US Senator Joe Manchin (D?-WV), the 74-year-old multimillionaire most recently re-elected in 2018 with just 290,000 votes (i.e., 0.08% of the US population), announced yesterday that he simply could not support the President's chief legislative goal for the current Congress, even though he apparently said he totally could before his last conversation with some random coal executive. Because the US Senate is evenly divided between the two parties, with Vice President Harris as the deciding vote in case of a tie, and because the Republican Party has no platform other than to keep the Democratic Party from governing no matter how much their own constituents scream for governance, Manchin voting "no" would kill the President's bill.
Naturally this has generated some opinion pieces in various media.
Russel Berman doesn't see this as the end of Build Back Better:
The best-case scenario for Biden is that Manchin intended his comments today not as a definitive end to negotiations but as a hard-line tactic aimed at forcing Democrats to take his position seriously, to stop trying to pressure him to buckle, and to end their attempts to win his support merely by tinkering around the edges of Build Back Better. Hoping to enact the bill by the end of the year, Democrats were loath to start over. Now it seems they must, and therein lies an opportunity.
New Republic's Michael Tomasky calls Manchin's behavior a betrayal of West Virginia's people:
[T]he people of West Virginia...are falling further behind the rest of the country with each passing decade and who have been sold a fantasy about the source of their problems and how they will be fixed.
The fantasy is that coal’s demise is all the fault of the coastal liberal elites who thumb their noses at good hard-working Christian people like the ones who live in West Virginia’s small towns and mine and haul its coal.
it was the private sector that unleashed this curse on America, preying on particularly vulnerable people and places like West Virginia, where a lot of people do physical labor for a living and lack—or lacked, until evil big government and Barack Obama came along—the health coverage that ensures they can go see a real doctor instead of just hopping into an urgent care clinic where they get a fentanyl script and are shoved out the door.
[N]ow Joe Manchin, given extraordinary power by the structure of a body that shouldn’t even exist, overrules the president of the United States and says to the people ravaged by these things that, no, the government can’t help them. Sorry, single mom who works at the Dollar General in Grantsville and would like to go to community college to better her lot: We can’t make community college free, and we can’t possibly subsidize daycare centers where you can safely plant your toddler while you take those bookkeeping courses at night at Glenville State. All that free stuff might make you a ward of the state.
But this just reflects the reality of West Virginia politics, says the Post's Karen Tumulty:
West Virginia — a state whose residents are older, poorer and sicker than average — would also stand to benefit more than most from the legislation.
Partisan tribalism, cultural issues and an attachment to the vanishing coal industry drive voter sentiment there, creating what is a paradoxical hostility to government. “Washington’s 100 percent against us,” a man from Summers County told me years ago. “They don’t like our jobs. They don’t like our attitudes.” Those attitudes have only hardened.
Ultimately, Manchin knows better than liberal naysayers that this legislation — or anything else that carries the Democratic brand — will face skepticism in West Virginia that has little to do with its merits. But he is also well aware that government has a vital role when it comes to bettering the lives and futures of his constituents. Which means things might not be over yet for some version of the Build Back Better bill.
Well, fine, but meanwhile we're 11 months from an election in which people will hear that the Democrats can't get anything done. It doesn't matter to the country that the Republican Party has no credible alternatives, or worse, to our policies.
I'll have more to say about this heading into next year, but I wonder if we need to let the Republicans absolutely rape the country before people figure out that all they want to do is rape the country.