The Mystifying Joe Manchin: The high-profile West Virginia senator has bucked his party recently, most notably opposing a sweeping election reform bill. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: The Mystifying Joe Manchin
Democrats are “mystified” by their colleague Sen. Joe Manchin. “If you can figure out what [he’s] about, let me know because I can’t,” one anonymous senator said to The Hill. The high-profile West Virginia senator has bucked his party recently, most notably opposing a sweeping election reform bill known as the For the People Act, or HR1/S1. To that end, Manchin wrote an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail this past Sunday, titled, “Why I’m voting against the For the People Act.” Simply put, Manchin believes “both Democrats and Republicans [need to come] together to find a pathway forward.” Manchin also wrote that he “will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” saying “in 2017 when Republicans held control of the White House and Congress… thirty-three Senate Democrats penned a letter… warning of the perils of eliminating the filibuster.” With that as a backdrop, here’s what both sides are saying about the mystifying Joe Manchin:
On The Right
Right-leaning outlets and commentators admire Manchin for taking a principled stand against a piece of legislation they believe would lead to America’s demise.
The Appeal of Conservatism: Jason L. Riley of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board believes “Manchin is likely more interested in self-preservation than principle. He is a red-state Democrat with constituents who have little patience, if not disdain, for left-wing attacks on fossil fuels, law enforcement, private health insurance, and the like.” Moreover, “Backing a federal takeover of state election law, or supporting the elimination of a filibuster rule… could mean the end of his political career.” In reality, however, Riley says that “The Democrats’ Problem Isn’t Joe Manchin.” Rather, “They should be worried about the increasing appeal of conservatism to minority voters.” Why? Well, “As more college-educated whites have joined the Democratic Party, it has lurched further left, causing discomfort among the more moderate black, Hispanic, Asian, and working-class white Democrats who outnumber them. Unlike these progressive white elites, polling shows that minorities in the main tend to support things like voter-ID laws, school choice, race-blind college admissions, and the presence of more police officers in high-crime neighborhoods.” Of course, he says that “None of this means that the GOP is on the cusp of winning a majority of racial and ethnic minorities, but the trend lines are real, and Democrats have taken notice.”
The Man Who Saved America: Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank, believes “Joe Manchin may have saved America.” In an opinion piece for The Hill, Haskins outlines how one of the “worrisome provisions included in the For the People Act [is] a ban on state voter ID laws.” This would “force states to allow anyone to vote who simply signs a form saying that they are who they claim they are. It means [you] could walk into any polling place on Election Day, register under the name John Smith, sign a form claiming [you] really [are] John Smith, cast a ballot, and walk out.” Haskins thinks if the For the People Act “ever became law, voters’ faith in elections would be eroded.” At the end of the day, “The fact is that election laws are not merely in place to protect fraud from occurring. They also exist because they help reduce the perception of voter fraud, instilling confidence in the outcome, no matter who wins.” Haskins ends by quoting Manchin’s op-ed when he said HR1/S1 “is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage.” Both Haskins and Manchin believe it “won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.”
The Man Has Principles: Lastly, in an opinion piece for The New York Post, Rich Lowry discusses how “Progressives [are getting] vicious with Joe Manchin because he has principles.” Lowry notes that “Manchin isn’t always as stalwart in standing up to his own party as he sounds, but he’s been remarkably firm so far. His role as a senatorial brake on Biden’s left-wing ambitions has certainly made him more popular back home, and the progressive slanders against him will only boost his political standing.” According to Lowry, “The Left will get nowhere if it tries to primary him in 2024 (assuming he decides to run again), and if he did lose to a more progressive Democrat, Republicans would easily win his seat.” Zooming out, “The current situation illustrates the purpose of the filibuster nicely — it is a guardrail keeping a very slender Senate majority that could easily be wiped out by January 2023 from enacting a far-reaching radical agenda in a fit of partisan passion.”
On The Left
Left-leaning representatives and commentators are completely demoralized by Manchin’s decision. They believe he is on the wrong side of history, perhaps setting the Democratic party back decades. One analyst thinks the only thing to do next is simply win elections.
Wrong Side of History: Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents New York’s 16th Congressional District, thinks “Joe Manchin is on the wrong side of history.” In an opinion piece for CNN, Bowman says “At a time when Republican state legislators are banning people from handing water to voters in line, closing down polling places, and restricting absentee voting, Democrats must be united in taking bold action to fight back.” Bowman believes Manchin “either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the stakes of this fight. Democracy is fragile, and right now, ours is hanging by a thread,” he writes. Moreover, by “refusing to abolish the filibuster, Manchin is just as bad as the Republican leaders who are prepared to sabotage fundamental democratic processes in order to hold and expand power at any cost. Neutrality amid injustice means taking the side of the oppressor by default, and Manchin has gone beyond neutrality.”
Just Win Elections: Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, opinion columnist Jennifer Rubin writes that “There is understandable anger and resentment in the Democratic base toward Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for his incoherent insistence on bipartisanship in an era of Republican radicalism and obstruction.” With that said, “Hollering at Manchin for refusing to defend voting rights is not going to accomplish much,” Rubin writes. “That leaves Democrats with two basic strategies, which are not mutually exclusive. First, induce Manchin behind closed doors to put forward a bill he would favor.” If that doesn’t work, “Democrats could always go out and win big in 2022, increasing their margins in the Senate and House. After that, Democrats might have the numbers to curtail the filibuster,” Rubin says. “In short, the best way to defend democracy might not be to berate Manchin. Democrats instead should focus on beating in 2022 and 2024 the anti-democratic party that threatens to overturn elections and turn us into a banana republic. Nothing beats winning elections.”
Beginning of the End: Lastly, writing for Newsweek, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich asks if this is “The Beginning of the End of Democracy as We Know It.” Reich believes this “could mean the end of the For the People Act. That opens the way for Republican states to continue their shameless campaign of voter suppression, very possibly giving Republicans a victory in the 2022 midterm elections and entrenching Republican rule for a generation.” Reich takes issue with this prospect because “registered Republicans make up only about 25 percent of the American electorate, and the percentage appears to be shrinking in the wake of Trump’s horrendous exit.” Reich notes that Manchin supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Act but says “that’s small comfort.” Along with other issues, he says it “wouldn’t be able to roll back the most recent round of voter suppression laws from Republican states.” Ultimately, Reich is “afraid history will show that, in this shameful era, Republican senators were more united in their opposition to voting rights than Democratic senators were in their support for them. The future of American democracy needs better odds.”
Flag This: The Mystifying Joe Manchin
According to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, “Nearly four in ten Americans (39%) have yet to form an opinion of Manchin,” however, “Republicans like him much more than Democrats do.” Currently, “More than one-third (37%) of Republicans view Manchin favorably, with 27% viewing him unfavorably.” As for Democrats, “Three in 10 (29%) have a favorable opinion of Manchin; 39% have an unfavorable opinion of him.”
Also for what it’s worth, according to a group called End Citizens United, a left-leaning political action committee, 79% of West Virignia Voters support the For the People Act. This includes more than three in four West Virginia Republican voters. These figures were quoted by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt. We would make the same disclaimer if a poll supported by a right-leaning PAC was trumped by Sean Hannity on Fox News.
Flag Poll: The Mystifying Joe Manchin
Do you think Senator Joe Manchin is making the right decision to oppose the For the People Act? Comment below to share your thoughts.