Joe Manchin likes to act like he’s a stable vessel in a sea of partisan lunacy, but in reality, the past few months have proven that he not only has little regard for democracy, he also has no problem spreading bald-faced lies to justify his disinterest in the future of the American republic.
The trouble isn’t just that he’s against both ending the filibuster and rescuing voting rights by passing HR 1 and HR 4, he’s using misinformation that plays right into the Republican Party’s gross talking points. Here’s what he said about the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in an interview with Vox.com that was published today:
“How in the world could you, with the tension we have right now, allow a voting bill to restructure the voting of America on a partisan line?” he asked. He says that 20 to 25 percent of the public already doesn’t trust the system and that a party-line overhaul would “guarantee” that number would increase, leading to more “anarchy” like that at the Capitol on January 6. He added: “I just believe with all my heart and soul that’s what would happen, and I’m not going to be part of it.”
This is a pattern. I’ve been watching Manchin give interview after interview over the past few months and one thing has become clear: He is absolutely full of shit and is spreading his own Big Lies. Let’s count them:
1. On Sunday, he told CNN that the Senate was designed to “cool off” legislation from the House, an ahistorical assertion that conveniently rewrites the history of the filibuster, which was not implemented until the 1830s and rarely used to block all legislation until very recently. It also elides the fact that senators weren’t even chosen directly by voters until the 1900s.
2. Worse, Manchin suggests that it would be crude to “allow a voting bill to restructure the voting of America on a partisan line” while making no mention of the many states in which Republican legislatures are doing just that, forcing through egregious voter suppression laws on party-line votes despite vociferous protest from Democrats, civil rights groups, and even large corporations.
It’s already happened in Georgia and Iowa, where the latter has already taken the first step toward purging 300,000 registered voters — including some 17-year-olds who pre-registered so that they can vote as soon as they turn 18.
On Monday, Florida’s Republican State Senate passed a very restrictive voter suppression bill that would, like Georgia, even ban people from handing out food or water within 150 feet of the long voting lines. It’d also severely restrict drop boxes and make it harder to vote by mail. Arizona is in the midst of a ludicrous “vote audit” run by a right-wing #StopTheSteal Trump nut and backed by Lin Wood. Once that is done, they’ll pass a big voter suppression bill. And as I scooped a few weeks ago, Ohio Republicans are also working on a big anti-voter bill. Michigan Republicans, meanwhile, want to use an arcane maneuver to install their own voter suppression bills over the veto of Gov. Whitmer.
Then there is redistricting and gerrymandering. Texas, Florida, Colorado, Montana, Oregon and North Carolina will gain seats in Congress thanks to census-based reapportionment while New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and West Virginia will each lose a seat.
Given the shifts in demographics over the past decade, experts suggest that reapportionment shouldn’t create a huge difference in partisan representation, but between the Democrats’ slim majority in the House and the GOP’s ability to gerrymander in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, it’s likely that democracy will be subverted even further by 2023. And that doesn’t even take into account just how gerrymandered state legislatures will become.
3. Perhaps most offensive is Manchin’s continued assertion that it was Washington’s lack of kumbaya and bipartisanship that inspired the Capitol insurrection. How can he possibly say that? Does he honestly think that a horde of racists tried to overthrow the US government because they want smaller infrastructure bills and really value how Senate subcommittees used to put legislation together?
Like the reporters that continuously question the Biden administration why it hasn’t managed to create bipartisan comity with a pack of far-right legislative terrorists, Manchin is giving a pass to mendacious GOP assaults on democracy and forcing Democrats on the defensive for pursuing even the mildest, nonpartisan, popular reforms.
He says he wants to honor and respect his West Virginia Senate predecessor, Sen. Bob Byrd. It looks like he means the 1950s and ‘60s version that filibustered civil rights. And hey, even Byrd had to drop his filibuster in the end.
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