Despite experts on democracy declaring a five-alarm fire in America due to GOP-led voter suppression efforts in the states, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin went ahead and proclaimed a critical legislative safeguard for our democracy, the For The People Act, dead in a Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed.
Manchin designating a voting rights bill like For The People Act dead on arrival in the Senate is infuriating in and of itself. But his commitment to protecting the extra-constitutional Senate filibuster at any cost—including American democracy itself—and his insistence on bipartisan agreement is also effectively the death knell of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda.
In fact, Manchin's hypocritical demands that Democrats find compromise with a party of legislative terrorists even seems to have red-state Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana a little miffed.
“Everybody’s got their different style,” Tester told the Wall Street Journal. “My style is: I want to get shit done, OK? And I think, you know, being on TV and then having a gang of reporters around you is just fine, but it doesn’t help me get things done.”
At this point, there's no use reasoning with the unreasonable. Manchin is actively aiding and abetting a caucus whose leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has stated in no uncertain terms that he is "100%" dedicated to killing Biden's legislative agenda as an electoral tactic. So Manchin, whatever his motivations, is now nothing but a tool of the GOP until he proves differently.
What's left to Democrats is the midterms and doing everything in their power to win them—or at the very least maintain control of one chamber of Congress. This includes framing every single battle from here on out as a matter of Republicans versus democracy rather than Republicans versus Democrats. Republican efforts to suppress the vote in the states, kill voting rights legislation at the federal level, and doom bills that the vast majority of Americans want to see enacted all stems from the same place—Republicans' disdain for democracy and the voice of The People.
The timeline for everything should now be moved up in order to maximize the period in which Democrats test their messages and settle on most effective lines of attack.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should get on with appointing a select committee to investigate Jan. 6. Republicans chose to kill the wide-ranging bipartisan probe intended to safeguard our democracy because they are no longer invested in protecting democracy.
The White House should call bullshit very soon on infrastructure talks with Senate Republicans and make clear they had zero interest in making critical investments in the nation's future because protecting tax cuts for the nation's corporations and wealthiest was paramount. Democrats should hang the inability to pass legislation that would have created millions of jobs around the necks of Republicans, Manchin, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona alike. But for their intransigence, the federal government could create jobs, level the economic playing field, buoy middle-class Americans, and put the country on track to compete with other superpowers in the 21st century.
The Senate is already on course for a hectic June in which Republicans will block nearly every bill that comes up for a vote—another chance to demonstrate that Republicans would block a bill to send glad tidings to their mothers if it were put to a vote.
But after the Senate logs another glorious month of GOP obstruction, every major agenda item for Democrats going forward should be retooled to maximize the pain on Senate Republicans, Manchin, and Sinema. For instance, why not take the top four most popular elements of the For The People Act and package them together in a new voting rights bill? According to polling from Crooked Media/Data For Progress, the following elements were wildly popular: preventing foreign interference (86%), limiting money in politics (85%), increasing election security (84%), and nonpartisan redistricting (74%). Whether parts of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act should be folded in or are better left in a stand-alone bill is up to Senate Democrats. The point is to formulate the strongest possible bill with the juiciest provisions so Democratic members and candidates can say to their constituents, This is what Republicans voted against.
Republicans are no longer talking to anyone else but the roughly 30% of Americans (two-thirds of Republicans) who believe the election was stolen from Donald Trump. In other words, the GOP's sole constituency now is voters who are no longer committed to democracy—that's a guesstimate based on multiple polls about the 2020 election.
It's Democrats’ job to reach the other 70% of voters with the broadly popular policies and proposals they sought to pass and would have passed if Republicans were invested in participating in a functional democracy.
The good news is, President Biden's agenda is incredibly popular. After this month's Senate votes, every single piece of legislation from here on out should be tailored to paint Republicans into a corner and make Sens. Manchin and Sinema as miserable as humanly possible. That goes for the American jobs and families plans too—pack the most popular elements of both proposals into a blockbuster bill and make the GOP and Joe-Curtsy eat their defeat. Maybe, just maybe, Manchin and Sinema will buckle under the right circumstances, particularly on the jobs/infrastructure bill. But every legislative effort must now be undertaken with the clarity of knowing that Joe-Curtsy will almost certainly help Republicans kill it and that its true value lies in demonstrating the GOP's disdain for our nation's constitutional democracy.