What the hell is Joe Manchin doing?
This is the question on everyone’s mind as the most powerful man in the Senate continues to publicly antagonize his own party and play footsie with Republicans. The ostensibly Democratic Senator from West Virginia — who used to be a Republican himself — is clearly relishing his position as the swing vote in a tightly divided Senate and uses every opportunity to burnish his brand as a “centrist” who cares deeply about “bipartisanship,” obstinately refusing to acclimate to the new post-Trump political reality of fanatical hyperpartisanship on the far-right.
He’s already sparked public backlash for his attempt to reduce the economic relief checks, his opposition to a $15 minimum wage, and his rejection of the House’s bill mandating universal background checks for gun purchases.
But the biggest issue is his refusal to consider ending the filibuster, transferring the onus of blocking President Biden’s entire legislative agenda from Mitch McConnell on to Manchin — and he even has the nerve to be proud of it.
While Manchin ostensibly was trying to say that Schumer wouldn’t even have the problem of trying to abolish the filibuster and pass his agenda without Manchin in the first place, it also is clear that Schumer wouldn’t have this problem at all if we had an actual Democrat in Manchin’s seat.
But rather than an ideological commitment one way or the other, it appears that Manchin is wholly consumed with his narcissistic sense of self-importance and his public image as a fetishist for bipartisanism purely for the sake of it. White House officials were mystified when Joe Manchin delayed the passage of the stimulus bill not to get more money for his state — one of the poorest in the nation — but instead wanted to “pare back spending and consider Republican input that could have made the bill appear more moderate.”
Who is he making it more moderate for?
The bill is wildly popular among both Republicans and Democrats and has earned Congress its highest approval ratings in over a decade. The complete disregard for the opinions of voters makes it obvious that Manchin’s delusional bipartisan schtick is solely self-serving theatrics, especially after over a decade of insane Republican obstructionism.
Not a single Republican voted for the COVID-19 relief bill, even after Manchin got his way and curtailed unemployment benefits, taking money out of the pockets of working Americans for no reason but to make himself look more “moderate” — and in the process exposing just how meaningless the term “moderate” is.
What is moderate about denying unemployment relief to people who have spent the past year out of work in the middle of a pandemic?
What is “moderate” about Republicans in every red state working tirelessly to ram through as many voter repression bills as they possibly can? What is “moderate” about opposing common-sense background checks supported by 90% of the American people?
What is “moderate” about refusing to lift a finger to repair our nation’s decrepit infrastructure and in the process creating thousands of new jobs?
What is “moderate” about a minimum wage that has remained stagnant for ten years?
What is moderate about a ruthlessly vampiric healthcare system that bankrupts cancer victims and extorts huge sums of money from hard-pressed Americans in exchange for their lives?
None of that is “moderate” in any way shape or form — it is extreme, deliberate cruelty — but that clearly isn’t going to stop Manchin from making sure the Democratic Party never addresses any of those issues purely for the sake of his own ego. The events of the past twelve years should have made it obvious to everyone that Senate Republicans would sooner see this country burn to the ground than vote for any bill put forth by Democrats, and Manchin’s continued insistence that we compromise our own principles to appease these depraved freaks is as insulting as it is delusional.
Democrats are unfortunately forced to continue playing this preposterous charade in the hopes that Manchin will come down off his pedestal and ensure that the COVID-19 bill isn’t the only legislative achievement that President Biden will have to show off after four years in office. But we cannot forget how hard Manchin worked to drag this out for nothing but his own personal amusement — and make him pay for it when the time comes.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.