Among others, that is, which prompts the question: just how popular are the Clintons in West Virginia? Or for that matter Barack Obama? Oprah Winfrey might have a bigger TV fan base in the Mountain State, but it’s a cinch her politics don’t have much to do with it.
Joe Manchin might be friends with these folks, but they aren’t the people who get him elected in West Virginia. That makes this Politico scoop more of a revelation as to either Democrats’ desperation or their complete incompetence at politics. Or both:
Manchin has told colleagues that his phone line has been lighting up with prominent names outside the Senate in recent days. He’s heard from former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and talk-show legend Oprah Winfrey, plus former staffers to both Manchin and former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), according to a person familiar with the talks. Manchin’s office declined comment on those calls.
But perhaps the most fertile discussions take place behind closed doors, among the senators themselves. Kaine likened the effort to his 27-hour drive to Washington earlier this week after a snowstorm devastated I-95: “Slow progress toward a goal, like my commute.”
Manchin is crystal clear that he doesn’t want to change the 60-vote threshold required to pass most bills via a unilateral vote, which is currently the only option to gut the filibuster. At the same time, he has a hard time saying no to his pals.
And that explains Manchin’s relatively open rhetoric in recent days about whether there are changes to the filibuster that could make the Senate work better. He’s entertained modest adjustments, which many Democrats now see as the tiniest glimmer of hope that they could eventually succeed. But they aren’t there yet — not even close.
Tim Kaine and Angus King might be Manchin’s close friends in the Senate, but their constituencies are far different from Manchin’s. Jon Tester’s might be more similar, but Tester himself might end up damaging his own career in deep-red Montana by backing any radical rules change that enables Joe Biden’s radical agenda, whether that be the massive social-engineering costs in the Build Back Better bill or the federal takeover of elections in SB1. The more hard-progressive Democrats get, the more red-state moderates become endangered species.
Joe Manchin understands that, and likely understands how his pals the Clintons and the Obamas are viewed by his constituents. Hint: They don’t look like Manchinesque moderates. Hillary Clinton, the only relevant Clinton in the last two decades, lost West Virginia by forty-two points in 2016. Like Biden, Hillary didn’t win a single county in the state. Barack Obama lost West Virginia by 27 points in 2012 and also didn’t win a single county, and even in his landslide 2008 election lost the state by 13 points.
Bill Clinton was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win West Virginia, 51/37 over the late Bob Dole in 1996. However, the 1996 version of Bill Clinton is a quarter-century gone, and so is the 1996 version of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey are much closer to its identity now as a party of elite progressive scolds obsessed with identity politics and completely disconnected from the working class. Manchin has survived and even thrived in West Virginia by being perhaps the last anti-elite throwback Democrat. If Democrats in the Senate and White House think that an offer to link arms with the Clintons, Obamas, and Winfrey will woo Manchin, they really haven’t the first foggy clue as to what’s going on.
Also, leaking Bill Clinton’s name out now as one of the people pressing Manchin is mystifying in light of the high-profile coverage of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial and conviction this week. After the jury found Maxwell guilty of sex trafficking with Jeffrey Epstein, the question everyone has asked is when the men who got serviced by Epstein’s trafficking will face charges for their parts in exploiting underage girls. Bill Clinton’s frequent-flier miles on Epstein’s Lolita Express puts him squarely in the center of that question. And Democrats think this is the propitious moment to have one of Epstein’s buddies hit up a blue-collar state politician for some help greasing radical bills pushed by the elites?
Are you kidding me?
And as far as the “progress” that Politico suggests that Manchin’s colleagues have made on filibuster reform, that’s a little short on context. Manchin has expressed openness to filibuster reform for months, if not for the last several years, but he’s still in the same position he has been all along. Manchin wants to look for ways to make it more efficient and less open for abuse, but he has consistently opposed any more carev-outs and Manchin refuses to go along with the “nuclear option” for any changes to it at all. Manchin has insisted all along — and still insists — that any changes cannot be forced through on a simple majoritarian process, but has to follow the Senate rules requiring a supermajority. That means Republicans have to buy into the rule changes.
Nothing in the Politico article even suggests any erosion of Manchin’s position on filibuster “reform.” Plus, as the article later notes, Kyrsten Sinema hasn’t budged one iota from her opposition to filibuster changes, so this is largely moot. The upshot of the article is the breaking news that Manchin’s still talking to his friends, but that his friends really don’t seem to be listening to him.