What does Joe Manchin want? The inscrutable whims of the West Virginia senator and 50th Senate vote have always controlled the future of the Biden administration’s domestic agenda. As such, Manchin’s desires are the subject of daily speculation and the vessel into which his party has projected a mix of hope and rage.
It would be a relief of sorts if Manchin would simply tell us what he wants. The problem is that his statements frequently conflict with each other. (On infrastructure, he has alternatively demanded that the bill be enormous, that it be fully paid for, and obtain Republican support, all of which are individually difficult and collectively impossible.) His position on voting rights is, if anything, even less clear.
In an op-ed yesterday, Manchin laid out a series of propositions that purport to explain his position, but upon close inspection make it difficult to understand what he believes or wants.
The internal contradiction of Manchin’s position is summarized in the first two sentences. The first one establishes that the right to vote is fundamental: “The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics.” But in the next line, he qualifies that this right can “never” be protected in a partisan fashion: “Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner.”
Here we have two values in conflict: the right to vote, and the evil of partisan voting laws. Manchin claims the first to be “fundamental,” but if he is unwilling to violate the second value to secure it, then it clearly isn’t. [Continue reading…]