Pass the popcorn: Progressives start looking for primary challengers to ... Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema

Oh, please let this report from Politico be true. This might be the best news we’ll get all year.  Do progressives know how to count?

The co-founders of No Excuses PAC — Saikat Chakrabarti, Corbin Trent and Zack Exley — are starting a search for candidates to challenge incumbent Democrats they say are standing in the way of ambitious action to end the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — who aren’t up for reelection until 2024 — are the first Democrats on their target list, the left-wing strategists shared first with POLITICO. Chakrabarti and Trent are also former aides to Ocasio-Cortez.

Manchin and Sinema’s opposition to eliminating the legislative filibuster — which requires a 60-vote threshold for most legislation — is the main reason No Excuses is putting a call out for possible challengers. Progressives have increasingly pressed Senate Democrats and President Joe Biden to end the filibuster, arguing that in an evenly divided Senate it will be nearly impossible to find enough Republicans to pass major pieces of Biden’s agenda.

“The only real way to pressure any of these folks and hold them accountable to their promises is to threaten their power, and threaten the seat that they hold and threaten their reelection,” said Chakrabarti, who is also a former chief-of-staff to Ocasio-Cortez. “We sort of have this theory that the voters in Arizona and the voters in West Virginia would care more about action, they care more about jobs and their community and money in their pockets than they do about an arcane Senate rule called the filibuster.”

Well … that’s certainly a theory. Here’s sort of another: these two states probably care more about protecting the border and their jobs more than they care about the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. And the voters within these two states — one reddish-to-purple and other deep, deep red — understand that the filibuster is now all that stands between them and those massive government programs and their vastly disrupting impact.

Sinema certainly understands that much about her constituents. Neither she nor Mark Kelly won their elections by letting the progressive freak-flag fly. Medicare for All and the Green New Deal might sell in New York, Massachusetts, and California, but Arizona isn’t any of those places. Their voters are not tipping over into progressivism; they just dislike Donald Trump and populist politics. Doug Ducey gets that much, even if the state Republican Party hasn’t figured it out. Attempting to push Sinema out for a progressive nominee would likely produce nothing but backfire.

But pulling this kind of a stunt with Manchin is outright political suicide. Manchin represents a state in which Joe Biden didn’t win a single county. Every statewide elected official except for Manchin is Republican. Chuck Schumer’s main threat for the next two years is that his progressive wing might anger Manchin enough to recognize the political realities of West Virginia and flip to the GOP, giving Republicans control of the upper chamber and the ability to block all of those initiatives progressives are demanding of Joe Biden. Mitch McConnell would no doubt make it worth Manchin’s while with an important chair position and a moderating voice on policy.

Manchin hasn’t done it yet because he keeps insisting he values loyalty and consistency. All that goes out the window if his own party starts going out of its way to back-door him. Schumer must be screaming for the phone number to the No Excuses PAC right now to tell them to back the hell off. Joe Biden himself should be doing the same.  If not, then Manchin might well draw the correct conclusions now, cross the aisle, and wish progressives luck in running a radical leftist in 2024’s West Virginia Senate race.

The only question might be the timing. Manchin wouldn’t flip before the impeachment trial … would he?