After Joe Biden had won election to the presidency, but before he had been sworn in, I was told by a number of Democratic-aligned strategists that the party’s most likely course of action would be to pass a reconciliation bill with 50 votes, and then to put pressure on the filibuster by tying it to a bill that they could claim was vital for “civil rights.” And so this prediction has come to pass — albeit in the most ham-fisted, self-contradictory, and transparently cynical way imaginable.
Thus far, though, it’s not working. Yesterday, CNN noted that Joe Manchin is aware of the ruse, and that he’s simply refusing to play along:
Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, told CNN repeatedly in an interview that “no,” he will not cave to pressure to gut the 60-vote threshold, even if Republicans block a voting rights bill. Democrats had hoped that a likely GOP filibuster on their party’s bill to expand voting access and overhaul the elections would be enough to convince Manchin and others to do away with the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold – given the onslaught of Republican-led efforts on the state level to impose new restrictions.
But Manchin made clear that a Republican blockade of a voting bill won’t change his mind.
“No, it will not, no, no,” said Manchin, who also wants changes to his party’s election bill, S.1., before considering supporting it. “They are reading that totally wrong.”
This morning, Politico identifies the same problem:
Schumer is also encouraging progressive and pro-democracy groups to exert external pressure for passing the voting bill.
The majority leader plans to hold additional votes on other bills that will demonstrate the breadth of GOP opposition. But if Schumer’s goal is changing Manchin’s mind, “it’s an ill-conceived strategy,” said a second Senate Democrat.
“Bluntly, these bills don’t have 50 votes,” the senator said. “Eventually some guy named Joe from West Virginia is going to get sick of, week after week, being pilloried as the barrier for progress. And then the question is: What does he do? He’s a pretty stubborn guy.”
“What does Joe Manchin do?” is, indeed, an important question. Another important question is, “What do the Democrats do to Joe Manchin?”
Per Politico, one possible answer is to get Al Sharpton to call him a “racist”:
“The pressure that we are going to put on Sinema and Manchin is calling [the filibuster] racist and saying that they are, in effect, supporting racism,” Sharpton said. “Why would they be wedded to something that has those results? Their voters need to know that.”
I do not know whether Manchin will keep his word on the filibuster. I do know, however, that if the Democratic party believes that it can fix its ailing playbook by painting the dissenters as revanchists and rolling out the Al Sharpton You’re-a-Racist Roadshow, it is delusional.