U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is catching a lot of flack these days from Democrats, especially the more liberal wing of the party. Manchin is known for supporting bipartisanship in the Senate, trying to work with Republicans on major issues.
With the Senate currently split 50-50 along party lines, and Vice-President Kamila Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, every Democratic Senator is vital to the party. Manchin refuses to vote against the fillibuster, the rule which requires at least 60 votes to get anything through the Senate. He feels bipartisanship can break that barrier.
So far, his attempts at finding bipartisanship have been futile. His Democratic colleagues tell him his stance is hopeless and is holding up progress on President Biden’s economic and infrastructure programs.
Social media postings abound with anti-Manchin cartoons, which picture him as a traitor, a DINO (Democrat in name only) and an impediment to progress.
However, Manchin has supported Democrats on numerous actions, including many which have been unpopular with Republicans in his bright red state. Manchin voted to convict in both President Trump impeachment trials and the Biden COVID relief bill, which was rejected by every single Republican in both the House and Senate.
He was a prime backer for the formation of a bipartisan committee to investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. Despite Manchin’s efforts to bring both parties together on the issue, only seven Republicans joined all the Democrats in the vote, leaving the legislation short of the needed three votes.
Sadly, the reality of the situation is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken the position of opposing all Democratic legislation, and despite Manchin’s optimism, his bipartisanship efforts are likely to have no success.
The current displeasure with Manchin is his pledge to vote against House Resolution 1, which guarantees uniform voter rights nationwide. Manchin has been meeting with Republicans to try to forge approval for the John Lewis voting rights bill.
Manchin is an interesting lesson in current political science, being a Democrat in a state which voted by a 40% margin for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Manchin won the 2004 West Virginia gubernatorial race by a large margin, and won re-election by an even larger victory. He won a special election to fill the term of deceased Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd with 54% of the vote, and later won his own full term with 61% of the vote. He was re-elected in 2018 by a slim margin, as the state moved further to the right. Manchin is the only Democrat in West Virginia’s congressional delegation.
It would seem wise for progressive Democrats to back off their Manchin opposition. Without Manchin (or, any other individual Senate Democrat), Democrats wouldn’t have a Senate majority. That means all legislation would be controlled by Mitch McConnell and the Democrats would likely get nothing through the Senate.
The best strategy for Democrats is to simply let Manchin be. It’s a miracle he’s even in the Senate and the Democrats have even a razor-thin majority. Maybe he will eventually see the light and drop his ill-fated bipartisan campaign. That seems unlikely since he’s up for re-election again in 2024. If he chooses not to run, or he is “primaried out” by another Democratic candidate, his seat will undoubtedly go Republican.
The best Democratic move is to concentrate on turning some of the numerous Republican seats in the 2022 midterm elections. With a larger Democratic majority, Manchin’s vote will not hold so much importance.