Progressives wonder: Maybe calling Manchin racist is a bad idea

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Really? Progressives don’t seem terribly shy about that tactic with most others who oppose their radical policies. Squad member Rep. Cori Bush took this one right out of the hard-Left playbook nearly two weeks ago when responding to Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to the reconciliation spend-o-rama and his refusal to knuckle under to the House Progressive Caucus’ demands:

Bush loses a couple of style points for not including “anti-trans,” but otherwise gave Manchin the full progressive-opponent smear treatment. As I warned at the time, this wasn’t fire, but backfire. Manchin spent the next eleven days living his life as usual, not concerned at all about Bush’s full-spectrum smear, as if it didn’t matter at all.

And that’s because … it didn’t matter at all. To Manchin, anyway. Now CNN reports that the lesson has apparently sunk into progressives’ collective psyche, and want to start working on a relationship with the supposed racist they castigated a fortnight earlier:

The episode illustrated the efforts by a group of House and Senate progressives to work behind the scenes to build goodwill with the Senate’s most unpredictable moderate, who has the power to sink President Joe Biden’s expansive agenda — and many progressive priorities — simply by pointing his thumb down. Manchin has made clear he won’t be jammed, even holding a press conference last week balking at the demands made by progressives that he publicly endorse Biden’s $1.75 trillion framework.

In private, Manchin has had cordial conversations with the House’s progressive caucus chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, but he has also informed her that she doesn’t have leverage over him, according to sources familiar with the matter. And he’s shown little willingness to bend as he’s been grilled by Senate progressives, such as New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in tense discussions over including paid family leave in the larger plan, which he continues to oppose, according to people who have spoken with him. …

And if he cuts a deal, House progressives almost certainly will be forced to swallow it.

So rather than publicly berating him and demanding he agree to their priorities, many Democrats say the way to win him over is to give him space, avoid the personal attacks, engage in an open dialogue with him and let him ultimately come to a conclusion that passing the bill is crucial not just for the President’s political future but his deep-red state as well.

This reconciliation package has been floating around for months. Manchin has made no pretense about his reservations over both the amount of spending nor on the addition and expansion of programs as national debt skyrockets. Instead of working with Manchin and other moderates from the start to craft a package that could get 50 votes, progressives have tried to muscle their hobby-horse agenda through Congress and steamroll moderates. They held Manchin’s infrastructure bill hostage for two-plus months in an attempt to strong-arm him into capitulation. And then Bush publicly called him a racist and a bigot for refusing to surrender to their caucus.

And now they’re figuring out that they should have worked with Manchin first? Well, congratulations to everyone who finally figured out the math on this session of Congress.

Manchin’s still not making it easy on them either. He threw more sand in the gears yesterday, objecting to a climate-change tax credit that only applies to American products:

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said Thursday that he opposes a provision of President Biden’s social spending bill to give a $4,500 federal tax credit for union-made electric vehicles, calling the incentive “wrong” and “not American.”

According to Automotive News, the senator said the tax credit in the roughly $2 trillion proposal to overhaul the nation’s health care, education, immigration, climate and tax laws “can’t happen,” putting him at odds with fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), a chief sponsor of the provision.

“We shouldn’t use everyone’s tax dollars to pick winners and losers,” Manchin told Automotive News. “If you’re a capitalist economy that we are in society then you let the product speak for itself, and hopefully, we’ll get that, that’ll be corrected.”

This provision is small potatoes in the larger scheme of the BBB. Right now, Manchin doesn’t want to spend the money at all, thanks to the runaway inflation that the White House openly admits has caught them by surprise. This provision can be easily fixed, but the inflation-spending issue cannot. Furthermore, despite Manchin’s courtly manners, he has lots of reasons now to punish progressives for their personal attacks and smears — and not much reason to cooperate now that the infrastructure bill has passed the House.

After Biden signs it on Monday, Manchin can safely make Bush and the Squad pay. Will he? I’d guess that Manchin will sign off on a bill that’s further slimmed down than the present version, but not until he sees signs that inflation is abating. That might not happen until the spring … if it happens at all.