For years, progressives and even many moderate Democrats have been wildly frustrated with Sen. Joe Manchin, the former Republican turncoat who now relishes his role in singlehandedly keeping the Democratic Party from ever accomplishing anything that would remotely displease his former Republican cronies. The excuse that has always been made is that “Manchin is there for us when we really need it” — and it has been true for the most part up to this point.
But now he’s crossed the line into active obstruction himself. In a Saturday night press release, Manchin announced that he would be voting No on the blockbuster Democratic voting rights bill, the For The People Act (HR 1), and reiterated his refusal to abolish the filibuster, which effectively ends the Biden administration’s chances at passing anything else over the next year and a half that isn’t rammed through budget reconciliation.
In his statement, Manchin cries crocodile tears that the debate on how to best protect our democracy has been “politicized” and has turned into a fight for partisan advantage.
“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.
As such, congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.”
While such trite and vapid bullshit sounds nice on paper, it is entirely divorced from the political reality that Manchin has consistently refused to come to grips with for years now. He very deliberately refuses to identify who has turned it into a struggle for partisan advantage but instead falsely posits it as a failure to compromise on both sides.
It is Manchin’s beloved Republicans who have introduced nearly four hundred voter restriction laws in 48 states so far this year and have successfully enacted 22 voter restriction laws as of May 14th, according to the Brennan Center for Justice and Manchin’s beloved Republicans who are still pushing delusional conspiracies of voter fraud affecting the outcome of the 2020 election.
They are explicitly telegraphing to the nation that they are working overtime to dismantle our democracy and replace it with entrenched oligarchal minority rule, utilizing the undemocratic nature of the Senate and the procedural mechanisms that were originally designed to enforce white supremacy to prevent Democrats from ever utilizing their power on the rare occasions they actually win elections.
By refusing to abolish the filibuster and opposing the For The People Act, Manchin is damning the Biden administration to two years of failure and stagnation before likely returning control of Congress to the Republicans given the Democrats’ failure to produce anything beyond the COVID-19 relief bill — which passed with 0 Republican votes — but he’s more concerned with his personal reputation and his fetishization of bipartisanship for the sake of it.
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Opinion columnist and former 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.