Published September 3, 2021
Sen. Joe Manchin III’s declaration Thursday that he wants his fellow Democrats to take a “strategic pause” in crafting the party’s proposed $3.5 trillion domestic spending package does more than derail President Biden’s agenda. It’s an early warning sign for the political troubles Democrats are courting if they ignore his plea and move full speed ahead.
Manchin’s move shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands politics. He represents the deep red state of West Virginia and only won reelection in the 2018 Democratic wave by a 50-46 margin over a weak opponent. He surely knows that result won’t be repeated if he has to defend a massive increase in the size of government that his conservative constituents probably don’t want.
He’s also probably carrying water for other Senate Democrats who see their political futures endangered by moving too far, too fast to the left. Eleven of the Senate’s 50 Democrats hail from states that Donald Trump won in 2016, and another four hail from the close swing states of New Hampshire and Nevada. All these senators would face serious challenges and potentially lose their races if the country turns against Democrats the way it did in 1994 and 2010. One should presume that more than a few have shared their concerns with Manchin or the other Democratic public holdout on the reconciliation bill, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.