That pungent quote from Senator Joe Manchin makes it into CBS’ headline this morning, but it’s sourced from Politico’s report on the mood of the Senate Democratic caucus last night. The West Virginia Democrat offered up his rather blunt assessment of the proposed Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump debate, along with his assessment of Sanders’ fealty to the Democratic Party. Oh, the irony:
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, told Politico Thursday that the possibility of a debate was “bulls***.”
“That confirms what we’ve been saying,” Manchin told the news site. “Why would you expect Bernie should be considerate or be nice or be working to bring everyone together? Why? He’s not a Democrat.”
That’s a bit rich coming from Manchin. Remember his TV ad in 2010? He insisted that he would take on Democrats from Obama on down to protect gun rights and the coal industry, a point he punctuated with a rifle shot straight through a big Democratic climate-change project in 2010:
At more than one point, speculation swirled that the GOP could woo Manchin across the aisle. The changing political alignment in West Virginia has made the Democratic affiliation more and more of a liability, and while Manchin isn’t endangered yet, it may be a matter of time before he has to recalculate his own position vis-a-vis partisan affiliation. The big win in 2014 put an end to that speculation for a bit, since Republicans had more than enough seats to secure their majority. However, Manchin’s not alone in his anger, as Politico originally reported:
Lawmakers reacted with puzzlement, sarcasm and barely veiled anger as Sanders’ campaign and Trump himself played up an event that would exclude Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t know why he would do that. I think it’s time to start to winding down the primary,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). “It’s time to move on.”
“It’s peculiar,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s all about Bernie trying to get the advantage in California. It’s not going to work.”
Others called it a “stunt,” while most Democrats don’t believe that Trump would do it anyway. Bill Nelson (D-FL) couldn’t figure out what The Donald would get from it, although Nelson said he had a pretty good idea of what Bernie wants.
Everyone knows what Bernie gets out of it. CBS anchor Elaine Quijano, speaking with Major Garrett, framed it in similar terms as Andrea Mitchell did. What would this mean for … Hillary Clinton? Garrett says Bernie’s participation in such a debate just before the California primary would allow him to eclipse her in media coverage:
True … but that and a $5 bill will buy you a mocha latté at Starbucks, too. A small one. Hillary already has the Democratic nomination wrapped up. What this could do for Bernie would be to give him a boost for a third-party bid, running on the Green Party ticket and taking his half of Democratic voters with him. The Greens would looooooove to have Bernie’s legions swell their ranks and their influence, one would think, and Bernie would fit better there ideologically too.
Given all that and the ongoing hostility from establishment Democrats, why would Sanders stick around and return his fealty to the party that (in his estimation, at least) conspired to thwart him from a fair shot at the nomination? After all, as Manchin himself declared, “He’s not a Democrat.” We’ll see how long Sanders keeps trying to be one.