Dear President Biden,
At the end of his article about where things stand on the For the People Act (HR1/S1), Mike DeBonis quotes Senator Richard Durbin (Il) as saying:
“I say a prayer every morning and evening for Joe Manchin.”
Joe M. may just become the most difficult person in my loving-kindness meditation not only for being the Democratic fly in the ointment who’s unwilling to go all in for voting rights, but also for aiding and abetting the Big Lies.
His stated rationale for not supporting the VRA are that it’s just too darn broad, it doesn’t have any Republican support, and the country is already terribly divided and pushing this through would just divide it further (see the DeBonis article again). Hmm.
A quick look at how West Virginia has voted in the last 6 presidential elections suggests there’s something else going on here (and yes, we’ve all known all along that Manchin is an endangered unicorn in that he is a Democrat from the now, deeply red state of WV). With the exception of a fairly close contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 (52% to 46%, respectively), the rest of the 21st century presidential elections in WV have whoppingly gone to the GOP candidates. Trump beat you 69% to 30%, and the GOP candidates similarly thumped Hillary Clinton, Obama, and John Kerry before you. You have to go back to 1996 to see a Democratic presidential candidate clearing the 50% mark in WV when Bill Clinton bested Bob Dole 51% to 37%.
Basically, what this suggests is that Joe Manchin is not exactly on the up and up when he laments the country’s divide and the idea that enfranchising all Americans is going to further divide us. Whether he is consciously aware of it or not (and I’d bet very good money that he’s perfectly well aware of it), he is screwing with democracy and propping up various of The Big Lies because he wants to save Joe Manchin’s political skin. It’s like he’s willing to be “The Good Democrat,” the one who’s tolerable enough and who brings home enough goodies that the WV GOP piranhas only nibble at his toes to remind him what they can and will do if he 1) doesn’t deliver said goodies, and 2) does anything to step too far out of line. I mean, how the hell else can a Democrat survive in a largely rural deep red state? He would be out of a job before he could say “filibuster” if he worked solidly with the Democrats in the Senate.
And as long as he hews to this bullshit argument about protecting voting rights being divisive and pins it to the fantasy that there is some version of a real voting rights bill that would garner enough GOP support to overcome the filibuster, he’s got the whole world in his (grubby, power-hungry, little) hands. I honestly don’t think I’m over-stating this or that it’s far fetched to think Manchin is trying to play God. If he stops you and the Democratic majority (slim as it is) from protecting voting rights, we can kiss goodbye any hope of meaningfully addressing climate change, gun control, systemic racism, child poverty, healthcare, income inequality, immigration, policing and the carceral state, or any of the other hundred+ ills facing this deeply troubled country.
I don’t know that it will do any good at all, but people (including you) need to start calling Joe Manchin out on his high and mighty rhetoric and make him f*cking admit that he’s trading the planet’s future for his own political hide and that this makes him as bad, if not worse, than the GOP scumbags he says he’s so keen to partner with.
May we all be safe from leaders who fail to serve.
May we be willing to call out those who feign concern for unity while jeopardizing everyone’s future.
May those of us who need to, buck up and have strong words with one, Joe Manchin.
May we not accept one power-tripping dude screwing with our chance to do real, necessary, good.