One should probably never say “never” in politics, but the fact is, Nancy Pelosi has a better shot at being named “Miss America” than Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have of switching parties.
Neither is there much chance that either senator would be defeated in a primary election. Despite blood-curdling threats from radical leftists, neither Biden nor Sinema has lost much support from Democrats in their home states of West Virginia and Arizona.
Sinema being chased into a stall in a ladies’ restroom or Manchin being hounded by radicals at his houseboat on the Potomac River won’t change the political calculus for either senator. They know their people. They know their supporters. They firmly believe they would lose more support by voting with the Democratic majority on approving $4 trillion in new spending than in opposing it.
Manchin and Sinema are Democrats. They aren’t intentionally trying to blow up a Democratic president’s agenda. They would dearly love to negotiate a solution consistent with their principles. Both have indicated an openness to a deal.
But the stumbling block is that Manchin and Sinema are not radical leftists. A majority of Democrats are. The radicals are acting like radicals and refuse to compromise. They are hoping that if they stand firm long enough, Manchin and Sinema will cave.
That’s not going to happen. In that sense, it’s the radicals who are about to blow up the president’s agenda.
So why won’t Manchin and Sinema bolt the Democrats and join the GOP?
That neither senator has even flirted with the idea is telling. “While it would be simple to switch parties, it would be hard to imagine because Manchin and Sinema ran for Senate to govern, not grovel to Trump,” said David de la Fuente, a political analyst with Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank in Washington.
Other than their prominent opposition to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, Manchin and Sinema regularly vote in lockstep with their party. In 2019 and 2020, with Trump in the White House, Manchin voted with the Republican chief executive 33% of the time and Sinema 26% of the time. That’s comparable to liberal stalwart Sens. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. They voted with Trump 23% of the time, per FiveThirtyEight.com.
Manchin would be a most intriguing target for Republicans because of his pro-life, pro-fossil fuel stands. But Manchin also gets a lot of support in West Virginia from organized labor. He is also an icon in West Virginia politics and he’s been identified with the Democratic Party for 25 years, having run in statewide elections since 1996.
More directly, while activists in both parties are unhappy with moderates, even in this day and age of political polarization, both parties need at least some moderates to fill out the ranks.
Activists on the Right and Left are never happy about the fact that there is no such thing as a majority in the House and Senate that does not comprise some centrists. Indeed, Senate Democrats are clinging to a 50-seat “majority” made possible only by Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. They would not control the floor or committees or be in a position to pass any reconciliation bill without both Manchin and Sinema.
“I know it’s sometimes difficult to understand, but Sen. Sanders is only chairman of the Budget Committee because of those two,” said Democratic operative Jim Manley, former Senate leadership aide.
Precisely. This is why Sanders will rant and fume against Manchin but never suggest that if he likes the GOP so much, he should join them. Sanders is only trying to feed the bloodlust of true believers who don’t care about majorities and other such mundane things. They demand purity above all and Manchin has got to go.
Both Manchin and Sinema would be uncomfortable as Republicans and, before too long, Republicans would be uncomfortable with them. It would be best for all concerned if both senators remained Democrats and continued to be thorns in the side of Joe Biden.