The dark irony of the Democrats’ predicament is that they could end up being right for the wrong reasons. There’s a chance, after all, that the failure of Build Back Better really is bad news for American democracy — but only because it radicalises their own side.
A universe in which Biden and other Democratic lawmakers listen to Manchin’s complaints about the legislation, attempt to understand the concerns of the voters he represents (without whom the Senate would be in Republican hands), and steer themselves back towards the centre feels a long way away. Biden, for his part, has taken a tough line all along: according to the Washington Post, the White House rejected an offer from Manchin that included the vast majority of the bill’s provisions.
Now the West Virginian has walked away, they appear to be pursuing a vindictive, scorched-earth strategy. Faced with Manchin’s exasperation, Democrats cry foul, accusing him of being a corrupt coal boss and choosing to ignore the obvious fact that the legislation would have been very unpopular in his home state. Again, the clear, normal, predictable explanation is spurned in favour of a more alarmist narrative.