Could it be that the man who will save this constitutional republic from the slings and arrows of the ascendant collectivists intent on mangling the U.S. Constitution is – gasp – a Democrat?
You could be excused for expressing incredulity at the thought, given that it is the Democratic party which has threatened (promised?) to mow down so many basic constitutional guard rails. Given their druthers, the party of Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer would turn territories into states to assure a virtually permanent Senate majority, transform the Supreme Court from an independent judiciary into a mere rubber stamp for the party in power, and abolish the one long-standing rule which protects the minority from being steamrolled by the majority. They would place limits on free speech, pass onerous new gun control laws, and ram through a full-on Green New Deal. And the list of less prominent woke initiatives goes on and on.
Fortunately for conservatives of all stripes, it appears that the Democrats have a skunk at their garden party. His name is Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia who is fast becoming the bane of the left’s existence. This near-extinct Democrat dinosaur, something resembling a conservative and representing a state won overwhelmingly by Donald Trump twice, claims he will draw a line in the sand and refuse to cast the 50th vote in favor of virtually any of the left’s third-rail agenda. In arguably the most partisan Congress in our lifetime, Manchin’s vote alone will prevent Vice President Kamala Harris from breaking ties and sending bills on to the White House for the pro forma signature of President Biden.
The latest proclamation by the 73-year-old former West Virginia governor and two-term senator is that he will oppose statehood for D.C., infuriating afresh the activist left, which has been all over his case ever since the Democrats forged a last-minute tie in the upper chamber with twin victories in Georgia. Manchin had already enraged progressives by opposing the termination of the Senate filibuster – central to the fulfillment of the progressive wish-list – and the Equality Act, another item high on Biden’s agenda, after similarly standing against same-sex marriage over the years. He looks favorably upon the Republican alternative infrastructure plan and even stalled for hours before reluctantly joining the paper-thin majority to ram through Biden’s signature accomplishment to date, the $1.9 trillion omnibus bill dressed up as COVID relief legislation.
Democrat leaders have by most accounts tried everything from gentle persuasion to threatening and cajoling – he’s been hyper-flamed on social media – but there is as yet no indication Manchin will back down. Perhaps this is because the senior senator from West Virginia is actually expressing the overwhelming consensus in his own state instead of caving in to the national party demanding fealty to its most radical initiatives.
Outside of whatever president has been in office, the most powerful person in Washington for so many years was the so-called swing vote on the Supreme Court – first Sandra Day O’Connor, then Anthony Kennedy. Most every decision on a hot-button issue hung on their single vote. But with the current 6-3 conservative majority on the court (the wobbly chief justice notwithstanding), the most crucial swing vote in the country now belongs to a mild-mannered senator from a small state. None among this trio likely suspected they would rise solely by circumstance to such a pivotal position on decisions – legislative or judicial – of utmost importance to the future of the republic.
“They talk about all this power stuff and everything. I didn’t elect to be the 50th vote. I didn’t elect for this position,” Manchin told USA Today in a recent article aptly titled “Joe Manchin Suddenly Seems to Influence Everything Washington Does. “I’ve watched people who had power. It destroyed them. They let power go to their head. I’ve watched people that sought power thinking it would really make them something, and they destroyed themselves. And I watched people that basically took advantage of a moment of time and made a difference … I’d like to be that person.”
So here Manchin is, thrust into a position he never sought, but for which history will surely remember him. He can single-handedly (in some cases joined by Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema) decide whether ideas as far-reaching as court-packing, radical climate change legislation, and pork-laden omnibus schemes sink or swim. But rest assured, the left will continue turning up the heat, alternately shaming, lecturing, or arm-twisting, though they have so far met with little success.
Unlike his president, Joe Manchin has thus far refused to bow to a vise grip of pressure and kowtow to the left’s most damaging brainstorms of the day. So, this modest moderate from the heartland stands as a most unlikely bulwark against collectivist tyranny. And as Simon and Garfunkel put it regarding another guy named Joe in a quintessentially American yet far less consequential realm, Joe Manchin, the nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Read more from Tim Donner.