Posted 22 days ago
One of the most insightful comments of this great article, is when Osnos said the solution to the Manchin "problem" of the Democratic Party is not to remove Manchin, but to figure out how and why he appeals to voters in conservative states and start winning more seats in these areas. It's easy to point to Manchin as the blocker of any legislation, but the reality is that is is one of the only reasons the legislation would be possible. If he didn't adhere to his voters, he would not be elected, and the Democratic Party would be the minority in the Senate.
This is a crucial profile at a time when emotions are high. Almost all the time now I see that "Manchin is blocking" this or that, and people erupt in fury over his stalling of bills, such as the voting-rights bill. In reality, he is trying to be the one who reaches across the isle, and will not advance a "voting-rights bill with no Republican support." On the surface, this seems like rational politics, and it's odd that he is villainized for believing this in a moment where polarization seems to be at the extremes.
But, it's clear that many other people see this as a stunt: a way to win support without actually caring about the legislation itself. Osnos quotes a Democratic aide saying "I think the man is utterly full of shit and not even good at it." It appears he is not doing the centrist play for actually being a centrist, but as a political maneuver to make people think he is not part of any party. Osnos quotes another interaction:
Manchin talked constantly about negotiating, but, when progressives offered concrete benefits that West Virginians clearly needed, he did not budge. “Manchin could say, ‘This is a hostage-taking: give me roads, bridges, broadband, and I will give you my vote.’ And we would do it!,” Faiz Shakir, a political adviser to Bernie Sanders, said. “We could make your legacy amazing. You could lower prescription-drug costs for West Virginians. You could expand health insurance. You could have ‘Joe Manchin highways’ all over the place, ‘Joe Manchin water facilities.’ Instead, he says, ‘No, let’s tweak on the margins, in ways that only some Republicans can support.’ ”
It's almost as if he is that boss or coworker, who no matter how good of a job you may do, needs to make some "tweak" in order to believe he or she had an influence on the outcome.
At the same time, no matter all the rucus and fuss that people may throw up their hands at Manchin about, he has won over and over and over in his state. People believe him to be sincere and keep voting him, and that success is crucial for the Democratic Party at large. In a time where the division seems to be becoming metropolitan vs. rural, having candidates that are from small towns and are proud of being from them, is a critical plus for people who feel they are being alienated (whether or not they actually are is an entirely different story, but the feeling is certainly there).
Osnos quotes Trevor Noah who brilliantly sums up the problem:
In April, on “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah likened Manchin to “that annoying kid on your block who had a pool. Yeah, he hogged all the noodles and wouldn’t let anyone use the diving board, but without him there’s no pool party.”