With its control of the U.S. House, Senate and the presidency, 2021 was to be the year that Democrats finally achieved their dream — publicly declared by former President Barack Obama in 2008 — of “fundamental transforming” the United States of America into a socialist paradise on Earth. One man stands in their way. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, no less. How dare he!
That’s the mindset of a radical left-wing, revolutionary faction of Democrats known as the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The CPC numbers 96 members. 95 of them in the House — including Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse — constituting 43% of 221 House Democrats. Independent-socialist Bernie Sanders (who else would it be?) is their lone member from the Senate.
Manchin is driving them crazier than they already are. The lunatic fringe of the CPC is the “Squad.” After Manchin killed the latest installment of the Build Back Better bill (otherwise known as Build Back Broke), Squad leader AOC said “it was time to take the kid gloves off.” In her usual fashion, unhinged from the facts, she then condescendingly proclaimed that her congressional district had more people in it than Manchin’s state. (Actually, the population of New York’s 14th Congressional District is 696,000; West Virginia’s population is 1.8 million.)
Squad member Rep. Ilhan Omar said Manchin “couldn’t be trusted” and branded his explanation for opposing BBB as “complete bulls.” (Perhaps she thought Manchin was Jewish, a frequent target of her anti-Semitic invective.) Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the America-hating CPC Chair, said Manchin “betrayed his commitment not only to the President and Democrats in Congress but most importantly to the American people.” Really? Doesn’t the American people include the 75 million who voted for Republicans in 2020, including the Americans in West Virginia who elected Manchin? Moreover, recent polls show the majority of the American people oppose this fiscally irresponsible BBB spending spree, and disfavor President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
When asked about Manchin’s opposition to BBB extravagance in an interview with “CBS News,” Vice President Kamala Harris — in her strange way of avoiding a question with a guffaw or unintelligible gibberish — said, “I think the stakes are too high for this to be, in any way, about any specific individual.” Huh? While Manchin is certainly that specific individual among Senate Democrats, he’s been joined by all 50 Senate Republicans in his outspoken opposition to BBB overreach.
Jayapal and others are pressing Biden to take “executive action” bypassing Congress to impose BBB policies. They’ve also resurrected their radical threats to kill the Senate filibuster rule and pack the Supreme Court with progressive justices.
While Manchin is being reviled by congressional Democrats and Biden, he’s a hero to many Americans and Congressional Republicans. His overall voting record in The Almanac of American Politics, a publication of the nonpartisan National Journal, shows Manchin to be a true, moderate centrist. He might not be a conservative by Republican standards but his voting record certainly makes him a rare conservative Democrat — a party that’s been pushed far to the left by its progressive activists. John F. Kennedy wouldn’t it recognize it today, or even Bill Clinton for that matter.
This is the perfect time for Manchin to seek a partisan divorce. West Virginia is a solidly Republican state, including its governor and all three of its representatives in the US House, who were elected by wide margins. In 2016 and 2020, 69% of West Virginians voted for Donald Trump. Shelly Moore Capito, the state’s Republican U.S. Senator, won 70% of the vote in 2020. Manchin, as a Democrat, was elected in 2018 with 50% of the vote by a thin margin of only 4%.
He’s up for reelection in 2024. Had he gone along with the Democrats’ progressive stampede, he’d be in jeopardy of losing his Senate then. But his party’s punishment for standing his ground, voting his conscience and abiding the will of his constituents will likely be a challenge from a progressive rival in the 2024 Democrat primary — who would, nonetheless, be sounded defeated in the general election in this conservative state. But Manchin would still have lost his seat.
Here’s a better strategy. It’s not unprecedented for an incumbent senator to switch parties. In 1965, Colorado’s Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell abandoned the Democrats and went Republican, expanding the GOP Senate majority to 54 seats. In 2001, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, a liberal Republican in a liberal state, switched sides and handed the Democrats a controlling 51-49 Senate majority.
Manchin hasn’t changed his views or principles, but they’ve been trashed by his party. If he becomes a Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will welcome him with open arms and choice committee appointments. On top of that, Manchin figures to be happier in a party that truly loves America as it still is today.
Michael Rosen is an American radio personality and political commentator.