Opinion: Democrats need to unite with Joe Manchin and other moderates, not alienate them

Joe Manchin was elected to the United States Senate in 2010 after serving as Governor of West Virginia since 2004. Manchin announced his opposition to President Bidens Build Back Better bill.

Wiki Commons

Joe Manchin was elected to the United States Senate in 2010 after serving as Governor of West Virginia since 2004. Manchin announced his opposition to President Biden’s Build Back Better bill.

President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda has stalled since Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia came out against the Build Back Better bill. This legislation would be the largest increase in social programs since the New Deal, entailing over $2 trillion in new spending. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona has joined Manchin in expressing doubts about the way Build Back Better would affect rising inflation. This rise in inflation has been hitting Americans hard, with average prices increasing by 7% across the country.

Biden is facing the lowest approval rating of his presidency, and with the midterms rapidly approaching, Democrats must strategize more effectively. Progressives have been putting pressure on Biden and the party leadership to pursue an ambitious legislative agenda, leading Biden to over promise and under deliver. 

Biden has positioned himself as a new FDR, but this comparison is far-fetched. FDR had a sweeping mandate, with Democrats holding supermajorities in both the House and the Senate. Biden and the Democrats only hold slim majorities in the Senate and House, while the midterms will likely place Republicans back in charge of the House and possibly even the Senate. 

Manchin has been attacked as a “Democrat in Name Only,” but this characterization misses the point; Manchin is a Democrat from a state that Biden lost by 38.9% points. 

“I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it,’” Manchin said in a press release shortly after announcing his opposition to the bill. “Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia, and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation.” 

Both Democrats and Republicans have forgotten that Senators are not elected to represent their party, they are elected to represent their state. Manchin has won election twice as a Democrat in one of the most conservative states in the country. Democrats must understand that the strategies that led to progressive victories in major cities will not work everywhere. 

Progressives like Democrat Bernie Sanders of Vermont have hinted that they may support primary challenges to Manchin when he faces reelection in 2025, but he and his fellow progressives may as well travel down to West Virginia and vote for the Republican at that point, handing control of the Senate to Republicans. 

Although Manchin is not always perfectly in-line with the rest of his party, he has served as an important bulwark against the authoritarian instincts of Trump, voting for his impeachment twice. Manchin also voted against attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and was opposed to the Trump Tax Cuts passed in 2017. In the same way that the Democratic establishment must appeal to progressives, they must appeal to Manchin as well. 

My problem with progressives isn’t their policy agenda, I agree with most of it; my problem with progressives is that they don’t actually accomplish anything legislatively. Progressives like Democrat Jamal Bowman of New York, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan  may rail against Manchin on Twitter, but they all voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill because it wasn’t exactly what they wanted. Regardless of its size, the bill increased funding for broadband in low-income parts of the country, created infrastructure for green energy initiatives across the country and did simple things like replacing lead pipes so that those in low-income areas could have access to safe drinking water. 

If Democrats want to maintain their majorities in the House and Senate, as well as ensure there is a Democrat in the White House come Jan. 20, 2025, they need to get off Twitter and think strategically.