Everyone who cares about democracy is mad at Democrat Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). Manchin is currently obstructing Democrats from passing needed voter protection laws without Republican support. Why are they needed? Because Republicans have voted largely without Democratic support to restrict voting rights. The latter is apparently cool with Manchin.
But did you know that in 2011, before our democracy had been directly attacked by an autocracy seeking domestic terrorist group led by now former President Donald Trump, (allegedly Democratic) Senator Joe Manchin was for filibuster reform? (Sam Stein first dredged this up.)
Now that we are under clear and present ongoing attack of having elections overturned by violence when Republicans don’t win and Republicans are passing laws to restrict people who tend to vote Democrat from exercising that pesky right that so often rejects the Republican Party’s subservience to the top 1%, West Virginian Manchin is all in on assisting minority rule Republican attacks on democracy by insisting that the minority party be able to destroy measures the majority of Americans support.
Manchin defends himself with some disingenuous talk about protecting democracy by pretending Republicans care about it, “…voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen… I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster. For as long as I have the privilege of being your U.S. senator, I will fight to represent the people of West Virginia, to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love.”
I’d pay to see a lawyer grill Manchin on what specific legislative actions Republicans have taken on a bipartisan basis in the last ten years that has given him this faulty impression. The truth is Democrats cannot control how partisan Republicans have become. They can only act to protect the people from how dangerously cult like the Republican Party is currently. And that is exactly what the people who managed to vote in 2020 wanted. Why is Manchin refusing to serve the people of this country in favor of some Barbie Dream House version of the Senate?
I have long defended the Senate rules (including when Democrats had all of the power), but times change. Our country wasn’t meant to be ruled by the tyranny of the minority. Norm Ornstein has pointed out in these pages that the “main use of the filibuster through most of the 20th century was by segregationists blocking action on civil rights and voting rights.”
Is that democracy in action as Manchin sees it? Or is it perhaps democracy as the Koch network sees it, which has lobbied against the For the People Act in 2021?
Rachel Maddow pointed out that a majority of West Virginia voters and Republicans favor the For The People Act:
Rachel Maddow shows that Joe Manchin is defying the will of a majority of Republican voters in West Virginia on the voting rights bill and a majority of West Virginia voters on the filibuster. pic.twitter.com/vnxhhu2Cpv
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) June 8, 2021
Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) compared what Manchin is doing to Democracy’s Grim Reaper, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell… Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship, he is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency.”
Greg Sargent’s Washington Post piece on the matter points that that Manchin’s position has “consigned us to a future of minority rule” and lays out Manchin’s arguments, which having been so neatly summarized, clearly are incoherent and actually absurd. They are, per Sargent:
Manchin stated three essential propositions:
Acting in defense of voting rights is urgently necessary to defend our freedom
Yet protecting voting rights must only be done on a bipartisan basis, or it cannot happen at all
Therefore, Democrats must continue seeking Republican support, which will ultimately materialize, precisely because the urgency of acting is so great
The premise that Republicans, who are currently covering up a violent, deadly attack on our Capitol led by their party leader to overturn an election, will for some reason suddenly sing on to protect voting rights is not even naive, it’s willfully blind and even Joe Manchin can’t actually believe that will happen.
Sargent is not impressed, as he points out that currently Republicans are destroying voting rights on a partisan basis, “If rewriting voting rules on a ‘partisan’ basis will destroy our democratic bonds, we already live in that world. GOP state legislatures are passing such changes largely on party lines across the country, including voter suppression, efforts to take control of election machinery to potentially overturn outcomes, and preparations for extreme gerrymanders.”
There was a day when rational people recognized the danger of pushing Manchin out of the Democratic Party, but at this point, the only question remaining is if the Senator really thinks saving his own seat is worth killing democracy.
Perhaps they are the same, as if he changes party or loses his seat, democracy could be lost anyway. But I for one would prefer we go down with a fight. To see a Democrat bowing down to autocratic forces on the Right in what appears to be our Last Stand is a bridge too far.
Manchin will destroy the For the People Act, an act aimed at protecting our crumbling democracy because no Republican signed on to it. Not unrelated, Al-Qaeda failed to support U.S. national security measures that make it harder for them to act against our country as well.
Only the Senator from West Virginia can pretend to be surprised by that.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.