What’s wrong with Joe Manchin? Here are 3 key things to understand why it could sink much of the Democratic agenda

Anyone who has known Manchin over the years knows he appreciates attention. He also enjoys wielding the power that the current composition of the Senate gives to a moderate like him, who is ready to turn against his own party. Remember, Manchin voted last year to condemn Trump, then almost immediately publicly flirted with the idea of ​​endorsing him for president. It’s understood?

So it’s understandable that people from all political backgrounds are asking a fundamental question: What’s wrong with Manchin, anyway?

To understand it is to understand the following three things:

Its state

Joe Manchin began his political career running as a Democrat in a deeply democratic state. Then, over the past two decades, West Virginia has taken a tough turn to the right, first on social issues, then all the way for Donald Trump. Indeed, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 42% in 2016 and he beat Biden there from 39 percent last year. For context, Trump’s margin of victory was only higher in Wyoming.

In other words, while Manchin grew up in an environment where anyone in West Virginia politics had to be a Democrat, it’s very difficult to be one today. After all, incumbent Governor Jim Justice was elected a Democrat and then became a Republican when in office.

So even though many conservatives and liberals view the manchin bipartisan rhetoric as schtick, there is a political need to stay away from many other Senate Democrats. He must have the mark that he is somehow different.

Robert Byrd

Robert Carlyle Byrd represented West Virginia in the United States Senate for 51 years, making him the longest-serving senator in United States history. If you take a tour of West Virginia, its name can be found literally everywhere: on roads, bridges, buildings, whatever you want.

While in the Senate, Byrd used his seniority to gain power and, with that power, bring money back to his financially troubled country. For this he was appreciated.

Byrd died in office and the next person elected to the seat was Manchin. Manchin sees it as his responsibility to live out this part of Byrd’s legacy, in part because his constituents expect him to provide federal dollars to his home state.

If Manchin had been simply a quiet and reliable Democrat, he would have wielded less power and could have been removed from office. Byrd is the role model for West Virginia and if Manchin isn’t going to play that way, then voters in the state might as well vote for a Republican instead.

The dynamics of the Senate

There is an inner game in the US Senate right now that few Americans care about or follow, but understanding Manchin and how to legislate with him is essential. will work.

The Senate is at a partisan 50-50 split. Concretely, this means that any Democrat can sink a bill, and any Republican can be the real actor of power if they decide to cross the aisle.

There is a group of senators who want to fill the eye-catching role Manchin is playing this week, including Republican Senator from Maine Susan Collins. So part of what can motivate Manchin is to quickly declare that he is the negotiator and that everything related to the Senate has to go through him first.

James Pindell can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jamespindell.

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