What’s Job #1 for the Democrats? Pass their big social/climate spending bill? Nope.
The thing they absolutely must do is keep Sen. Joe Manchin in the party. Manchin’s been under friendly fire for much of the year because he’s been holding up the B5 (that’d be Biden’s Build Back Better Bill). Some of that criticism has been nasty, though some of it has been warranted. Manchin has been unnecessarily slippery about what he will support. In fairness, he’s been joined in that by Sen. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona and there are other, quieter moderates, who are happy that those two are taking the heat for them.
But despite the frustrations he’s engendered, a point I’ve made a few other times in this space is that the Dems should be grateful for Manchin’s very existence. He’s holding down a seat for the Democrats in a state that Donald Trump won by 39 points. Without Manchin there is no majority and no chance at all for B5.
Manchin gets asked now with increased frequency if he’s going to stay a Democrat. Back in October when asked about reports that he was switching parties he said, “That’s bullshit.”
But asked about the possibility of a party switch this week, Manchin responded this way:
“I’m caught between the two, but the bottom line is you have to be caucusing somewhere. … If they asked me to leave, well, I’ll just have to say, ‘I guess I’ll have to abide by your wishes.’ … I don’t intend to leave. But I intend to be honest.”
This, you might say, is a somewhat less full-throated denial.
It’s not just important that Manchin stays to get at least some elements of B5 across the finish line or to pass other bills or approve more Biden appointments. It’s important for the Democrats to show that someone like Manchin still has a home — and even better, still is welcomed with open arms — in the Democratic Party.
My party has already pretty much become the party of big metro areas and college towns. We’re getting crushed in small town and rural America and, if the Virginia governor’s race was any indication, we only rented the suburbs in 2020.
Along these lines, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ fair redistricting effort should be a wake up call. His nonpartisan commission came up with maps that still gave Republicans a roughly 55-44 edge in the Assembly. That compares to 61-38 now under their heavily gerrymandered maps. So, even when partisan gerrymandering is taken out of the equation the Democrats still lose to geography, just not quite as badly.
The message should be clear: Democrats need politicians like Manchin if they’re going to maintain majorities in Congress or gain them in the Wisconsin Legislature. Driving Manchin from the party not only dooms B5; it demonstrates that the party just doesn’t understand what it needs to do to succeed in the long-run.
Welcome to the 294th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!