What's the deal with the daily "Manchin won't deal" updates?

Screenshot via C-SPAN

Republican voters may see Joe Manchin as the GOAT in this session of Congress. The media and Manchin’s colleagues in the Senate Democrat caucus and the White House want to paint him as the goat … as in scapegoat. As a result, we keep getting daily updates on a status quo that hasn’t changed in months, along with suggestions that Manchin may have ulterior motives in blowing up a party he won’t leave.

Why, it’s almost as if the media wants a distraction from something, eh?

Today, The Hill brings us the daily Manchin-won’t-deal report:

Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) latest moves are fueling new doubts that he’ll agree to any sort of legislative package on President Biden’s agenda, deepening Democratic worries about what they’ll be able to deliver to voters by Election Day.

Several Democratic senators say they are growing dispirited about the prospect of Manchin ever giving the greenlight to moving a budget reconciliation package, which would prevent Republicans from blocking Biden’s legislative agenda with a Senate filibuster.

Asked about how much confidence there is in Manchin coming on board with a reconciliation bill, one Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on the shrinking chances said there’s “less every day.”

A second Democratic senator said efforts to negotiate with Manchin one-on-one, whether led by senior White House officials or Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), aren’t working.

How many times have we seen this same narrative reported in various media outlets since, oh, Thanksgiving? Dozens? Scores? Hundreds, perhaps? I’m not complaining, mind you, as it makes for great blogging fodder, but it starts to get rather repetitive even for popcorn-passing purposes.

Just to demonstrate, here’s a recent listing of Manchin-won’t-deal stories that we’ve managed to catch ourselves over the last month:

And if you want to take a broader look at media/Democrat angst over Manchin’s heterodoxy to the Biden agenda in general, let’s add these:

Reaching back into March …

If I wanted to list all of the media’s “Manchin might balk” stories over the past year, I’d need a bigger blog, as Glenn Reynolds likes to quip.

At some point, though, one has to wonder why Manchin’s the story here. Isn’t the actual story Joe Biden and his refusal to adjust his agenda to the political realities of an evenly split Senate? The media has covered, after all, the failed votes and failures to get to votes that have characterized Democratic control of Congress this session. Not all of that can be assigned to Joe Manchin, especially when Biden, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and progressive-caucus leaders kept grandstanding on bills and used character assassination against Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in attempts to steamroll them.

The real story here is that Biden and Democratic Party leadership misjudged both Manchin and Sinema, as well as their mandate in 2020. Biden envisioned himself as the next FDR and/or LBJ despite having only barely won the presidency — while campaigning as a centrist! — and having been the only first-term president in long memory whose party lost seats in the House in the same election. Even when those contradictions became obvious, and even when Biden’s approval ratings began to plumb depths that even Trump hadn’t achieved, Biden refused to change course. He passed up his last, best opportunity to reset for the midterms in his State of the Union speech, in which he doubled down on his progressive agenda rather than attempt to move to the center to correct the list in his ship.

The story here isn’t “Manchin still refuses to deal,” except in the old SNL meme that Generalissimo Francisco Franco valiantly kept remaining dead. The real story here is a White House and Democratic Party that has utterly botched its narrow opportunity to make some modest but real achievements, and a president who clearly doesn’t have a strategic brain cell in his entire head.

The media doesn’t want to report on that, however, or the absurd futility demonstrated by Biden and his allies in pushing the same deal on Manchin repeatedly rather than engage him on a change of course. The operating narrative is that Manchin’s the goat, even if they can’t quite pull off a narrative that Biden’s the GOAT. Keep this in mind the next time you read another “Democrats wonder what Manchin wants” story, which should be … tomorrow.

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