Sunday, June 06, 2021


In the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Joe Manchin writes:
... congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? ...

The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen....

I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.
If you're concerned that criticizing him for this could inspire him to switch parties and throw full Senate control to the Republicans, don't worry. He'll never do that. If he leaves the Democratic Party, he'll easily lose a primary in 2024 to someone who never deviates from the GOP/Trump party line. (Manchin has voted with the Republicans a lot, but half the time he votes with the Democrats. That would drop to approximately 0% under Manchin's inevitable GOP replacement.) So attack him all you want. It won't hurt his feelings, and he'll wear the attacks as a badge of honor -- the way Susan Collins does in Maine -- when he runs as a centrist on the Democratic line again.

But what's his endgame? What does he want? I think he just likes being seen as The Last Bipartisan Man -- it serves him well electorally, and it makes him feel heroic when he looks in the mirror every morning. And yes, blocking the limits on fat-cash cash in the For the People Act undoubtedly endears him to well-heeled contributors.

As for what happens to his party, or to Joe Biden's presidency: I don't think he cares. Mostly this is narcissism -- he cares primarily about preserving his own career. In part it's because he's believe his actions should reflect the dominant Washington belief system of the past forty years: that Republicans should be the party that controls America, because Democrats (himself excluded) aren't "real" Americans. (Somehow, Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown -- Democratic senators from states that are also solidly Republican -- don't feel the need to do this.)

Manchin, in his op-ed, splits the difference by reminding us that he supports the Democrats' other big election bill:
The Voting Rights Act ... was monumental in the fight to guarantee freer and fairer elections in the United States. Since its original passage, it has been reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan votes five separate times. In addition, there is bipartisan support to pass the latest iteration of this legislation, the rightfully named John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update the formula states and localities must use to ensure proposed voting laws do not restrict the rights of any particular group or population. My Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has joined me in urging Senate leadership to update and pass this bill through regular order. I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights.
So Manchin wants to pass this "through regular order," which means sixty votes will be needed to overcome the automatic GOP filibuster. Ten Republicans are needed, but Manchin cites only one who's on board with passing this bill.

Jamison Foser is right:

Maybe if you asked him in confidence, Manchin would say: Democrats have two big election bills. In a fifty-fifty country with a fifty-fifty Senate, the passage of one of the bills through regular order is the system working as it should -- plus it gives me cred in my Republican state as a bridge-building Democrat. The system works.

But Manchin won't try to make the system work, will he? There won't be more than four of five GOP votes to break the filibuster on the VRA. Put in some effort, senator, or step aside and let the Democrats have the powers the voters gave them.

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