Joe Manchin sounds able to scuttle voting protections to as an alternative shield Senate traditions

More than anything, the man seems to truly believe that both sides are to blame for this tragic time of widespread paranoia, violent insurrection, and single-minded Republican indifference to crookedness. And he seems to be quite set, at this point, in his belief that the most recently cataloged voting procedures of the U.S. Senate are the glue that holds this nation together, far more important than … civil rights. Voting rights. The rest of it.


As one example: Manchin categorically dismisses concerns that Republicans will systemically obstruct Biden and Democratic priorities, even as he appears to acknowledge that that is precisely what Republicans did during the last Democratic administration—the same Republicans, in fact, with Sen. Mitch McConnell leading the way. “I don’t think that can be repeated, or that people would stand for it, or even that the Republican caucus would adhere to that again,” says Manchin.

Really? Based on what?

No, seriously, what moves have Republicans made, since looking to contest the election and prevent the Biden administration from even coming to existence, since shouting conspiracy theories that stoked violent insurrection, that give Manchin this optimism? Is it the demands that emergency pandemic relief be slashed? The new Republican discovery of yet another “crisis” on the southern border that is absolutely Joe Biden’s fault and which no Republican senator gave a flying sulfur-encrusted damn about before Jan. 21, 2020?

The Republican caucus has moved on from blanket obstruction of non-Republican administrations so as to intentionally slow economic recoveries and block governmental competence during non-Republican rule since when? It’s not so much that we’re gonna need a flowchart on this one, it’d be nice to see even one plausible bit of evidence for this claim.

But it’s Manchin’s renewed expressions of scorn towards passing new civil rights protections—unless the Republicans curtailing those civil rights can be brought aboard—that’s the kicker. Manchin is now very opposed to weakening filibuster rules (that Republicans are, despite Manchin’s assurances that the party could never get away with such things these days, continuing to abuse in countless not-votes) for the purpose of passing the voting rights-centered For the People Act, an effort to push back on a wave of new Republican laws intended to curb voting rights and make voting more difficult after swing state voters rejected a corrupt and incompetent Republican incumbent who brushed off half a million pandemic deaths.

Protecting voters from a sea of new Jim Crow-borrowing laws meant to impose new costs on working or lower-income voters might be important, but Manchin believes the real danger here is protecting voters when the other side doesn’t want them to be protected. Reports Prokop:

“’How in the world could you, with the tension we have right now, allow a voting bill to restructure the voting of America on a partisan line?’ he asked. He says that 20 to 25 percent of the public already doesn’t trust the system and that a party-line overhaul would ‘guarantee’ that number would increase, leading to more ‘anarchy’ like that at the Capitol on January 6. He added: ‘I just believe with all my heart and soul that’s what would happen, and I’m not going to be part of it.’”

Oh. Huh. So if we don’t allow conservative state legislators to sabotage elections to suppress nonwhite, nonconservative votes, it will lead to more conservative … terrorism?

Well, he does have a good handle on what happened during the civil rights era, so good on him. His prescription for what to do about it though—avoid challenging voting rights oppressors so that they won’t do worse, and God forbid get partisanship involved—is certainly an odd lesson to take from those episodes.

On the filibuster specifically, Manchin is quoted to say he will not be “that one vote that would basically destroy” the rule that, in his mind, keeps the Senate a moderating force—a place where institutional sluggishness keeps the nation on an even keel even as members of the wacky, intractable House demand all sorts of changes and reforms.

To be honest, it all paints a rather familiar picture of a Senate that, to put things in the common vernacular, is so far up its own ass that the rest of the nation might or might not even exist. The notion of Senate as moderating force is especially peculiar after the Senate quite moderately immunized a sitting president from doing crimes not once, but twice despite widespread institutional agreement that he had definitely done those things and they were definitely things any prior president would have been run out of town on a rail for. It showed alleged moderation in announcing that the Black president would not be allowed to fill a Supreme Court vacancy for the entire last year of his term, while the Incompetent Blowhard White Nationalist successor would be allowed to drive his golf cart over the corpse of the next deceased justice on his way to the nominating ceremony for the next one. 

There was the moderation of intentionally thwarting not one, but two recent economic recoveries so as to better convince voters of governmental uselessness—yes, that was certainly a fine bowl of warm legislative milk. Now we’re to reckon with a new theory that the Senate—whose members promoted election hoaxes for the sake of wounding a new non-Republican administration—can immediately in its aftermath be trusted to find good, proper balance points between their party’s resulting moves to slash public access to democracy and the moderate position of perhaps slashing it a wee bit less.

This is all painfully familiar, though. There is a long tradition of senators insisting that their tea times and varnished phrases are the very glue that holds the fabric of American government together. In fact, it seems the more simultaneous catastrophes members of the world’s most moth-riddled deliberative body launch the nation into during any given period of time, the more insistent senators become in describing their own even-temperedness and genius.

Now, there is no question that Joe Manchin is a savvy fellow. The man has toed all available political lines with the grace of an acrobat, becoming the only Democrat left in a state that lost interest in the rest of the Democratic Party after it started nominating environmentalists and Black people. But these notions that Senate Republicans would absolutely never pointlessly obstruct a Biden administration, and would absolutely be open to working with Democrats to circumvent state Republican efforts to clamp down on voting, and for certain will hold the nation together even through fascist agendas, obsessive propaganda efforts, and violent terrorism bent on erasing elections outright rather than recognize the legitimacy of another political party—these do not seem to be assurances based on vast political experience. These seem to be claims based solely on a notion that the Republican radicalism of (checks notes) less than 24 hours ago will surely give way to glad-handing cooperation any minute now, if only Democrats stop provoking their opponents by doing things.

Hmm. Yeah, we may need Manchin to show his work on this one. Not hard proof, even, just a hint or two.

Give us some sign this isn’t just another instance of moderate senators being in love with the smell of their own, er, colognes, if you please.

Related Articles