Here’s the thing about Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. They’re selfishly holding up progress and putting democracy at risk, so they deserve all the criticism you can heap on them. But there’s a huge difference between going at them in a way that will allow us to win, and going at them in a way that will ultimately just make it easier for them to get off the hook.
If you’re yelling around about how Manchin and Sinema have destroyed democracy because they’ll never cave on the filibuster, then you’re doing it wrong. Why? Because you just let them off the hook. You stated your expectation that they’re never going to cave, which means you just told them that you’re not even trying to get them to cave.
Instead, we should actively work to pressure Manchin and Sinema to cave, and – this is crucial – we should presume going in that we’re going to be successful in making them cave. Let them know that you’re not going to let them get away with not caving.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what comes out of their mouths. President Biden just publicly called Manchin and Sinema to the carpet over voting rights. Now they’re both being louder than ever in insisting that they’ve never cave on the filibuster. But this doesn’t mean anything.
95% of politics takes place behind closed doors. When politicians speak publicly, it’s only ever to try to influence what’s going on behind the scenes. Politicians take what they’d like to do, or what they wish were going to happen, and publicly state it as fact. It’s your job to ignore their their public proclamations about how they’ll never cave no matter what, and to keep pushing them harder than ever to cave.
This is how you win as a political activist – but only if you spend the entire process working under the presumption that your activism is going to work and that you’re going to win the battle you’re fighting. The minute you fall into the trap of presuming you’re going to lose, and pushing defeatist rhetoric accordingly, you begin unwittingly increasing the odds that you will in fact lose.
Manchin and Sinema won’t cave today or tomorrow. They won’t cave this week, and they probably won’t cave next week either. This is a long battle; all legislative battles are. But let’s put it this way: now that President Biden has thrown down the gauntlet at them, either he’ll win or they’ll win. Who are you betting on to win, Biden or those two chumps? My money’s on Biden. Let’s fight to help make sure Biden wins this battle.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report