At this point, Joe Manchin is either a master political operator performing an unprecedentedly deft act of political theater, a remarkably stubborn legislator enjoying the outsized spotlight he’s being afforded right now, or just astonishingly out of touch with today’s politics. Regardless of the answer, his brand new, mind-bogglingly wrongheaded op-ed about the filibuster is so riddled with illogical statements and factual errors that I’m stunned that he’d want to put his name on it.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post bluntly titled “I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin lays out a greviously flawed rationale for his refusal to, well, vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.

Let’s cut right to what he writes about today’s politics before we look at the historic errors. Many Democrats who have been hesitant to elimiante the filibuser have recently said that they would make an exception for voting rights, including California Sen. Diane Feinstein just yesterday. Yet Manchin suggests that he will need Republican votes on this bill — and that somehow, Democrats will get them.

There is also bipartisan support for voting reform and many of the initiatives outlined in the For the People Act. Our ultimate goal should be to restore bipartisan faith in our voting process by assuring all Americans that their votes will be counted, secured and protected. Efforts to expand voting hours and access, improve our election security and increase transparency in campaign finance and advertisement rules should and do have broad, bipartisan support and would quickly address the needs facing Americans today. Taking bipartisan action on voting reform would go a long way in restoring the American people’s faith in Congress and our ability to deliver results for them.

Now, we all know this is not just wrong, it’s laughably wrong and downright delusional. Republicans in state legislatures have proposed more than 300 voter suppression bills over the past few moths, passed major restrictions on voting in Iowa and Georgia, and are trying to push them through in Arizona and Texas (you can read my story detailing those restrictions right here). 

And in DC, Republicans have made it clear that they will not compromise on voting rights in. A few weeks ago AP reported that Sen. Ted Cruz is rallying the troops and is making sure there is no budging on voting rights. In fact, the entirety of the vast right-wing infrastructure is mobilizing around voter suppression in states across the country, making it their number one priority.

Here’s an excerpt from that story:

Asked if there was room to compromise, Cruz was blunt: “No.”

“H.R. 1′s only objective is to ensure that Democrats can never again lose another election, that they will win and maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and of the state legislatures for the next century,” Cruz said told the group organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed, conservative group that provides model legislation to state legislators.

Clearly, bipartisanship isn’t going to happen on this. Republicans want to gerrymander and Jim Crow their way to a majority without compromising on a single one of their bloodthirsty policies. Yesterday, the National Review ran a story suggesting that even fewer people should get to vote, calling for “better voters,” which is about as subtle as a punch to the face.

These positions are literally costing lives. Look at Wisconsin, where the GOP gerrymander created a legislative lock for the party, which sued to have Gov Tony Evers’ mask mandate struck down and refuses to expand Medicaid. They’re giving up $1.5 billion in profit to ensure that 100k working people don’t get health care, all out of pure partisanship. In Missouri, a GOP supermajority won by gerrymander is refusing to fund the Medicaid expansion for 230,000 working people that was democratically approved by ballot initiative.

Manchin “justifies” this all by saying that the Founding Fathers concieved of the US Senate as a place where there was equal representation for big and small states. But in fact, the Founding Fathers actually conceived of the Senate as a place with zero representation for voters — it took until 1913 for the upper chamber to be converted to direct election. Before that, Senators were chosen by state legislators. 

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The rest of his op-ed is equally as flawed; he suggests Republicans want to work on infrastructure, but they’re already attacking Biden’s plan as far-left socialism because it — gasp! — includes care for seniors. 

In reality, bipartisanship is easier when the minority party knows that bills are going to pass without their votes. In that situation, they actually have a reason to cooperate and try to get some of their priorities into a bill; otherwise, they can just stonewall and stonewall and not make a single effort to reach across the aisle.

Kyrsten Sinema also made this egregious and honestly annoying mistake in a recent conversation, suggesting that the problem isn’t the filibuster, but the fact that Democrats and Republicans just dont want to work together.

“When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Senate today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the rules,” she told a few constituents. “I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”

Has she not met Mitch McConnell? The guy has spent the last eight years doing everything he can to stonewall popular Democratic legislation and judges out of sheer hunger for power.

Maybe they is aware of this. Maybe they’re trying to play the long game. But Manchin and Sinema continually making these verifiably false arguments that undercut Democrats’ efforts to actually do the work they were elected to do and save democracy itself from endless GOP treachery. 
P.S. I have a political newsletter called Progressives Everywhere, which focuses in depth on voting rights, state legislatures, health care, and progressive policy. Every week, you’ll get deep dives on items like progressive ballot initiatives, saving the Supreme Court, the gig economy, the economics of student debt, and Democratic legislative victories. I also spotlight groups that are helping build progressive election power and retake red states as well as offer ways for people to get involved in creating progressive change by spotlighting important grassroots groups and voter registration organizations.

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