“You turned the tap dance into your crusade
Now here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle pressure.”– Billy Joel
Someone did a study. It’s one of those things I wish I had written down or ratholed along the way. I knew I would reference it eventually, but these things rarely occur to me until well after the fact. It seems that ignorance really is bliss. That was the study. The scientists involved found some way to measure knowledge in a systematic way and compare that with the brain. Those that knew less really were happier. Go figure.
The more you pay attention to politics the less happy you become. Eventually, I’m going to come up with a catchy name for it, but there is an ever growing gap between what the public wants and what the government delivers. Some of this is due to representation and the nature of how our government is set up. Democrats in the Senate represent nearly 40 million more Americans than the Republicans and yet they are split 50/50.
The same phenomenom is true in the House to a lesser extent. Of course, they don’t have the same procedural issues as the Senate. That’s the other problem that gets thrown on top of the whole thing. So, you look up to see issues where the vast majority of the country agrees on both sides and yet nothing seems to be done.
The Senate got the green light to begin working on infrastructure while using the process of budget reconciliation. That means they don’t have to follow normal Senate rules and be subject to the filibuster. That makes the prospect of legislation more favorable and yet there are still all kinds of political minefields still waiting for them on an issue where 80 percent of Americans agree.
At the center of it all is West Virginia senator Joe Manchin. Manchin is a Democrat officially, but the proof of his membership is sometimes difficult to pinpoint. He has been particularly hostile towards gun control and now is at the center of the controversy over the filibuster. Most Democrats either want it eliminated or severely curtailed. He is standing in the way. Considering the Senate is 50/50 that’s a particularly formidable threat.
Rumor has it that Manchin will not be running for reelection. So, the threat of primarying him is all but gone. His seat will be up in 2022. I don’t know that I would ever trust a politician to keep his or her word. The threat of retirement is always effective when someone becomes unpopular within their own party.
The proof of the pudding in terms of the gap can be seen in the overwhelming amount of legislation that the House has passed that has been stuck on the Senate’s desk. Before 2021, that could be blamed on one man. Unfortunately, that won’t fly as much as it did before. All people know is that they want stuff to be done and that stuff isn’t done. They don’t know whether to blame Mitch McConnell, Joe Manchin, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or the tooth fairy.
This is why we see the yo-yoing in representation in Congress. One side gains control and nothing seems to change. So, they vote for the other side. Yet, one side has never been interested in passing popular measures. They really don’t want infrastructure. They really don’t want common sense gun control. They REALLY don’t want to expand voting rights and access. They don’t want to remove money from the political process and they don’t want to remove gerrymandering either.
So, voting for them only accomplishes that goal. Who in the heck knows why Manchin does what he does. Maybe he sees West Virginia as more conservative than other states. Maybe he’s a dedicated centrist that doesn’t like the progressive agenda. Maybe he’s desperate to keep some of these Republican senators as friends. It could be that he just likes the idea that people have to listen to him now. Whatever the case, I think he would find that even West Virginians are in favor of many of the aims of the legislative agenda. In that case, if their senator can’t find a way to get that agenda moving then they need a new senator.
The Democrats need to craft a strong message. They need to highlight everything the House has passed in the last few years since they have taken control. They need to highlight all of these things and show how the Senate is the one thing standing between Americans and lasting and systemic change. As hard as it will be, they need to explain how Senate works and doesn’t work. Maybe then Manchin will be pressured to move.