Saturday, December 18, 2021

Why Most Democrats' Attitude Toward Joe Manchin Makes No Sense

Never Trumper Tim Miller wants the Democrats to be as successful as possible because, well, Trump and all that. Miller, as I am, is frequently baffled by Democrats' utter cluelessness on some matters of basic politics. One such is the Democrats' Manchin problem:
"[T]his general sense [about Manchin] is reflected in the gap between Biden and Manchin in the state. In a town that prominently features a “Trump 2024: Fuck Your Feelings” sign (irony is dead in West Virginia, too), the Democratic senator maintained a reputation somewhere short of loathing. From these voters' perspective Manchin, wasn’t perfect. But he hadn’t gone full-in with the BLMAntifaCommies.
The ability to maintain that public perception is at the core of the Joe Manchin miracle. And let’s be clear about this, in this political environment the existence of a Democratic Senator in West Virginia is just a notch below loaves and fishes.
Manchin does it by going along with the Democrats just enough to get by, while bucking the party loudly enough to keep the Trump voters in his state happy.
And that tells you all you need to know about the reason why Manchin signaled on Wednesday that he wouldn’t support the current iteration of the Build Back Better plan, with sources in Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office telling NBC that the Democrats would shelve it until at least March.
So the question for Democrats is: What now? For the cable news pundits and Twitter class it seems that the answer to “what now” is “roast Joe Manchin until he tastes like chicken.” And for the casual progressive political observer, I understand that impulse. Manchin has the chance to do something and he’s not. It’s frustrating, I get it.
But for those who are ostensibly trying to influence Democratic party strategy, turning Manchin into the bad guy and railing against him is profoundly stupid. And it is actively harming the Democratic party’s stated goals.
These blue-checked Manchin-haters all seem to want one of three things so that their preferred agenda can pass:
(1) For Joe Manchin to go out in a blaze of social-justice, democracy-saving glory, give up on reelection, and hand the seat over to Republican Cletus Von Ivermectin in 2024.
(2) For Joe Manchin to wake up and realize the people in his state would actually love the Build Back Better plan if only they had a chance to enjoy its bounty.
(3) For the Squad and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to have used their supposed leverage to force Joe Manchin to sign on with the Squad’s spending bill in exchange for getting infrastructure.
None of that is tethered to what is happening in the real world.
Here’s reality when it comes to Joe Manchin and the state of play for the Democratic agenda:
(1) Joe Manchin isn’t interested in blowing up his career to pass the Great Society 2.0.
Now I have real doubts about whether he can win another election in West Virginia in our polarized times, no matter what. But what counts for our present political calculations is whether Manchin thinks he can win. All signs point to yes. Manchin wants to at least have the option to run and win in a state that Joe Biden lost by almost 40 points. And he’s acting as such.
(2) Joe Manchin knows that those who think passing BBB will help him in WV are completely and totally out-of-touch with his electorate. Even if the individual elements of BBB poll well, signing on to a multi-trillion dollar left-wing spending bill would be akin to signing his own political suicide note.
(3) Nancy & Chuck & The Squad never had any leverage over Manchin to begin with. This is a critical point. As long as Manchin remains open to running again in West Virginia, the absolute best thing he could do was stand in the way of legislation that is perceived by his voters as a socialist, AOC/Pelosi, left-wing fantasy. Passing infrastructure gained him exceedingly little politically. Blocking the Squad’s agenda gains him a lot. Some of the best ads he could run in West Virginia would be about how he crushed Pelosi and The Squad’s dreams.
For all these reasons, those of us who live on planet earth knew that Joe Manchin was never going to accede to the left’s demands. Their anger at Joe Manchin didn’t hurt him. Exactly the opposite! The madder lefties get at him, the stronger his political position is at home. Their rage is the spinach that makes his Popeye muscles bulge. He’s fueled by it. And without this ability to wedge against his own party, he would die a quiet, but noble, death. Like Heidi Heitkamp, or Mark Pryor, or Claire McCaskill, and all the other long-gone, red-state Democrats.
The only spending bill Manchin was ever going to support was one that leaders in his party, and left-wing celebrities, hate. Because that’s how he would sell it to the folks at the Groves-Mann Funeral Home.
These were the facts of life from the very start of this torturous, year-long negotation.
And they will still be the facts of life next year, when hopefully Manchin and President Biden can agree to a more modest compromise that he can sell back home. "

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