others who found pretty similar results, and the general picture is clear: the working class and most of the middle class are basically unrepresented.
The decisions of representatives reflect a very highly concentrated amount of campaign money, and other financial pressures. I mean, if you’re a congressional representative, and you’re going to leave Congress one of these days, where do you go? Do you become a truck driver? Secretary? You know where you go, and you know what the reasons are. If you voted the right way, you’ve got a cushy future ahead of you.
There are many, many devices by which you can ensure that a large majority of the population is unrepresented, and, furthermore, robbed-- robbed massively. The RAND Corporation, ultrarespectable, a couple of months ago did a study of what they call the “transfer of wealth” from the working class and the middle class-- or, more accurately, the robbery of the public-- since the neoliberal assault began around 1980. Their estimate for how much wealth has moved from the lower 90 percent of the income scale to the very top is $47 trillion.
It’s not small change, and it’s a vast underestimate. When Reagan opened the spigots for corporate robbery many devices became available: for example, tax havens and shell companies, which were illegal before that, when the Treasury Department enforced the law. How much money was stolen that way? That’s mostly secret, but there are some reasonable estimates. An IMF study came out recently that estimated $35 trillion, roughly-- just from tax havens-- over forty years.
Keep adding this theft up. It’s not pennies, and it affects people’s lives. People are angry, and they’re resentful for very good reasons: they’re perfectly arranged for a demagogue to come along-- Trump-style-- who holds up a banner with one hand saying, “I love you, I’m going to save you,” and with the other hand stabs you in the back to pay off the rich and powerful.

Want to neuter Manchin and Sinema? The answer is NOT ever "any blue will do." How about boycotting all of Chuck Schumer's picks for Senate nominations and instead supporting courageous, proven progressives like Alan Grayson (FL), Erica Smith (NC), Chris Larson (WI), Charles Booker (KY) and Lucas Kunce (WI)? Schumer picked Sinema and Rosen and cleared the field for them; today each, like Manchin, would rather see hundreds of thousands of minority voters disenfranchised than reform-- let alone abolish-- the completely undemocratic Jim Crow filibuster. Please click on the Blue America 2022 Senate thermometer on the left and dig as deep as you can. Schumer picked losers like Cal Cunningham (NC), Barbara Bollier (KS), Patrick Murphy (FL), Amy McGrath (KY), Sara Gideon (ME), Ted Strickland (OH), Phil Bredesen (TN), Katie McGinty (PA), Evan Bayh (IN), Patty Judge (IA) and Theresa Greenfield (IA)-- handing McConnell immense power over the American people. If a candidate is attached to Chuck Schumer, just vote no.