The Manchin Ask

(I spent the entire day writing a test. Yesterday I was at school working the entire day. In short, no, I haven’t finished one of four different pieces in draft mode. If you want my thoughts on the education aspects of the midterms, here’s some tweets. This is something I’ve been wondering about and could write up in a couple hours.)

Back in 2020, I wrote:

One last election thought, on the Senate: if the Dems tie  the Senate–or even if they don’t–Mitch McConnell should have a heart to heart with Joe Manchin and Jon Tester. Both of them will face endless attacks by their own party if they don’t go woke. And neither of them is woke. Both probably want to be re-elected, which will be increasingly difficult if the Democrats win the Senate. McConnell could probably promise them various committee chairs, right?

Everyone remembers that Jim Jeffords switched parties. But fewer people remember that Richard Shelby, senior senator from Alabama, did it back in 1994. He’s still around. [leaving this January.]

I was mildly perplexed at the time that no one else mentioned this idea, and unduly cheered to read more recently that John Thune made an offer:

In their book “This Will Not Pass,” a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, Martin and Burns report [that back in early 2021] Thune pitched Manchin on the idea of not formally joining the GOP, but instead becoming an Independent and caucusing with Republicans.

Manchin was not sold on the idea, according to the book, because he did not want to make Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell the Senate majority leader again.

Well, that was kept under wraps, wasn’t it? Probably a coincidence that an number of Republicans are suggesting that they  postpone a leadership vote to see if everyone wants to give McConnell another shot. 

I wonder why the GOP was so quiet about their offer. I’m also wondering why they wouldn’t offer again, very loudly. Winning the house will stop Dem insanity, but it’s a narrow result. Sharing control in the Senate–or winning outright control–is better than the minority, surely.

 Manchin’s Senate term ends in two years. His choices are run to hold his Senate job, run for governor, run for president (I mean hell, he’s a young ‘un), retire. He doesn’t seem to like his current job, although reportedly told donors he’ll run for re-elecction.  His old job as the Democrat governor in a Republican state might hold more appeal. I only included the presidency to be thorough: he can’t realistically run for President as a Democrat and he doesn’t need the money or the career boost.

If Manchin genuinely wants to retire, then the GOP has no leverage. But in any other case, McConnell or Thune or Rick Scott should make the formal offer: caucus with their party either as a member or as an independent. No complaints, no demands. Promise and pinky swear to be much more respectful of his independence than those snotty entitled Democrats. They’d probably have to promise not to primary him, right? Or something along those lines.

If Manchin really does want to represent his voters and their interests, he should take the offer.  He has steadfastly denied any intention of doing this, of course, and may reject such an offer again.

Fine. Just make sure everyone knows it.

I can’t think of a single reason why the Republicans aren’t better off publicly making the offer. West Virginia voters deserve the opportunity to lobby their senator to represent their interests in a party more to their liking. And if he still rejects the offer, why, he’s the reason Democrats either have a majority or the controlling tie, depending on the Walker-Warnock outcome. A state that gave Trump nearly 70% of the vote won’t forget that. 

Party control aside, the Manchin ask forces him to choose between increased or decreased popularity at home. If Manchin rejects the deal, Republicans have reduced the risk, however, slight, of him winning the state as a Democrat ever again.  They have nothing to lose. Stick the shiv in and make a public offer. 

That’s my thinking, anyway. I’d love to know of any practical reason this isn’t an obvious step for Republicans. Sing me no songs of Manchin’s ethics. That’s his bag. I get it. But there’s no reason for the GOP to care about that, particularly after Manchin signed off on the “infrastructure” deal. 

(In 2020, I actually thought Tester was a better prospect than Manchin–younger, with more to lose. But the last two years he’s been a more reliable Dem vote than Manchin, and isn’t as popular in his state. If he wants to retire, sticking with Democrats is probably the best bet.


and…WAY under 1000!)


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8 responses to “The Manchin Ask

  • Dylan

    They can’t promise not to primary him any more than they could promise normal Republicans that they wouldn’t face MAGA challenges or the Democrats could protect a party leader from AOC. Any ambituous WV resident can decide to run, and a creditable candidate presumably can mount a serious threat whether the national party helps with finances or not.

    • educationrealist

      THey can promise not to support a primary challenge and money still helps, which is why everyone’s whining about how they weren’t funded this cycle.

      But presumably he’d be running as an independent in that case.

      Besides, who cares? It’s not like a Dem will beat him.

  • Yancey Ward

    There is nothing worth it for Manchin that the Republicans actually have the power to offer. He would surely face a primary opponent, and no one likes a turncoat. In any case, there is nothing in it for the Republicans if Walker doesn’t win the run-off next month.

    • educationrealist

      “He would surely face a primary opponent, and no one likes a turncoat. ”

      Oh, please. Most likely West Virginians would love it if he switched parties. Shelby was liked enough to serve for another 30 years.

      And there might be nothing in it for *Manchin* if Walker loses, but there’s certainly something in it for the GOP, since Manchin flipping would result in a tie even if Walker lost.

      If Manchin wants to serve another term he’s better off doing it as a Republican. If he wants to run for governor, he’s better off doing it as a Republican. The idea that WV would turn on him if he flipped is idiotic.

      • Yancey Ward

        A tie isn’t possible since the VP is a Democrat- the Dems end up with control if Walker loses and Manchin switches parties. And Manchin would be challenged in the Republican primary in 2024 for certain. And even if most WVers would be happy to have him switch parties, they would be even happier with an actual long term Republican in 2024, and that very fact that he is a turncoat would be held against him by both sides in the electorate. Richard Shelby was an authentic conservative even as a Democrat, and 1994 was practically a different world than the one we inhabit today, and Manchin is definitely not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, only in comparison to the rest of the Democratic caucus.

  • amac78

    Somewhat off-topic. It’s intriguing to find points of commonality as well as difference, when reading writers whose priors are far from my own. (I tend right, Freddie De Boer is of the left.) Here’s the beginning of his most recent Substack essay.
    It’s been kind of a trip watching the conversation about student loan forgiveness play out over the first two years of the Biden administration… I do want to touch on this question of whether students knew what they were getting into and should therefore be on the hook for the debt no matter what. I would argue that young people were relentlessly told in their youths that education is the only path to prosperity, and I would further argue that a changing economy left them with few stable ways to secure a middle-class existence other than college.

    When people ask how so many young people could be so reckless in taking on so much student loan debt, I wonder if they’ve spent any time in this culture in the past 40 years. For decades, we’ve insisted to young people that education is the key, that the way to get ahead professionally or personally is to go out and get a college degree. Our K-12 schools (public or private or charter) are absolutely steeped in this rhetoric; it’s all-encompassing. The young people who have followed the advice they were given for a decade and a half of formal schooling can hardly be blamed for following it. We might make more headway by asking what society-altering policies were made that pushed them in that direction.

    • amac78

      Ugh, I messed up the html. DeBoer’s essay begins with the sentence,
      “It’s been kind of a trip watching the conversation about student loan forgiveness play out over the first two years of the Biden administration.”

      And his concluding paragraph starts,
      “When people ask how so many young people could be so reckless in taking on so much student loan debt, I wonder if they’ve spent any time in this culture in the past 40 years.”

    • educationrealist

      I’m a huge Freddie fan. Back when he had his breakdown, I felt really bad for him and I’m so pleased that he’s found both treatment and success. Did you read his book?

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