Image Courtesy of Business Insider
By Jack Rowing
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is no stranger to opposition. His position as the only Democrat elected to federal office for the state of West Virginia has made him a target of the right for many years now, as they attempted to reclaim his seat. Joe Manchin won his seat back in 2018 by three points. Meanwhile in 2016 and 2020, Donald Trump won the state by over 38 points each time.
Manchin’s spent the duration of the Trump administration doing an impressive balancing act of remaining a Democrat and a West Virginian. He voted almost exactly 50 percent of the time with Donald Trump. He voted to block funding to the border wall, ban abortions past twenty weeks, and convict Donald Trump on accounts of impeachment. Now as President Joe Biden attempts to get his agenda past a 50-50 Senate, Manchin becomes the key vote for Republicans to block, change, or amend legislation. Manchin’s moderation would block key progressive proposals to end the filibuster, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Biden’s energy plan. For almost every bill proposed by Democrats and Republicans, Manchin will either be one of the key votes, or simply the key vote. New Republic writer Sam Adler Bell, has dubbed him “King of the Senate” others have followed suit with numerous articles and tweets have announced him as the most powerful congressman.
However, Manchin’s rise to the top has not protected him from acquiring enemies. The ‘No Excuses Pac,’ famous or infamous for its role in electing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, released an ad targeting Manchin’s opposition to the $2,000 stimulus checks. They have stood openly against both Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, both of whom had stood openly against some of the progressives’ more aggressive policies, such as ending the filibuster. One of their co founders, Saikat Chakrabart, said he wanted to “threaten their power, threaten their seat that they hold, threaten their reelection.” Manchin, however doesn’t appear to be against the end of the filibuster for political gains, his opposition to it primarily stems from his belief over a Federalist understanding of minority input into legislation.
Corbin Trent, another co-founder of the pac, said on the show Rising that Manchin was “on an island by himself” on the $2000 checks. That is why he flipped their opinion, and “if you are gonna pretend to be a Republican, you might as well pretend to be a populist Republican.” In a letter to their supporters, they called on them to find the next AOC to replace Manchin and Sinema.”
This is not the first time Manchin has clashed with the progressive left. Manchin opposed the Green New Deal, the movement to defund the police, and Medicare for All. Manchin also tweeted that Representative Ocasio-Cortez is more “active on twitter than anything else.” Disagreements between Manchin and the progressive left, have always been presented, but have escalated since Manchin was given such a crucial position.
While Manchin appears to be facing challenges from the far left, he also appears to have developed a disconnect from the current establishment. Vice President Kamala Harris went on to WSAZ and other West Virginia Media outlets to promote the Biden administration’s new energy plan. While this in and of itself is not abnormal, both the President’s Office and the Vice President’s office failed to contact Manchin to coordinate and or discuss the media campaign. Vice President Harris’ office called WSAZ and scheduled the interview. When he saw the interview Joe Manchin commented on how he was surprised that no one had reached out to him. He later said the actions were “not a way of working together.” Harris’s appearance was not entirely blameless; a common vernacular mistake was made when discussing abandoned mined lands, which she referred to as “land mines.” This small mistake exposed her as an outsider to the West Virginian viewer.
After Manchin’s comments, the White House office called him, to rectify the failure to communicate before the interviews. Failure to work closely with Manchin would be dangerous to the Biden agenda, while there are other possibilities for achieving goals, without other key votes, including Harris breaking a tie, and budget reconciliation, Manchin is the one vote, failure to work with whom is then immediately followed by a need for Republican support. A CNN article by Harry Enten described the dangers of challenging Manchin in a primary. Manchin is one of the few Democrats from a state that went for Donald Trump. When the Justice Democrats had their own candidate Paula Jean Swearengein run in her own Senate race, she lost by 43 points. While he stands in opposition to many of his own parties more aggressive proposals, his support on moderate raises to the minimum wage, opposition to the radical right, fixing healthcare, and other Democratic proposals, make him a key ally in a state which would have most likely gone to a Republican. Control of the House and Senate is conditional in today’s polarized world for accomplishing an agenda. His key roles on appropriations, armed services, and energy committees make him vital for pushing Democrat plans to the floor. The relationship between Manchin and the Democratic party will determine the effectiveness of these next two years, as well as their policies for fighting COVID-19.