Many Democrats feel deprived of Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to a major franchise bill and his continued support for filibuster. And they’re right that Manchin’s positions will limit President Biden’s agenda.
But Manchin also clarified the avenues open to Democrats. The party can now abandon its dreams of sweeping legislative change achieved through repeat majorities of 51 votes in the Senate and instead focus on realistic options.
Today’s newsletter explains these options, divided into short term and long term.
The issues that tend to unite the Democratic Party are economic issues, and Manchin is a good case study. When he breaks with his party, it is usually on issues other than economic policy.
He effectively killed the franchise bill this week and he voted for Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Manchin is also well to the right of most Congressional Democrats on politics. abortion and guns.
Yet he often stuck with his party on taxes, medicare, unions and other portfolio issues. Like all other Democrats in the Senate, Manchin voted against Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and Trump’s 2017 tax cut that was heavily biased in favor of the rich. Earlier this year, Manchin voted for Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion virus rescue bill. Without his vote, this bill would not have the force of law.
On all of these issues – economic and otherwise – Manchin’s votes tend to reflect the majority opinion of his voters. West Virginia is a workers state, and working-class voters in America tend to be culturally conservative and economically progressive. Polls show most favor restrictions on abortion, tight border security, and well-funded police services – as well as an expansion of Medicare and pre-K, a higher minimum wage , federal spending to create jobs and tax increases for the rich.
“Manchin is a pocket Democrat, not a social warrior,” Carl Hulse, the Times’ chief correspondent in Washington, told me.
This pattern suggests that Manchin might be willing to support versions of the next two major items on Biden’s agenda: an infrastructure bill and an “American family plan” to expand child care, l education and other fields.
Manchin’s support is certainly not guaranteed, in part because he doesn’t like to sound partisan. And Republicans in Congress seem likely to oppose Biden’s upcoming bills, just as they have opposed the virus rescue bill and the legislation of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. The default position of the Republican Party today, with rare exceptions, is unanimous opposition to any bill proposed by a Democratic president.
But Manchin has been willing to provide the decisive vote on economic policy before, even along partisan lines. When he does, he sometimes demands high-profile concessions that bolster his image as a bipartisan figure to the right of most Democrats – but change the bill in modest ways, as my colleague Jonathan Martin noted.
Had Manchin provided the decisive vote for the voting rights bill, it arguably would have been unlike any other vote he had cast during his career. The same would not be the case with a vote for the bill on infrastructure or the family plan.
The future of Democrats
What about the longer term for the Democratic Party? Some Democrats fear that the absence of a voting rights bill will doom the party to electoral losses from 2022. But that seems like an exaggeration.
Voting restrictions enacted by Republican state lawmakers are worrisome in their anti-democratic and partisan intent, according to many election experts. And they can give Republicans an unfair advantage in a very close election. But it seems likely that they will have only a modest impact, as explained by Nate Cohn, who analyzes the elections for The Times. Democrats can still win the election.
Manchin is also a useful guide on this topic. He continued to win even as West Virginia became deeply Republican, appealing to the state’s culturally conservative and economically progressive majority. To varying degrees, some other Democrats in the Red or Purple states, such as Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, offer similar lessons. Obama too, who fared better with working class voters than many other Democrats.
This approach is the only obvious way for Democrats to stem their losses in recent years among working class voters – and not just among the white working class. A recent analysis of the 2020 election by three Democratic groups argued that the party had lost the support of blacks, Latin Americans and Asian Americans because it did not have a sufficiently clear economic message. A recent poll by a Republican group found that most Latinos support both strict border security and “traditional values centered on faith, family and freedom.”
As Jason Riley, a Wall Street Journal columnist, wrote this week: “As more and more college-educated whites have joined the Democratic Party, it has swung further to the left, causing unease among white, black, Hispanic, Asian and more moderate working-class Democrats. who are more numerous than them.
One striking aspect of the voting rights debate is how close Democrats have come to passing a bill. With just one or two more senators from the purple or red states, the party may well be able to foil the filibuster and pass ambitious legislation on a range of issues.
The Democrats’ problem is not so much Joe Manchin as the shortage of other senators as good as him to win a tough election.
THE LAST NEWS
The missing piece of the Tenement Museum
For nearly three decades, the Tenement Museum has explored the history of immigration to New York City through tours of meticulously recreated apartments on the Lower East Side.
These spaces have long told the stories of German, Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants, and a few years ago they expanded to include Chinese and Puerto Rican families. Now, as the museum reopens after being closed during the pandemic, it is finally addressing an omission in its accounts of the neighborhood’s history by working on an exhibit about a black family, as well as a walking tour that covers nearly 400 years of local Africa- American history.
“The museum has always looked at how people become Americans,” Lauren O’Brien, senior researcher on the projects, told The Times. “But what does it mean to be born an American without being considered an American? “
Although the new apartment won’t open until 2022, visitors can see a preview of the exhibit from next month. The museum is also updating all of its current tours to reflect how race has shaped the opportunities available to predominantly white immigrants. Learn more about the story.
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