Manchin and Sinema Are Playing a Game Democrats Forget to Play

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In 2008, the Democrats thought they had a mandate. They pushed through the Affordable Care Act, thinking they would have a permanent political majority. Once they tackled that, they began talking a lot about other things, like gun control and other progressive policies. But Obamacare and those policies were so unpopular that the voter backlash was consistently harsh. They lost the House, then the Senate, and then the White House.

They played a full-court press in order to regain political power. They threw everything against Donald Trump to see what would stick. At the end of Trump’s first term, with the help of the media, they took back power.

In decades past, the Democrats were better at playing the long game. They could push slowly, moving the football down the field. But in the last 12 years, they have sped their game up and started throwing a lot of Hail Marys. As a result, they are losing political power faster than they gained it. It took four years to reclaim two branches of government. In essence, it feels like they’ve lost it all again in one year.

Congress is at a stalemate, and while I figure we probably will get an infrastructure package, a bad reconciliation bill, and a raised debt ceiling, concessions to Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin will neuter a lot of the progressive political agenda. This works in our favor now, but there isn’t some political dynamic shifting going on with those two. Sinema is not the “maverick” John McCain was. Shes’s just trying to establish a more permanent presence in the Senate.

Likewise, Manchin is juggling (quite well, I might add) a few different goals. The first is to not piss his party off too much, which he is doing well as only the far left is supremely pissed at him. The second goal is to control the fate of the Green New Deal. The third goal is to keep blue collar oil field and coal miners happy. All of this is meant to help him stay in power.

The play appears to be working for both. There’s good polling right now for Sinema.

Democrat Joe Manchin
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

And for Manchin, the numbers appear to be very hopeful as well.

Why it matters: The survey of 974 registered voters, conducted Tuesday, is the latest flash point in the fight over infrastructure — and how aggressively Democrats should move on a budget reconciliation package to allow them to enact key planks of President Biden’s agenda without a single GOP vote.

By the numbers: In suburban areas, which are crucial to Democrats’ hopes to retain the House in 2022, the poll found 64% support the pause while 36% oppose it.

  • The poll revealed stark partisan differences, with Republicans supporting Manchin’s position by a 78% to 22% margin and Democrats opposing him, 48%-52%. Independents were split, backing Manchin 52% to 48%
  • In rural areas, seven in 10 respondents supported Manchin.

Sinema and Manchin both realize something the progressives attempting to (and currently succeeding in) controlling the party don’t: They know that the only way to win is to play the long game, and the only way to play the long game is to stay in office.

The young progressives in the party don’t yet realize that they are burning through their political capital with the voters at an unsustainable rate. Their party is on the way to a loss in 2022 if they continue to loudly and vocally push for these far left agendas that scare the hell out of the voters. Bernie Sanders knows his time in politics is almost up, so he’s pushing to get some of his long-held political goals pushed through. None of them realize just how much they are chasing voters away.

Or they don’t care, so long as they get what they want.

Eventually, the Democratic Party will probably get what they want. They are still at odds with themselves over how to do it, but it’s probably going to happen. Just how much it happens, however, will depend on Sinema and Manchin and those two, only. Republicans don’t have to lift a finger over any of it, because they know the fight only benefits them in the long run.