This week we’ve finally begun seeing Joe Manchin starting to cave on the infrastructure reconciliation bill – thanks to the pressure that everyone from Joe Biden, to Bernie Sanders, to those of you reading this, have been placing on him. Now that Manchin is being forced to cave, we’re seeing rumors in the media that he’s threatening to leave the Democratic Party.
This isn’t surprising. The pressure is clearly getting to Manchin, as evidenced by how much he’s caving on infrastructure. Naturally, he doesn’t want to have to keep caving further on the legislation. So now he’s leaking that he might leave the party, in the hope that this threat will scare the rest of us into pulling back from continuing to pressure him. But Manchin’s threat is an empty one.
To give you an idea of how weak Manchin’s leverage is, he didn’t even make the threat outright. Instead he anonymously leaked it to the media, and now he’s publicly denying it. He wants the threat out there in the hope it’ll work in his favor, but he doesn’t the threat to be taken too seriously, because any amount of real scrutiny will reveal that it’s an empty one.
Manchin can’t become a Republican, because his moderate voting record in the Senate would never allow him to survive a Republican primary challenge from a far right candidate who’s more aligned with West Virginia Republican politics. And if Manchin were to become an Independent but continued to caucus with the Democrats, it wouldn’t change Senate majority math one bit (Bernie Sanders and Angus King are both Independents, but they count as Democrats when it comes to calculating the Senate majority).
So what Joe Manchin is really saying is “Please stop pushing me to keep caving, because I don’t want to have to keep caving, and I’m afraid that if you keep pressuring me I’ll have to keep caving.” In other words, now is the time to ramp up the pressure on Manchin. It’s finally starting to get us somewhere. Keep it going.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report