If there is one Democrat who is truly independent from the progressive ethos engulfing the Democratic Party, it’s Joe Manchin (D-WV). As for the recent shutdown, well, Manchin and the rest of the red state Democrats voted to keep the government open in the initial vote on the bill that filed to clinch 60 votes. They knew what this would look like, and shutting down the government for illegal aliens does not make for a good re-election campaign. During the three-day shutdown, Democrats were marred by a lack of message and strategy. The news media wasn’t having any of it, fact-checking them on their shoddy talking points on air. The polling placed the Democrats in danger of being blamed, so a bill that pretty much mirrored the original CR that failed to get 60 votes was passed, which included everything the Democrats wanted, except that it lopped off a week less of funding for the government. In the interim a deal on immigration, specifically for those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will be hashed out. If no deal is reached by the time the funding runs out on February 8, the Senate will make this their top priority action item, something that was already agreed upon since the enforcement deal on DACA ends in March; the Trump White House, rightfully citing DACA’s unconstitutional standing, would be winding it down, with a six-month enforcement delay to afford Congress time to enact a fix. This was the deal Democrats accepted to re-open the government, which progressives took as a cave—and they’re not wrong. Democrats did lose the shutdown fight. And Manchin told NBC’s Chuck Todd that Schumer just didn’t have the stomach to keep the shutdown going (via Real Clear Politics):
CHUCK TODD: If the shutdown continued would you have not filed for reelection?
JOE MANCHIN: I'd have been hollering a lot louder probably. I don't think Chuck had the stomach to go on. He plays a part differently. I understand the dynamics of our caucuses much different. The Democrat caucus is, buddy, that's a big tent, Chuck. That is a big tent. And I just said I come from West Virginia. I'm representing my state. I'm not a Washington Democrat. I'm a West Virginia Democrat. That's a little different.
The rest of that exchange shows how Democrats sound like from those hailing from a state that went overwhelmingly for Trump and one that is getting redder by the year—you’d think Manchin would pack it up. He isn’t. He’s running for re-election and unless Republicans find a better candidate, he’ll likely win re-election, despite a terrain that looks like no Democrat would be able to survive. People know he’s different. He’s anti-abortion, pro-gun, not a fan of cap and trade, and has the mindset of bringing people together to hash out a consensus solution to a problem. Oh, yeah—if he loses, he just packs his bags and goes home—no hard feelings. He’s not in this just to get re-elected. At the same time, he’s also serving as something of a window into rural America, where Democrats once competed. He’s also not one to just bury how he feels about his party’s strategy. He was not a fan of the shutdown, and that the upper chamber’s environment sucks. To boot, Schumer placed his red state colleagues in perilous political territory with this shutdown.
This isn’t the first time he’s acted as a voice of reason. He warned his party that fighting the Neil Gorsuch nomination was a disastrous move, and that there will be no consequences for the GOP nuking the filibuster rules because legal scholars on the left and right signed off on Gorsuch, including Obama’s former solicitor general.
Yet, if this is true, it could prompt progressives to put more pressure on Schumer, as his fighting credentials are in doubt. This could complicate the immigration negotiations, as the Democratic base wants a resistance, a fight to the death on every issue Trump champions. The Democrats don’t have the political muscle to do that. They went off half-cocked this time; saw their narrative get picked apart, and then had nowhere to go. And all of this was done to get a potential for momentum on immigration reform. These people, I tell you—they need to quit it with the bath salts.
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