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

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) makes a statement outside his office in the Hart Senate Office Building regarding the bipartisan infrastructure plan and other agenda items on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.
Greg Nash

The gutsy decision by Sen. Joe Manchin (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 Biden’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-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of anti-Israel notoriety, and perennial left-winger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). There were also White House press secretary Jen Psaki 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!

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 McConnell and conservatives such as Sen. Roger Wicker (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 Trump 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.) 

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.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Build Back Better Act Donald Trump Ilhan Omar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell Presidency of Joe Biden Roger Wicker the squad United States Senators

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