It’s been three months since the Democrats gained their slight advantage in the U.S. Senate.
Suddenly, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is very important. Now, that’s not an earth-shattering nor particularly enlightening observation. But knowing something is true and experiencing it are two different things.
You’ve no doubt heard or seen some of the numerous commercials from various media campaigns trying to rile up constituents to sway Manchin one way or another on any number of topics.
The shift was pretty evident to me when I found myself, along with members of our editorial board, on a Zoom session with Vice President Kamala Harris, who was plugging President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which Manchin had cast some aspersions about.
That was only the beginning.
Everyone from all parts of the United States has an opinion on what Manchin should do on everything. We are buried in letters and op-ed submissions from think-tanks, wonks, advocacy groups and politicians former and current regarding Manchin’s vote on each Biden nominee that comes through the Senate, how he should proceed on the filibuster or whether he should flip to the Republican Party. It’s insane.
The thing that really tipped it over the edge for me was when I opened my email to find an op-ed submission from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., frantically arguing to preserve the filibuster. To be clear, the op-ed was distributed through a syndicate group and sent to newspapers across the country. It wasn’t like Mitch, whom I’ve oft-disparaged while shouting into the void based on the decades I lived in Kentucky, had contacted me directly.
Still, I’d never seen an op-ed from Mitch McConnell come across my desk.
He’s certainly written a few over the years that have appeared in national publications. But seeing that name in my inbox made me realize just how vital Manchin has become to everyone’s plans, and just how terrified the self-declared “Grim Reaper” is about possibly losing his weapon of choice for stopping massive amounts of legislation in the Senate.
I don’t really have any advice for Manchin on that topic. I’m no Senate rules expert, and it’s not like Manchin needs another opinion. The only thing I’d note is that preserving the filibuster seems, on some level, to be a measure of good faith for when the majority party one day finds itself in the minority. McConnell nuked it when it was convenient. If Manchin is trying to preserve honor in the Senate, he might want to size up who he’s dealing with first. That’s all I’ve got.
If you’re reading this and deleting your “What Manchin should do ...” op-ed, stop. Keep sending them — especially if you’re actually from West Virginia and have concerns as a West Virginian. We’d love to hear from you. I may need to knock down a wall or two and designate a certain area as the Manchin Wing where all things Manchin go, but that’s the cost of doing business. Or something.
I don’t know how long things are going to be like this for Manchin. Three months of it from my tiny corner of the world has been exhausting at times, but, honestly, who cares?
Residents of the Mountain State — left, right and, Manchin’s specialty, center — shouldn’t be shy on how they think Manchin’s leverage should be used. Who knows what things will look like in 2022 or 2024? Who knows when West Virginia might be this important again?
There’s a Republican supermajority in the state Legislature tunneling through the rabbit hole of identity politics like there’s no tomorrow. Might as well let Manchin know everything you’ve got on your mind now.