Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is not your typical Democrat. If anything, he’s the man who would not be invited to the dinner parties for refusing to toe the rigid, progressive line Democrats have adopted, a byproduct of the party’s total collapse in rural America. It’s now a party of over-educated, urban-based elites, who view anyone or any opinion outside of their tribe as anathema. Manchin is a conservative Democrat from a state that went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016. Still, his ability to connect with voters and mastering the art of retail politics has allowed Manchin to survive in a state that’s become deep red. Nevertheless, he lamented how things have broken down to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last week, reiterating a warning to him: if guys like me can’t win in red states, you’ll be in the minority forever.
It was a not so subtle dig at the Democrats’ strategy to shut down the government for illegal aliens, which is politically poisonous to Manchin and other red state Democrats. The New York Times reported on Manchin’s meeting with Schumer last week, where he told his leader the Senate “sucks” right now (via NYT):
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia told colleagues on Tuesday that he intended to run for re-election this year after all, ending an anxiety-making flirtation with retirement and easing Democratic fears that the most conservative Democrat in the Senate was about to effectively hand his seat to a Republican.
In an interview, Mr. Manchin said he repeatedly expressed his frustration to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and other colleagues, telling them that “this place sucks,” before finally signaling Tuesday morning to Mr. Schumer’s aides that he would file his re-election paperwork before West Virginia’s deadline on Saturday.
“I was very vocal,” Mr. Manchin said, adding, “they read between the lines.”
Even as Democrats won a reprieve, Mr. Manchin’s discontent illustrated the divisions in their party between those from states that President Trump easily carried and the more liberal bloc of senators, at least a half-dozen of whom are positioning themselves for possible White House runs. The rift contributed to the government shutdown over the weekend and the Monday decision by a group of moderates to force the government’s reopening.
It also will have to be bridged if Democrats have any hope of regaining the Senate in November, when they must defend 10 seats in states that Mr. Trump won, while winning Republican-held seats in difficult states like Tennessee, Nevada and Arizona.
“I’ve said this point blank: If people like me can’t win from red states, you’ll be in the minority the rest of your life,” Mr. Manchin said about his conversations with other Democrats about the need to tolerate more moderate lawmakers.
Sen. Manchin has spoken to Townhall previously in April of 2017, saying, “Re-election is not the most important thing to me. The way I look at it is if you beat me, I go home.” He’s a senator who is determined to find a consensus, bring both parties together, and hash out solutions. He was not a fan of this recent government shutdown, just as he was not a fan of the Democratic obstruction on the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination. The balance of the court was not in danger, everyone and their mother from both sides of the aisle supported Gorsuch, and there was miles upon miles of political cover for the Senate Republican majority to go nuclear and get Gorsuch confirmed. Manchin tried to tell his colleagues that this wasn’t the hill to die on; they ignored him. They may continue to ignore him as well since the Democratic base is rabidly anti-Trump, where resistance must be established on any issue at all costs. That’s not how Manchin wants to represent the people of West Virginia. We’ll see how things turn out, but he’s a Democrat who is all about doing the right thing for the people of his state, not because he wants another six-year term. He’s certainly a Democrat that the GOP could work with and get things done if there were only a dozen more like him. For now, he remains a lawmaker determined to chart a course based on consensus and a canary in the coalmine, as his party becomes increasingly left wing, urban-based, coastal, and rather intransigent.