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Joe Manchin: The Democrats' Semi-Republican

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA), who is driving Democrats crazy by blocking their major voter reform bill because he wants it to be more "bipartisan", is exactly the tool Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell need to execute their strategy to regain control of the U.S. Senate.

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Whether what he is doing is a deliberate attempt to satisfy Trump supporters in his home state and act like a "semi-Republican," or because he is truly committed to the ideal of bipartisanship, is now being debated. Regardless, his refusal to support the For the People Act, the Democrats' critically important election reform bill, is unconscionable.

Manchin is playing directly into the hands of Donald Trump and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who already hold the filibuster card, and Manchin opposes any effort to take that card away. With a 50-50 tie in the Senate and only Vice President Harris as the deciding vote, Democrats have no margin for lost party-line votes.

Even with Manchin's support and that of every other Democratic senator and Independent Angus King (ME),10 Republican votes would be needed to break a GOP filibuster and pass the For the People Act because it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture and pass the bill. Without his support, that task becomes even more difficult -- and, it portends perilous times ahead for Biden as he seeks to pass his major infrastructure program, tax reform, and other key initiatives that will face GOP filibusters.

Too Political ?

Manchin's interview yesterday on CBS' Face the Nation was stunning as he doggedly insisted that he is refusing to support that legislation because it is too "political."


In red state after red state, Republicans are passing politically-inspired laws (read Donald Trump) that are designed to suppress the vote, especially in communities of color. Their boldness and obvious disdain for the right of everyone to vote is unbelievable. And as they defend their actions, they piously say they are defending our most precious right, the right to vote.


And Manchin is enabling them simply by refusing to support the federal legislation that would undo much of the damage that will be caused by those state laws, like those passed in Florida and Georgia, and just blocked by Democrats in Texas.

The 73-year-old Manchin will face reelection in 2024, should he decide to seek another term. He won reelection in 2018 with just under 50 percent of the vote, and West Virginia is a major GOP and Donald Trump stronghold. Should he retire or be defeated, there is little doubt that his seat would go to the GOP.

So it's no wonder that Manchin, the only Democrat to hold statewide office in West Virginia, is walking a political tightrope.

In an op-ed published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the senator wrote:

"The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics. Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner."

Then, a paragraph later, he added:

"Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it."

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason," Manchin wrote. "I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

This simply smacks of political self-preservation and has little to do with a high-minded desire to achieve bipartisan consensus on this important legislation. Under what rock has Manchin been hiding? Where is the willingness of Republicans to achieve bipartisan consensus? There is none.

Does Manchin not see what is happening in our country? There is no "coming together politically," like might have been possible in days gone by. This is 2021 and either you're a Trump supporter or you're not. There is no in-between. The political lines have been drawn in indelible ink, both in Washington and state houses across the country.

Donna Costello, the former mayor of Manchin's hometown of Farmington, WVA, tends to give Manchin the benefit of the doubt, but says it's time for him to recognize reality.

"As much as I appreciate Joe's ideal -- maybe that is where his heart is at and maybe that is because of his roots -- there has to come a time when you have to realize (Republicans) are not going to sit down and hold hands and sing kumbaya," she told CNN. "And you have to do what is in the best interest of what put you there."

That's exactly what Manchin needs to do -- act in the best interest of those who elected him. The problem is that many of those voters also were Trump voters, and so, perhaps, that is to whom the Senator from West Virginia is listening.

If that's the case, no amount of cajoling by Biden or Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will make a whit of difference.

Manchin will be Manchin and the Democrats -- and America -- will pay the price.

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