There’s “yes”, there’s “no”, there’s “I’m thinking about it”, and there’s “I’ll let you know later”.
What do you picture when you hear, “I’m thinking about it” or “I’ll let you know later”? They’re responses you might hear from your daughter’s boyfriend when asked point blank, “Are you going to propose to my daughter?” Or when a restaurant server checks for the fourth or fifth time whether your party is ready to order dinner and drinks and you tell him or her, “I’m thinking about it” or “I’ll let you know in a few minutes (a.k.a. later).”
Apropos for this week, you ask, “I’m running out of days and I need a hint or two about what you want for Christmas”? In this example, “thinking” and “later” won’t do much good.
Equivocation is not what you’d expect from most lifelong Democrat senators when he or she is queried on when or if they might make a party switch, but that’s exactly what West Virginia senator Joe Manchin replied recently when approached, probably for the millionth time, on whether he was considering leaving the socialist-loving Democrat party for good. The questions had seemingly stopped for a time when Georgia’s Raphael Warnock won reelection earlier this month, but they’ve started up again thanks to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s declaration that she couldn’t stand being a Democrat any longer (who could blame her?).
Sinema’s certainty leaves Manchin in a tough spot, however, since he’s technically become the Democrats’ fiftieth senate vote again, which empowers Biden VP Kamala Harris to break ties, just as she’s done on multiple occasions in the past two years. Manchin’s status as a “moderate” outsider gave the Mountain State politician oversized say in the end product of Democrat legislation.
Would he really go through with it? In a piece titled, “Joe Manchin on possibility of ditching Democrats: ‘I’ll let you know later’”, Ramsey Touchberry reported at The Washington Times:
“The conservative West Virginia Democrat, who is up for reelection in 2024, is a frequent critic of his party and toxic Washington politics but said he still has no plans of becoming an independent like Ms. Sinema of Arizona.
“’I’ll let you know later what I decide to do. But right now, I have no intentions of changing anything except working for West Virginians, trying to give them more opportunities, better quality of life and basically making sure our country is energy secured,’ Mr. Manchin said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’ …
“’[Democrats] know how independent I am. The ‘D’ does not saddle me to everything the Democrats want to do is what’s right. I don’t think the Democrats have all the answers. I don’t think the Republicans are always wrong, and vice versa,’ Mr. Manchin said. ‘I don’t look at things that way. Where I came from is basically, how do I survive and make it better and the quality of life that we can extend to more people? That’s it. And if Republicans have a good idea, and I like it, I’m with it. And if I’m the only Democrat, which I’ve been many times, I feel very comfortable and come home and explain it.’”
Blah, blah, blah. Manchin’s oft-repeated rationalization for his unwillingness to make a commitment to either the Democrat or Republican camp is growing old to those of us who’ve heard it enough times. Manchin will hold the others in suspense as long as he sees an advantage for himself to keeping Chucky Schumer guessing on what he’ll do in the long run.
So Manchin says “I’ll let you know” about a potential bailout from the Democrats, which is just another way of saying, “I’m still thinking about it”. If the West Virginian were to claim he wasn’t considering some sort of bold move, he’d be lying.
By his own admission, Manchin admits he hasn’t decided on whether he’ll run again in 2024, which has to be the main reason why he’s waffling again. If he had definitely decided in the affirmative on another campaign, Joe would probably switch to Independent or to the Republicans, correctly figuring he couldn’t win as a Democrat in conservative West Virginia. If Manchin’s leaning towards retiring, he’d stay a Democrat so as to get as many concessions from Chucky Schumer as circumstances would allow in the next two years.
I do take issue with Touchberry’s description of Manchin as a “conservative Democrat”. This label might fit Manchin in a time when practically every Democrat is closer in ideology and personal predilection to Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez than they are to a real “moderate” like Tulsi Gabbard, but Manchin is much more liberal than he is “conservative”.
If anything, Manchin is an issue conservative on energy production and sometimes judicial nominees, but what else? He’s also closer to the center on budgetary matters and taxes, but what other evidence exists that he’s a believer in conservatism’s three-legged stool (fiscal conservatism, social conservatism and strong national security)?
The establishment media gives Manchin way too much credit as a centrist. While he held out for months on certain Biden proposals (Build Back Better the most notable) for the past year, it’s not as though he’s staked a claim as the senate’s last remaining vestige of a conservative Democrat. He’s no Sam Nunn or Zell Miller, put it that way.
Even Democrats must have realized that their original asking price for the Biden wish-list was way too high, so paring it down to the final number was not exactly a great act of courage. When you’re dealing with Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren and Bernie Sanders seeking to nationalize Medicare and/or pass universal childcare, anything else looks “moderate” by comparison.
Rather than being the Democrat embodiment of “bipartisanship’, Manchin is just swaying with the times, needing to change tactics on the fly to remain politically viable. He’s gone from representing (in various capacities) one of the most solid Democrat states to one of the most solid Republican locales within the past three decades. When Democrats were perceived as representing the hard-working labor class in the old days, West Virginia was solid blue.
Not any longer. Democrats began assaulting the coal mining industry in the nineties, leading to a complete political changeover that’s been replicated in other states south of the Mason/Dixon line. But Manchin is one of the few Democrat holdouts who’s convinced his voters that he’ll occasionally ditch the Democrat leadership to give in to what citizens demand.
What should Joe do? If he were actually pondering a complete transfer to the Republican Party, his leverage might be at its highest point right now. But with the GOP in control of the House and theoretically in position to stop the most damaging of the Democrats’ schemes to change the United States into a dysfunctional former first-world dystopia, Manchin’s value as a “swing vote” is on the budget margins.
Chances are he’ll throw-in with Sinema and a conglomeration of RINO senators (Maine’s Susan Collins, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Utah’s Mitt Romney) to form some sort of “moderate” coalition that will make demands of both parties’ leaders and, in the process, increase not only their own personal profiles but also ensure lots more “compromise” legislation is passed.
It should be noted that a few of the more notorious RINO Republican senators retired this year and their replacements will likely be more conservative. North Carolina’s Sen. Richard Burr will be swapped for Trump-endorsed senator elect Ted Budd; Missouri’s Roy Blunt is leaving, too, to be succeeded by another Trump endorsee, Eric Schmitt, who will probably be more like fellow Missourian Josh Hawley than establishmentarian extraordinaire Blunt, and, Ohio’s J.D. Vance will take retiring senator Rob Portman’s place.
It could be harder for Mitch McConnell to find enough bodies to break a filibuster on some matters now. That’s a good thing.
Further, there probably won’t be any battles over getting rid of the filibuster tradition in 2023 and 2024 because both Sinema and Manchin have held fast on voting to sustain it. Therefore, Chucky Schumer and Joe Biden’s allies in Congress will most likely confine themselves to more productive – and secretive – pursuits.
Joe Manchin will let us know if he decides to follow Kyrsten Sinema’s lead in becoming an independent or even if he’ll take the bolder step of joining the GOP outright. Either way, the senate balance of power won’t change much and the so-called “centrists” will be lured by both sides.
Joe Biden economy
Biden cognitive decline
January 6 Committee
Build Back Better
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2024 presidential election