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The Progressive Protests Against Manchin Backfired

December 23, 2021
The Progressive Protests Against Manchin Backfired
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) heads to a vote in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Joe Manchin doesn’t do a lot of 5-D chess. Usually he just says what he’s thinking. The problem over the last year has been that some Democrats don’t want to listen.

In the case of his recent BBB mic drop, members of the progressive left have been too busy shouting him down and protesting him—at home, work, and everywhere in between—to hear much of anything he was saying. And in the end, their #Resistance-style tactics backfired.

We know this because Manchin said so, explicitly.

After Manchin told Fox News that he would not vote for President Biden’s Build Back Better bill he talked more at length about his decision in a radio interview with West Virginia’s Talkline. Manchin said:

They figured, “Surely to God we can move one person. Surely, we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they’ll just say, ‘Okay, I’ll vote for anything just quit.’” Guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from where you can beat the living crap out and people and they’ll be submissive.

Who, exactly, thought that using protests would successfully move Manchin? Because anyone who believed that lives in a political fantasy land.

People have a right to protest. And part of Manchin’s job is listening to voters who disagree with him. But protests are supposed to be about achieving concrete goals. The progressives who thought that they could sway Manchin by constantly hectoring him in public weren’t achieving anything except making themselves feel good.

And they did hector him. In one of the more memorable stunts, protesters swarmed the houseboat, where Manchin lives while working in Washington, in kayaks. That wasn’t a one-off event. They did it for several days. And while the optics were somewhat amusing, it isn’t so funny when protesters swarm him and scream at him as he leaves the houseboat for work in the morning.

Or, when they follow him into a parking garage, blockade his car, and then accuse him of trying to run people over.

Left-wing activists also think it’s good to protest Manchin on voting rights. Progressive pastors recently gathered outside Manchin’s Senate office to accuse him of committing “political violence.” They called his positions “sinful.” When Biden met with Manchin, 60 members of the group were arrested, in part, for blocking traffic. Afterward, leaders of the event vowed more “direct actions and in-office protests directed at Manchin and others.”

“If you think this is an action, you watch how we mobilize when we don’t have to be so COVID safe,” one said.

Sure thing. That’ll get Manchin to get onboard.

Manchin’s friend Steve Clemons wrote an op-ed for the Hill blaming the White House’s “incivility” for alienating Manchin. He specifically pointed to a White House statement that singled out Manchin by name. Clemons said:

Given the protests that Manchin’s family has experienced at his home, which is a boat in Washington Harbor — with folks harassing him, his wife and grandson by kayak around his boat and the gate to the marina — I knew this presidential statement was personalizing the game. It put his family at risk, in my view. Everyone knows Manchin and Sinema are the two Democrats the White House must negotiate with because it has given up on Republicans — but to specify Manchin in a presidential statement meant the terms of the dealmaking had changed.

As Manchin also told Talkline, “I just got to the wit’s end.”

The goal of governing is passing legislation. To pass legislation, you need votes. The protest warriors who think they’re helping the Democratic agenda by harassing Manchin—or following Krysten Sinema into a bathroom—aren’t adding votes. They’re subtracting them.

If they aren’t careful, they might even subtract one of those votes right over into the Republican party, officially.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.