How to Pressure Joe Manchin? Damage His Brand.
No one makes me feel more like a broken record than Joe Manchin.
In the short few months that Joe Biden has been President, it feels as though no one has taken more pleasure out of standing in the way of progressive policy goals than the Senator from West Virginia. That said, almost equally is frustrating is the fact that his left wing counterparts in both the House and the Senate seem to have absolutely no desire to do what it will take to change this pattern.
Politics is leverage.
Politics is using calculated pressure through television media, social media, and organizing in order to achieve a goal. In the case of opponents, that requires damage to their brand. Damage to poll numbers, credibility, and their narrative. It means dissecting arguments in a clear way that the American people can understand, identifying the reasons why they are wrong, and the truth behind why these arguments are being made. Joe Manchin is literally going to cost Democrats the Senate, and yet progressives will not discuss this or, even more importantly, talk about why: donors.
Joe Manchin is not serving the people of West Virginia. His positions have nothing to do with the fact that he’s some political mastermind and miracle who has to resort to these tactics to stay in good graces with his voters. West Virginia’s infrastructure has a D rating. Are we really expected to believe that Joe Manchin would lose his seat if he voted for Biden’s infrastructure bill? Are we really expected to believe his voters are in favor of lower wages, when 63% support a $15 minimum wage? Are we really expected to believe he’s come to his positions based on principle, or is he acting in the interests of those who fund his campaigns?
Why aren’t progressive lawmakers spreading this message in his state? Why aren’t progressives flooding the airwaves in West Virginia, making the case for the infrastructure bill and minimum wage increase, making voters question why their Senator is going against their best interests for the sake of his own power and the will of his donors?
Joe Manchin is not an ally acting in good faith. He is not coming to the table with an honest position, or looking out for his voters, and it’s time for progressive lawmakers to acknowledge it and make that case. Manchin is merely using his power granted to him by Senate circumstances, and power concedes nothing without a demand. He is literally showing progressives exactly how to play his game and get a seat at the table to weigh in on important policy discussions, flexing muscle and withholding votes in order to get his way. What is stopping people like Bernie Sanders or AOC from doing the same?
The only thing that is going to stop Joe Manchin from costing Democrats the Senate is if they go for his poll numbers, and tell the American people about what truly motivates him until he relents. He is motivated by his donors and enjoys having the influence that he does. There is nothing else to it. If a Democrat is proving themselves to be more of a liability than an asset in the pursuit of legislative goals, then progressives need to respond accordingly. The uncomfortable nature of that route is irrelevant when one considers everything at stake.
Enough of the games. Enough of the excuses. If Joe Manchin wants to flex his power in order to be an active barrier to progress, then lawmakers actually on the left need to use the tools and leverage at their disposal to get him to the table.