Four Contrarians, Two Parties, and One Glaring Contradiction in How They Are Covered

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin provoke ire while earlier this year opposing one’s party was hailed as “brave.”

As D.C. has become beset with brain lock this week with all the media focus on the budget battle most have lost any semblance of common sense. Alleged brilliant minds like David Axelrod and Charlie Sykes have commented on how a $3.5 trillion budget discussion does not make people blanch at those figures like they once might have, yet neither man has come forward to say these proposals are supremely gross in size. Then you have those like Chris Hayes who suggest that meh, massive debts are actually positive realities. (If true, that means we have no need for a government bailout of collegians, right Chris?)

In reaction to the reality that opposition to the bill means the government may be restricted in printing Monopoly money, two members of Congress are the focus of rancor — Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin. These two operatives, who have bucked their party’s desires with regularity, have been branded with a poisonous moniker as a result — Centrists. Here begins the unspoken dichotomy of thinking in the media.

Note how often we hear this particular term used with Republicans, and tellingly there is no bile in the delivery. Centrist GOPers are the rational members in their party, willing to meet in the middle and vote with their conscience rather than blindly following party-line voting practices. They are preserving democracy and fighting for the betterment of the nation…by agreeing with Democrats. This carries, of course, all the implications that Republicans are working against all noble and sensible interests.

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Yet for much of this year Sinema and Manchin are blithely described as being centrists in discussions on matters such as removing the filibuster, the term invoked with the same dismissiveness as if you were describing a family member doing time, or who has been sucked up into a cult. “Then there’s our Kyrsten; she’s fallen in with those Centrists, but we are looking into ways we can help her get out…”

As this Democratic Distemper Duo has been the focus of outrage, that reaction is in direct opposition to the impressions felt towards two Republicans who have boldly voted against party wishes. Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger, have been feted by the media for most of the year, and they bear none of the caustic labels saved for Democrat turncoats. “Brave,” “honest,” “noble,” “forthright,” and many other superlatives are invoked as this pair makes their rounds of the legacy media.

This Sunday, Cheney was granted a 60 Minutes feature and allowed to say anything negative she felt about Republicans, such as saving the party from anti-semitism. (Now, what’s that Liz?! When I checked the news, it was not a GOP member blubbering on the House floor over the funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense shield.) She is even being excused for her prior opposition to gay marriage, her recent shift of support being embraced in the same manner it has been whenever Democrats “evolve” on these issues.

Because they reject Republican policies they get rewarded in the media. At CNN, their galaxy-minded pundit Chris Cillizza touted her wisdom, spoken to Leslie Stahl — “she spoke a truth that her fellow Republicans need to hear on Sunday.” Likewise Kinzinger is afforded similar fawning bromides. He was celebrated on The View — yea, we know — where they called him the voice of reason, or when Jeffrey Goldberg recently gave him a glowing puff piece.

Congress Divided Republicans
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Not so with Sinema and Manchin. Only churlish remarks are reserved for them, as they are the obstinate trouble makers. There are no back slaps for being brave. No, their willingness to oppose the wishes of the party leadership are seen as a threat to democracy. The party-inspired imbalanced approach to the willingness of these four iconoclasts to buck their directives and vote their own way is displayed by Thomas Friedman this week.

In his column entitled Do Democrats Have the Courage of Liz Cheney?, we see the writer not only overlook the obvious parallels, he looks directly through them. Friedman is seeking this bravery from Democrats, of course, because he follows the media’s party line that the GOP is threatening to unravel our democracy. Yet as he claims to search out bravery he looks at the same activity from Sinema and Manchin, but gives them not only dismissive grades but he contradicts himself in the span of one paragraph.

“And are centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema…” — there’s the staining of their character again — “ready to risk not being re-elected the way Liz Cheney has by forging a substantive compromise to ensure that consequential election integrity, infrastructure and Build Back Better measures go forward?” Funny, I was under the impression they were risking their careers by being obstinate towards the Democrat agenda. In Arizona, her party is putting up a No Confidence vote as a result of her disobedience.

Then Thom unravels his own proposition. “Or are they just the Democratic equivalents of the careerist hacks keeping Trump afloat — people so attached to their $174,000 salaries and free parking at Reagan National Airport that they will risk nothing?” This rebuke defies his own premise. 

Joe Biden
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

He is suggesting that they would be braver if they simply capitulated and did what Nancy Pelosi commands. But this also ignores an underlying reality Friedman either missed completely, or cravenly ignores. If it is riskier for them to align with their party on votes this means they would be risking their career — why? Because it would mean they are voting against the will of their voters, who would see they were removed from their offices. 

Friedman — like so many others in the press — is encouraging these representatives to stop representing their constituents. They plead for them to do so under the guise of needing to save the nation from those wishing to tear down our foundations, so they need to ignore the will of their voters. This means the dark irony is Manchin and Sinema are being encouraged to dispatch their democratic duties, under the claim they need to save our democracy. 

This is the fractured logic being foisted on us by the press. They want voters to be ignored in order to preserve democracy, thus passing sweeping authoritarianism in policies and granting more power to a President and a party who have challenged the Constitution in a number of ways in just eight short months in office. And those Republican rebels who support this governmental takeover are the voices of truth and reason, you understand…