Joe Manchin is not a 'mystery' — he's the same old centrist he's always been: analysis

Joe Manchin is not a 'mystery' — he's the same old centrist he's always been: analysis

In contrast to the Republican Party — where unquestioning loyalty to former President Donald Trump is virtually a requirement — the Democratic Party is a very big tent ranging from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described "democratic socialist," to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and other Blue Dog centrists who would fit in with some of Europe's conservative parties. Manchin, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has been a source of frustration for Democratic progressives, some of whom have said that they have a hard time figuring him out. But journalist David A. Graham, in an article published by The Atlantic on June 24, emphasizes that Manchin hasn't changed and that his recent actions are consistent with his history in the U.S. Senate.

"Journalism requires drama, which means that over the past few months, Sen Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been the subject of extensive coverage," Graham writes. "The problem with this coverage is not that Manchin is unimportant; as the most moderate Democrat in a 50-person caucus, he is crucial. It's that there is no mystery to him."

Graham continues, "Trying to figure out who Manchin is and what he wants, or how he's changed — the natural and reasonable defaults of political-profile writing — assumes there's something more than meets the eye. Really, though, Manchin is who he's always been: a middle-of-the-road guy with good electoral instincts, decent intentions, and bad ideas."

Manchin, like Sinema, is the type of Democrat who probably wouldn't be out of place in the Conservative Party if he lived in the U.K.; Manchin and Sinema are relatively conservative (although not as far to the right as the late Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia), and the Arizona senator has praised the late Sen. John McCain — a self-described "Goldwater Republican" or "Goldwater conservative" — as her political idol. In recent weeks, much of the frustration with Manchin and Sinema that progressive Democrats have been expressing has to do with their unwavering support of the filibuster — which, for most legislation, requires 60 or more votes in order for a bill to pass. That includes the For the People Act, a comprehensive voting rights bill.

Graham notes that Manchin was a swing vote in the U.S. Senate long before Joe Biden's presidency.

"Manchin is not the first senator to hold a high-profile swing vote, but the path by which he arrived here is not so interesting as that of some of his predecessors," Graham writes. "He doesn't bring the elaborate psychological baggage to the role that John McCain did: the weight of paternal expectation, the time as a POW, the Keating Five mess, the 2008 presidential loss, the animosity with Donald Trump. Manchin seems chummy, if not close, with President Joe Biden."

Graham adds, "He doesn't bring the political baggage, either. While Manchin is more conservative than other Democrats, he is still more in line with the rest of his party than, say, Jim Jeffords was before he left the GOP to become a Democrat in 2001…. Manchin has kept the same basic approach for most of his career."

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