Reality Smacked Democrats in the Face, So Democrats Are Smacking Joe Manchin
Instead of giving the voters what they want, Democrats have resorted to blaming voters (and white women in particular) for their losses.
The Democrats’ war on one of its own, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, is a metaphor for the Democrats’ war on reality—a predictable paroxysm of a party that has not yet grappled with its role in America or its path forward.
Instead of taking the “L” on the Build Back Better plan, the Biden White House is calling Manchin a liar. Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders is channeling Desi Arnaz, saying Manchin has a lot of “explaining to do to the people of West Virginia.” Squad Member Cori Bush bashed his “corporatist ego,” and Ilhan Omar called his reasons for opposing the social spending bill “bullshit.”
The fact is, Manchin has spoken—and so have the American people. His detractors are still living in the denial and anger phases of the grieving process.
In reality, Manchin’s opposition to BBB shouldn’t surprise anyone; progressives have been brutally attacking him about it for months.
And on top of all that, the Biden administration may even be responsible for hastening Manchin’s decision. By my reading, it sounds like Manchin submitted a plan he could live with, but Biden’s staff and other progressives couldn’t.
On Tuesday, Manchin “came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a bill,” according to Jen Psaki’s statement. Next, according to The Washington Post, Manchin huddled with Democratic Senators who disagreed regarding some of the provisions he wanted to cut. Then, “24 hours later, the White House had made clear the bill would not be happening in 2021…”
The Post continues: “Manchin made up his mind only in the past day or two, according to a person familiar with the situation, concluding he had exhausted all negotiating options with the White House.”
With Republicans united, and the Senate split 50-50, Democrats must have Manchin’s vote to pass anything. The smart move would have been to take as much as he would give.
As I wrote on the night the House passed their version of the bill, “The truth is, if BBB passes, it will essentially be written by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and progressives will have to swallow that.”
But they aren’t willing to swallow that.
Because they believe their goals are obviously noble, progressives are incredulous that one little old West Virginia senator should prevent their utopian dreams from coming true, just as they continue to be immune to the signals being sent by voters, moderate Dems, and “normies” who keep telling them “no.”
This means America now has two political parties that are uninterested in hearing any feedback from the voters. “[C]onservatives did not want to change to address the failings outlined in the [2012 autopsy] report because they believed their values were correct; liberals have not wanted to change post-2016 for the same reasons,” writes Freddie deBoer.
It’s not just that progressives believe their “values are correct,” but rather, that they know the stakes are existential. When it comes to Manchin’s “betrayal” on BBB, for example, “Our entire democracy is on the line.” At least, according to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But instead of blaming Manchin for dooming democracy, Democrats’ frustration should rightly be aimed at democracy. After all, BBB doesn’t have 50 votes. That’s what this whole thing is about.
Their beef isn’t really with Manchin, even if he’s an easier target. It’s with the American voters, who have not yet been bullied into giving them enough levers of power to impose their agenda and fully transform the nation.
Put another way, progressives have captured the Democratic Party, but the Democratic Party has not captured America. Progressives are unwilling to change to meet the voters, and the voters seem unwilling to meet them. In this paradigm, progressives can never fail the voters; they can only be failed by them.
The truth is that left-wingers like AOC simply don’t have enough votes to impose their will, and that’s because the American public isn’t on the same page with their agenda. Indeed, Joe Biden won the presidency because a lot of voters—mistakenly, it seems—assumed his agenda would be more in line with Manchin than AOC.
Instead of giving the voters what they want, Democrats have resorted to blaming voters (and white women in particular) for their losses. Failure to comply is a cardinal sin, since progressives have convinced themselves that all of their priorities are vital. And why wouldn’t they be? The party has the perfect bogeyman (in the form of Donald Trump) to alibi for all their problems.
For all their talk about Republicans failing to accept the results of elections, Democrats don’t seem to think a duly elected senator—who represents a state Trump won by 40 points—has won the right to represent his constituents as he sees fit. Guess what? Elections have consequences. If progressives want a supermajority to pass their agenda, they can elect a supermajority of progressives to do so.
But there simply isn’t enough demand for this—and pretending otherwise risks damaging the larger Democratic brand, resulting in even more losses. Perhaps this is why, outside the Beltway, some Democrats are starting to come to their senses.
We are seeing this with Manchin pumping the brakes on trillions more in social spending. We are seeing this with New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ attempt to make New York safe again—and with San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s crime crackdown on her city’s “nasty streets.” We are seeing this with the attack from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who like Adams and Breed is African American, on a crime-tolerant district attorney’s “white wokeness.” We are seeing this with Colorado Gov. Jared Pollis’s less-apocalyptic handling of COVID-19. And we saw this with California voters emphatic rejection of affirmative action.
If you listen to Twitter and the progressive lawmakers who are the most vocal and viral there, you’d think the only future for the Democratic party is racially allocated gains on an equity basis, pushed by a growing government that can fund these projects by redistributive (and retributive) policies. But if you live in a land called Reality, you will hear voices in the wilderness trying desperately to show Democrats a path forward.
One of those voices is from Appalachia. His name is Joe Manchin.