Despite being a Republican senator representing Arizona, the late John McCain managed to gain the respect of his Democratic colleagues while maintaining that of his fellow party members. While often voting with his Republican colleagues, it was largely the media that dubbed McCain a "maverick" for his tendency to cross party lines on occasion. He was credited with embracing "individual purpose through a 'cause greater than self-interest.'" While this caused his fellow Republican senators consternation at times, they respected him for acting on his beliefs over simply playing party politics. And, while his Democratic Party opponents treasured his independence when it worked to their favor, they tended to hold back their criticism when it did not. Such an approach in the Senate enabled McCain to walk a bipartisan political tightrope for 31 years until his 2018 death.
Today, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is the Democratic Party's equivalent to John McCain. He is a maverick who, surprisingly as a Democrat, represents a state that is solidly Republican. Like McCain, he too is driven by an "individual purpose through a cause greater than self-interest." But Democrats believe, as a bare majority party in a Senate split along 50/50 party representation assisted by Vice President Kamala Harris' vote in the event of a tie, they should be slam dunking their agenda on their Republican colleagues, passing legislation ensuring their own party's dominance for years to come. Recognizing how unfair this is and that it would undermine the foundational principles of the republic, Manchin has courageously refused to jump onboard a Democratic Party's bandwagon powered by a lust for power.
Like McCain, Manchin is influenced by the best interests of the people rather than of a political party but, unlike McCain, he has been targeted by his party's members for exercising that independence. President Joe Biden has subtly attacked him verbally while other Democrats have been much more direct. Biden alluded to his efforts to promote a liberal agenda being hampered by some members of his party who "vote more with my Republican friends." (Note to Biden: With your far left agenda, it is doubtful you have any Republican friends.) Meanwhile, some congressional Democrats, especially those of the progressive ilk, publicly criticize Manchin, perhaps believing it will force him to abandon his tack.
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Manchin's positions demonstrate a sincere effort to avoid overreach by one party over another.
Manchin opposes the For the People Act, deceivingly titled as such when it should more accurately be called For the People Who Favor Democratic Party Control Act. This bill would deny state legislatures – most of which are Republican – the ability to implement their own voting laws, surrendering that authority to the federal government. Manchin refuses to support the bill as he believes the "fundamental purpose of our democracy is the freedom of our elections."
Manchin also opposes banning the filibuster – a powerful legislative device by which a senator or senators speak, or threaten to speak, for an unlimited time to delay the vote on a bill. Since a senator, once recognized to speak, must be allowed to discuss any issue of his choosing without interruption, it affords the minority political party leverage. While Biden unsurprisingly says he agrees with former President Barack Obama that the filibuster is a "Jim Crow relic," in 2020, when Republicans held the majority, Democrats used it 327 times and Republicans only once.
Manchin also has not been afraid to call the southern border, where tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are flooding across it, exactly what it is – a "crisis" – much to the dismay of the White House.
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Despite Manchin's status as a moderate conservative – a dying breed in the Democratic Party – he said during an April interview he has not given any thought to switching to the GOP. He explained, as one who constantly pushes for bipartisan deal-making, "I've never considered it from that standpoint because I know I can change more from where I'm at."
But one wonders if this is really the case as Manchin, in the 11 years he has been in office, has seen his party shift further and further to the left. As a man of great political courage looking to impact such change and encourage more bipartisan discussion, it seems Manchin could play a much more effective role simply by surrendering his Democratic Party credentials and declaring himself an Independent. The move would cause those Senate Democrats lacking the courage to voice their own concerns about their party's sharp turn to the left to realize it is time to speak up and work with their Republican counterparts in the best interests of the people.
Biden's leftist actions since taking office raise concerns he is giving reality to the concept of the "Manchurian Candidate" – the politician whose disloyalty to country is influenced by others harboring undemocratic intentions. In Biden's rush to socialism, assisted by a Senate under Democratic Party control, it is comforting to know a "Manchinian Candidate" – a politician loyal to the republic established by our Founding Fathers – stands in his way of implementing such an agenda.
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