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An Ode to Saint Joe Manchin

Democrats are mad at Joe Manchin. They ought to be grateful for him.
September 30, 2021
An Ode to Saint Joe Manchin
(Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock; Art: Hannah Yoest)

I was browsing through my local East Bay package store right around the start of the pandemic. You know the place. It has those naughty greeting cards, funky sketch pads, kitschy gifts. I came upon the candle section where I encountered the smiling faces of our latter-day saints Robert Mueller, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Nancy Pelosi—fun little tchotchkes for the resistance dad in your life.

As I’ve watched the scribes and Pharisees of blue wave Twitter cast stones this week, it seems to me that there might be another saint who deserves some prayers and an offering.

Saint . . . err Senator . . . Joe Manchin.

You got that right. AOC may get the fan bois and Kamala has her hive and even Secretary Pete has the high hopers with congenital amusia.

Manchin doesn’t have anybody. Just the haters and a house boat.

Yet he’s the most important one of them all.

Let’s start here. How does Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sound to you, Manchin haters?

Not great, I bet?

Well Saint Joe is the one man standing between you and Majority Leader Mitch doing everything in his power to tank the Biden agenda.

That alone would make a rational observer expect that it would be Republicans who hate Manchin for cock-blocking their dreams, while Democrats shower him with adulation. Au contraire, mon frère. Because Republicans care more about making libs sad than any policy outcomes. And Manchin gives the libs a very big sad. So the Republicans kind of love the guy.

That’s actually Manchin’s secret weapon. It’s what allows him to continue getting elected in a state that went for Donald Trump by 39 points. Thirty-nine!!! You got that right. The people of West Virginia watched the roiling catastrophe that was the Trump administration and a mere 29.69 percent of them thought that Joe Biden was a better bet.

And despite that, Democrats still have a West Virginia senator getting all Wild and Wonderful ensuring that Chuck Schumer calls the shots. This is a damn miracle. Genuine loaves and fishes shit.

If Joe Manchin hadn’t pulled off this biblical marvel, then there would be 49 Democratic senators and the party would be getting nothing. Zilch. NADA. Just ask Mitch. It’s all there in black and white and clear as crystal.

But because of Manchin, what are they getting in the infrastructure bill that’s ready to rock and roll?

  • Billions for trains and public transit
  • Replacing every lead pipe in the country
  • $47 billion for climate change mitigation
  • Electric vehicle charging stations

Noah Smith has the whole sermon if you want it. This bill marks genuine progress.

What about the reconciliation agreement Manchin signed with Schumer this summer?

It would include $1.5 trillion in spending! That is **double** the figure of the Obama stimulus that passed at a time when the Democrats had 57 senators.

Manchin’s agreement includes ending the carried interest loophole for big investors and raising the top tax rate. It would include life-changing social spending programs for people who are struggling in this country.

And what is St. Joe’s reward for making all this happen? Mass slander!

He is called Pah Paw Black Lung. He’s owned, greedy. West Virginia Democrat Richard Ojeda—who lost his last election in the state by a gentleman’s 12 points—called him a “jackaloon” and said he is #NeverManchin.

Cori Bush told Manchin to “Fall in line or get out of the way.” My Berkeley neighbor Robert Reich echoed that sentiment calling Manchin and Krysten Sinema Republicans and suggested banning them from the party. Brilliant stuff, Bob! I’m sure McConnell’s 52 seat majority will make all your wealth-transfer fantasies come true.

This is a yawp. A tantrum. Not a strategy.

The Democrats have a massive disadvantage when it comes to the Senate.

Here’s Nate Silver on the body’s skew towards Republicans:

A while back I wrote about the coming tyranny of the minority and the grave concerns I have about this imbalance. So I am not unsympathetic to the Democrats’ disquiet here—or even unwilling to support extreme measures in defense of liberty and democracy.

But when it comes to the practical ways to deal with it, there are only three options:

(1) Try to fix the imbalance by pushing for D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood. This would be the type of permanent, systemic change worth trying to put the screws to Manchin for, rather than another trillion dollars that can be reappropriated to golf course repair in President Eric Trump’s reconciliation package.

(2) Bitch and moan about the Senate and kill your own infrastructure package because you think that will actually persuade Manchin to spend more money. (Step One: Kill Infrastructure. Step Two: 🦄. Step Three: West Virginia elects a socialist.)

(3) Make Joe Manchin a model and actually try to win elections in red states rather than run internet hype candidates who burn through tens of millions of dollars only to get annihilated at the polls.

It sure seems like options #1 and #3 are the best approach. But that’s just one man’s opinion.

For some reason the progressive hive mind has coalesced on #2.

This seems like political malpractice.

Now I’m sure some on the left will say that I don’t get the urgency and importance of option #2 because I don’t share their passion for [enter issue] justice. And maybe that’s true. We would have to compare our internal passion meters.

But I’m here to tell you that while option #2 might feel nice, options #1 and #3 are the only paths to actually achieve progress on the issues progressives care about.

Screaming at Black Lung Pah Paw isn’t gonna do it.

Finding yourself a few other Pah Paws who make you mad at times because they side with the Republicans just enough to get some red-hat street cred just might.

So take another look at Joe.

And maybe, just maybe, in the privacy of your own bedroom, without any of your resistance friends watching, make an offering to the man who is on the cusp of being responsible for $2 trillion (!!) in new spending for working families, public transportation, and climate progress while sticking the wealthy with the bill.

That ain’t bad for a traitorous jackaloon.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.