Citizenship before partisanship: Is Manchin the ideal candidate for 2024?

The gutsy decision by Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden to meet with CEOs to discuss Build Back Better agenda Hoyer says 'significant' version of Build Back Better will pass this year Gallego went to New York to meet Sinema donors amid talk of primary challenge: report MORE (D-W.Va.) to oppose the Biden administration’s Build Back Better (BBB) legislation has sent shockwaves through the political world. It did so not just because it sounded the death knell for the centerpiece of President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE’s legislative agenda but because independent, thoughtful judgment — like that which Manchin demonstrated in making his decision — has become almost extinct in today’s politics. 

Votes in Congress are driven, more and more, by hardline ideology and narrow partisan politics. The bases of both parties allow little room for honest debate or thoughtful compromise. The battle lines are so rigid that I seriously doubt giants like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill could have worked their celebrated compromises today — or even share drinks together, as they often did when Reagan was president and O’Neill (D-Mass.) was the speaker of the House. 

Manchin’s announcement brought down on him the full fury of the Democratic left led by socialist flag-bearer Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew Mexico Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Hispanics sour on Biden and Democrats' agenda as midterms loom MORE (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (D-Minn.) of anti-Israel notoriety, and perennial left-winger Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFiscal conservatives should support postal reform  Gallego went to New York to meet Sinema donors amid talk of primary challenge: report Five Democrats the left plans to target MORE (I-Vt.). There were also White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul Qatar emir to meet with Biden at White House next week White House underscores action amid violent crime streak MORE and anonymous Biden staffers, all labeling Joe Manchin as a liar and a hypocrite while simultaneously insisting that President Biden still considers Manchin his “close friend.” Talk about hypocrisy!

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But too many Republicans are in many ways similarly locked in and unyielding. 

In August, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed the Senate with 69 votes — 19 of those from Republicans — and strong bipartisan support from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections The Armageddon elections to come MORE and conservatives such as Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOn The Money — Support for new COVID-19 relief grows Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks Momentum builds for new COVID-19 relief for businesses MORE (R-Miss.). But when 13 House Republicans also voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill in November, they were furiously attacked on rightwing social media as traitors and “RINOS” — “Republicans in name only.” Former President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE added to the hysteria by calling for primaries against all but three of those thoughtful 13 House Republicans.

The basis of these attacks was the intentional distortion of the infrastructure bill by confusing it with the BBB legislation. Yet, in the minds of the House members’ critics, the real apostasy by the 13 was simply this: voting for a bipartisan bill that was good for the voters who elected them but which also could reflect well on the White House. 

In other words, pure partisanship that ignored the country’s best interests. 

(Ironically, Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow House “Squad” members also voted against the infrastructure bill because it had been separated from the BBB legislation.) 

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America needs more Joe Manchins in public office. More independent patriots in the historic traditions of President Harry Truman, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.), former Democratic congressman and New York City mayor Ed Koch and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). More politicians who put country before party, and who are not constricted by ideological blinders. Leaders who support a strong military, who stand with the police, who realize that hardworking Americans are the backbone of our nation, and who do not want to turn America into some kind of socialist “paradise.”   

In an ideal world, Joe Manchin would be an ideal candidate for president.  

Maybe, by 2024, the American people will have had enough of today’s partisanship and failure, and the ideal will become reality. 

Peter King retired in January as the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd Congressional District. He served 28 years in Congress, including as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter @RepPeteKing.