Progressive scare tactics won’t work on Joe Manchin over Build Back Better

21 October 2021

3:13 PM

21 October 2021

3:13 PM

Are progressives serious about winning over Joe Manchin? If so, they’ve got a funny way of showing it.

The Democratic senator from West Virginia is one of the main obstacles preventing Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act from passing through budget reconciliation. Manchin has a problem with the bill’s $3.5 trillion price-tag and is pushing for a smaller total, citing disdain for needless government wastage. He took a similar approach earlier this year to the Biden infrastructure package, negotiating a bipartisan deal with his moderate Republican colleagues. That’s Joe Manchin: your archetypal politicker who believes legislation is best passed through compromise.

American progressives, however, are singing from an entirely different song sheet. They want Manchin to vote for the BBB Act, which contains a laundry list of Biden’s manifesto promises. And they are employing bully tactics in an attempt to compel him to do so.

An attack ad released this week by the author and activist Don Winslow highlights how Manchin personally profits from the coal industry due to the board positions held by his son, Joe Manchin IV. It also describes how Manchin’s daughter, Heather, price-gouged EpiPens during her time as CEO of a Dutch pharmaceutical company.

And Manchin’s Senate colleague Bernie Sanders published an op-ed in a West Virginia newspaper last week in an attempt to sell Biden’s bill to Mountain State voters. “The political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes’,” Sanders wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin.”

Then consider the incident late last month, when activists from Manchin’s home state, with the subtlety of a fart at a funeral, canoed up to the yacht on which the senator resides in Washington and chanted in an attempt to lobby him into backing the BBB bill.

Bernie is right: Biden needs every vote to get Build Back Better through Congress. That’s why Manchin gets weekly audiences with the President. So do progressives think that by singling out the senator’s kids, pressuring him in his hometown paper and screaming at his doorstep, they are likely to earn his sympathy and subsequent support?

The senator’s track record indicates that the opposite is a likelier outcome. Vice President Harris gave local TV interviews in West Virginia back in January, in a ham-fisted effort to pressure Manchin into voting for the American Rescue Plan. The senator was incensed: “I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. No one called me,” he said. “We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward, but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together.”

And Manchin was even blunter about Sanders, repudiating the Vermont senator as an outsider. “This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” he said in a statement. “Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that.” He’s the armadillo of the Senate: attack him and he’ll stubbornly rely on his thick shell.

Manchin and Sanders broke bread on Monday at a lunch mediated by Chuck Schumer, who said the meeting involved a “very spirited discussion.” This was followed by a one-on-one Tuesday meeting between the West Virginia and Vermont senators. A group of House Democrats had just met with President Biden, who floated “$1.9 to 2.2 trillion” as his number for the BBB Act. “I’m at 1.5,” Manchin yelled to reporters before his tête-à-tête with Sanders. These discussions are much likelier to get a results for Democrats than any pressure campaign from protesters.

Political activists on both fringes employ tactics designed to disrupt their adversaries: gather outside their homes, say, or targeting their families. The aim is to discomfit the comfortable. But here’s the trouble: most Americans are comfortable, and have empathy with the comfort of others. Joe Manchin understands that — he feels that he is representing those people against rash and uncivil agitators. He’s also a big believer in bipartisanship, process and precedent.

Following Manchin’s innate sense of caution is likelier to lead to the Democrats passing at least some legislation, as the infrastructure negotiations showed. Their alternative is heading to the polls in 2022 having held the presidency, the House and the Senate for two years, and nothing to show for it.

The post Progressive scare tactics won’t work on Joe Manchin appeared first on The Spectator World.

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