Joe Manchin Doesn’t Care About Democracy. He Cares About Joe Manchin.
It’s time to stop pretending that the West Virginia senator will stand up for voting rights
I’m not convinced that Joe Manchin is actually concerned about the fate of American democracy. But I genuinely admire the level of faith exhibited by folks like Raphael Warnock when broaching the subject.
Speaking with Politico, the Georgia senator and senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta said that after talking with Manchin on Sunday, he was “hopeful” he would eventually win him over in supporting voting rights legislation to help thwart the state-by-state assault currently being led by GOP elected officials. “We’ve got to find a way to pass voting rights,” Warnock said of the Democrat senator. “I think he understands that. Joe Manchin understands that this is a defining moment.”
I’m sure Manchin does understand this, yet he continues to soak up as much media attention as he can for playing the role of senatorial spoiler. That self-serving quality — coupled with his politics (best described as “for the oligarchs” but with a folksy-enough twang) — have made me fairly certain that Warnock’s efforts, which I believe are genuine, will be in vain.
Because Joe Manchin doesn’t care. Because if American democracy, already historically flawed, is completely toppled under a legalized GOP-led coup, Joe Manchin has assessed that he would be fine. Because Joe Manchin is rich, White, and connected to the people pulling the strings through the methodology that legislation like the For the People Act would end.
So it’s no wonder that the same day Warnock expressed hope, Manchin went out of his way to do more press to remind us that there’s only so much faith you can have in a person like him.
First, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Manchin said of the For the People Act, “I think there’s a lot of great things I agree with in that piece of legislation, but there’s an awful lot of things that basically don’t pertain directly to voting.”
When asked if these remarks pointed to a no vote, Manchin responded that they did. “I think it’s the wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together and unite our country, and I’m not supporting that because I think it would divide us further,” he explained
As for eliminating the filibuster, Manchin repeated his refusal to support any move to do so.
I’m no fan of anyone employed by the propagandist network Fox News, but I can at least appreciate that after hearing Manchin babble on about a bipartisan era in American politics that exists only in his imagination, Wallace pressed Manchin as to whether he was being “naive” about the likelihood of Democrats and Republicans working together, considering Republicans are presently laying the groundwork to overturn future election results. Manchin said he was not being naive.
If the White House continues to acquiesce to Manchin’s attention-whoring and ego-tripping at the expense of their agenda and our already so-so democracy, this term will be effectively over years before it officially wraps.
However, in an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail titled “Why I’m Voting Against the For the People Act,” Manchin suggested otherwise. “The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country,” Manchin wrote. “I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality.”
Acknowledging the process as “frustrating and slow,” Manchin continues: “It will force compromises that are not always ideal. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants? I have always said, ‘If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’”
Republicans are presently trying to make certain that votes — even by White people — can be overturned if they don’t like the end result of a Republican not winning. How does one compromise with that? This is the tradition of conservative White men stomping out progress by force. Manchin is aiding and abetting under the pretense of protecting an image of the Senate that isn’t even real.
If Manchin isn’t naive, he should drop the lectures and say he doesn’t care.
Months ago, the New York Times wrote about Black lawmakers’ concerns that the Democrats took too long to stress the importance of maintaining voting rights, dooming the For the People Act. Some Democrats are now revisiting past warnings that pushing the more focused bill — named after John Lewis — is the better option for Congress.
There was a bipartisan proposal by Manchin and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as an alternative to the For the People Act, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already negated that possible scenario. He argued that the legislation would give the Justice Department too much power over states, and that the current voting rights law (which was gutted years ago by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts) is sufficient.
Even before McConnell’s statement, Murkowski knew it would be a difficult task. “To get to 60 [votes], it’s pretty difficult to count,” she said, per CNN. Of course, in another interview (he loves to talk), Manchin assured reporters that getting Republican votes for the bill named after the late congressman and civil rights movement icon was possible.
So much for that.
On Tuesday, Manchin met with civil rights leaders who pressed him to do more to protect voting rights. While he said the meeting was “constructive,” “respectful,” “informative,” and “excellent,” Manchin still couldn’t care less. “We’re just learning where everybody’s coming from,” he said. “We’re learning where everybody’s position is.”
I’m certain everyone who went into this meeting already knew what the person on the other side believed. Joe Manchin is getting lots of attention, but his position is not a secret, nor it is novel. To be blunt, when I hear a White politician complain about “federalizing election law,” I instantly hear the song of “states rights” and know exactly what it is.
On the other hand, I do have faith that Manchin might still be eventually brought to heel. It will just require presidential intervention. If done right, maybe the VP can say “We did it, Joe” once again with sincerity.
Of course, the Biden-Harris administration has a lot on its plate, given the mess made by the maniac who won’t go away, but Joe Biden has wanted to be president for about as long as I’ve been alive. I know Biden is revered as a polite man and has enjoyed high approval ratings as America’s president and delightfully boring, empathetic Pop-Pop thus far, but if the White House continues to acquiesce to Manchin’s attention-whoring and ego-tripping at the expense of their agenda and our already so-so democracy, this term will be effectively over years before it officially wraps.
I understand the filibuster may not be completely eliminated, but if there’s anyone who can shut down Manchin’s sanctimonious rants, it’s Biden, who was in the Senate for several decades. And with respect to voting rights, Biden should continue what he started weeks ago and continue to call out Democratic senators standing in his way of being an FDR reboot (run through a less racist filter). It would serve as a big boost to efforts from the Stacey Abrams–led Fair Fight Action to get young people involved in support of voting rights legislation. The same goes for the Rev. William Barber II announcing that the Poor People’s Campaign will hold a Moral March in West Virginia next week to protest Sen. Joe Manchin.
If people like Manchin (and Kyrsten Sinema) want to build national profiles off the plight of disenfranchised people, let them get it. I don’t know what is the political equivalent of Juvenile’s “Ha,” but I suggest someone figure it out and tell President Biden to get with it. We are sick of Joe Manchin and can’t rely on hope alone.
It’s time to put the pressure on that insufferable man and save this country, because we’re stuck living in a subsidiary of Trump Inc.