Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose future representing his home state in the upper chamber is in question, is behaving like a man who might have national aspirations.
As first reported by Axios, Manchin left Washington last week for a visit not to West Virginia but Iowa, the long-term presidential proving ground, where he delivered a centrist message to civic and business leaders.
Manchin took the age-old moderate approach of catering to Democrats’ preference for social progressivism and Republicans’ desire for small government.
“I believe the government should be your partner. I’m not your provider,” Manchin told the crowd. He added, “When people say, ‘What’s your politics?’ I say I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate, which I think most Americans are.”
He later told Axios,
Honest to God, my main concern: How do we save this nation? How do we bring people together to protect the quality of life, the values that we’ve had that we were raised with? That’s all. You have got to fight for the reasonable, responsible middle and no one is doing that. There’s no options.”
A NATION DIVIDED
However, modern America is not a place as easily united.
Fiscal conservatism has grown into all but a pipe dream and the social compassion argument has become a means of advocating for late-term abortions and pre-pubescent gender transitioning.
Manchin, too, knows he will have a hard time convincing voters — either in West Virginia, where his Senate seat is arguably the most vulnerable to a left-to-right flip, or on the national stage — that he is above reproach on financial responsibility.
He was the vote that created the poorly named Inflation Reduction Act, which has neither reduced inflation nor the national debt but has brought about profound green energy policies, a reduction in fossil fuel exploration, new social justice policies, and tens of thousands of new IRS agents.
Worse, Manchin backed the Inflation Reduction Act on assurances from the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that the left would prioritize a fossil fuel permitting reform bill.
That assurance has been tabled, if not removed full-stop, which has left Manchin to doggedly oppose President Joe Biden on all remaining energy fronts.
Presently, Manchin is working with Republicans to block all of Biden’s EPA nominees.
“Neither the Bipartisan Infra. Law nor the IRA gave the @EPA new authority to regulate power plant emission standards,” Manchin tweeted last week. “However, I fear that this Administration’s commitment to their extreme ideology overshadows their responsibility to ensure long-lasting energy & economic security.”
I will oppose all @EPA nominees until they halt their government overreach. https://t.co/EAx1m6MbCh
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) May 10, 2023
He’s also joined with 37 Republicans to oppose a new Biden administration rule requiring state insurers to collect ESG climate data.
“Strong arming insurers & state insurance regulators into potentially adopting certain ESG strategies would have real-world impacts – incl. higher compliance costs on insurers & higher premiums on Americans,” Manchin tweeted. “That’s why I’m opposing this federal overreach.”
Manchin continues to push for permitting reform, an area in which he says the U.S. trails most developed nations, but the effort is in legislative purgatory as Democrats have no real interest.
“We have got to expedite our permitting process from five to 10 years of getting something permitted in America, down to one to three years, like most other developed nations,” Manchin tweeted. “Through bipartisan permitting reform, we can fully unleash American energy.”
ICYMI: We have got to expedite our permitting process from five to 10 years of getting something permitted in America, down to one to three years, like most other developed nations. Through bipartisan permitting reform, we can fully unleash American energy. pic.twitter.com/t4JuVXbSUz
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) May 13, 2023
Beyond any policy and voting-record snags, the biggest impediment to a Manchin presidential run is the fact that Biden figures to be the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
It would be highly unusual for any party to split when it has an incumbent in the White House. This means Manchin would need to run third-party and hope that a substantial number of moderates is bold enough to break from the long-held U.S. habit of binary voting.
Under normal circumstances, the likelihood of a third-party candidate experiencing any level of success would be slim. While the same would likely hold true for Manchin in 2024, the abnormal nature of modern America might lend to a break from two-party dominance … sort of.
There is a growing effort to produce a third-party ticket consisting of one moderate Democrat and one moderate Republican working together as running mates.
The thought process is that, since poll after poll shows the majority of Americans want neither Biden nor former President Donald Trump to emerge from the primaries but that both parties are primed to field exactly those two men in the general, there is a chance for the masses in the middle to sweep a third-way option to a win.
“We like to say one-ticket, one-time,” Axios quoted Nancy Jacobson, founder and CEO of No Labels, a group raising money for a third-party push, as saying. “This is not a third party, it’s one Democrat and one Republican. Everyone will have a seat at the table. This is an insurance policy for a unique American moment.”
Jacobsen added, “Right now we know people don’t want a rematch. There’s a huge opening, the likes of which we have never seen. If Biden moves to the center, there may not be an opening.”
Given Biden’s track record on social, taxation, and environmental issues, it’s unlikely the current president will be able to credibly claim the middle ground, although his political career is replete with examples of him arguing as much.
Absent his gaffe on the Inflation Reduction Act, which killed his numbers in West Virginia and nationally, Manchin has a substantive track record of being a centrist, particularly on energy matters.
However, it will be his ability to explain what he means by social compassion that could prove his political ascension or undoing.