EDITORIAL: What does Joe Manchin owe the Democratic Party?

·3 min read

Oct. 23—As Sen. Joe Manchin trips up his own party in the halls of the Capitol, his actions beg the question: What does Manchin owe the Democratic Party ?

The term "RINO "—Republican in name only—made its debut under the last administration, and its counterpart, "DINO "—or Democrat in name only—was arguably created specifically for Manchin. And it's a fitting term.

Manchin's title as the "Democratic " senator from West Virginia has been called into question so often that the left-leaning publication Mother Jones started reporting Manchin was going to formally leave the Democratic Party to become a conservative Independent. Manchin has, of course, vehemently denied these claims, but it's telling that such rumors are so believable in the first place.

For months now, Manchin has insisted that anything that passes in Congress should do so by bipartisan vote. The end result has been bills that please no one, often missing their most important features in the name of attracting Republican support. And, as Manchin found out the hard way this past week, even after making progressives compromise with moderates, Republicans in the Senate still won't give their vote.

Earlier this year, Manchin withheld his support for HR 1, the widely popular For the People Act. Manchin hacked away at HR 1, eventually creating the significantly more limited Freedom to Vote Act, swearing that it would garner Republican backing. He even wined and dined GOP senators on his yacht. When it came time for a vote, not a single Republican agreed to bring Manchin's bill up for debate.

As many members of Congress face midterm elections, Republicans in particular will be careful to toe the party line for fear of getting primaried. Which means for all his talk of "bipartisanship " and cooperation, Manchin is only forcing the Democratic Party to compromise with itself, which on its own is not a bad thing. But Manchin's stubbornness is contributing to congressional gridlock as he often becomes the lone holdout in what is technically a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Manchin may represent one of the reddest states in the union, but he couldn't have been elected to office without the Democrats of West Virginia, though he's long since left them behind to pander to the Republicans instead.

In doing so, he has created a representative imbalance. West Virginia's conservatives already have four voices (soon to be three, after redistricting takes effect) in Congress, Who do West Virginia's more liberal voters have ? Supposedly Manchin, but he's proven that's he's unwilling to be their voice. Call him a centrist all you'd like, but when the center has shifted so far to the right, so-called "moderates " really are just Republicans in disguise.

So what does Manchin owe the Democratic Party ? We wouldn't say his blind and undying allegiance. (That's a big part of the problem on the opposite side of the aisle at the moment.) But he owes West Virginia Democrats the representation they were promised when they voted for him. And West Virginia's Democrats are telling him that they want the whole kit-and-caboodle when it comes to the Build Back Better Act. Manchin owes them his good faith efforts to balance wants and needs to bring the best opportunities and services to West Virginia, and that means cooperating with fellow Democrats in Washington instead of undermining them at every turn.

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