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Civility is Gone

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia appeared frustrated; some argue he was just tired during Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s lambasting of Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday. Mr. Schumer’s comments followed a successful vote to temporarily increase the federal government’s $28.4 trillion debt limit. While only a temporary solution, it staved off a potential default. It gave lawmakers until early December to come up with a more long-term solution.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate at this time, and we had a talk about that,” Mr. Manchin told reporters as he was leaving the capital. “Civility is gone,” acknowledging both sides have been guilty.

Civility has long been going out of style, and it is nearing the brink of extinction. Mr. Manchin suggests he is going to try to bring it back. He finds himself stranded on a deserted island. His stated devotion to compromise and bipartisanship has been a consistent theme but alienates the majority of his Democrat colleagues. No other Democrat, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has angered Democrats in her own right, is as isolated as Mr. Manchin. He is an outlier in a party that has adopted a completely different platform for better or worse.

The days of either party embracing a big tent mentality are long gone. There is no big tent in the Democrat or Republican Party. They both may operate under the guise of such a notion, even that is debatable, but it is a farce. Fringe is in. Not only in terms of ideology but approach.

People talk today as if Democrats and Republicans should not be friendly or interact civilly. Our politics has devolved beyond reason. Political party affiliations and ideological differences are akin to aligning with a U.S. adversary amid a war. How frightening is that? I want to think that this is just the most vocal opposition representing a fraction of overall voters. There is anger when a politician even engages in social events with another of a different party. How is this reasonable in a supposed civilized society?

Mr. Manchin receives both criticism and encouragement for his approach. Some suggest whether, in support or disgust, he should switch his party affiliation. That would be a nightmare scenario for Democrats as they would lose their Senate majority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the self-proclaimed grim reaper of Democrat legislation, would reassume the role of Senate Majority Leader. For Republicans, it would give them the ability to put a halt to President Biden’s agenda. It would also negatively impact Democrat’s ability to confirm a Biden nominee to the Supreme Court, should a vacancy open up.

While Mr. Manchin would receive a warm welcome on that front, it would not take long for him to be termed in a derogatory fashion a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Ask Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski how that works. The second Mr. Manchin speaks out against a proposal or policy; many Republicans will be up in arms with furious condemnation. No better, maybe even worse, than how progressives approach Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema presently. Also, Mr. Manchin has more influence over policy, providing a crucial vote as a Democrat rather than a Republican. As a Republican, he would have no means of inspiring constructive dialogue. The only objective among Republicans would be to block the legislative agenda of Democrats. Mr. Manchin has also stated in a CSPAN Newsmakers interview in 2019 that he could not become a Republican because of two key issues, taxes and healthcare.

Unless Republicans embrace some form of moderation and a willingness to listen to and consider dissenting voices, you will not see Manchin becoming an independent and caucusing with Republicans. Trading the internal animosity of his current party for the inevitable future animosity of the other party is not a worthwhile trade-off. One potential incentive is it would certainly increase his chances of reelection in 2024.

I believe the only way Mr. Manchin would consider such a drastic move is if Democrats were idiotic enough to strip him of his chairmanship and attempt to punish him unless he goes along at gunpoint. I do not believe Democrats would be that foolish and petty.

Mr. McConnell has received angst from his party for bending on his demand that Democrats utilize reconciliation to lift the debt ceiling. A move partly to alleviate the pressure on Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema to support a filibuster carve out for the debt ceiling. Fearing it would eventually result in the filibuster being reformed or eliminated by Democrats. My question is, why start down this contentious and potentially dangerous path? The backlash and potential to backfire were evident before even starting. Increase the debt ceiling without dramatics and eliminate an unnecessary headache. Instead, Mr. McConnell now has egg on his face from both directions. It should never have been allowed to become a game of who will blink first.

Mr. Manchin is correct; there will not be a default in the end. There will be an agreement of some sort in the future. It is far too important and not a simple policy debate. There is no question this country has a severe spending problem, though it is rather convenient to shine a light on it when in opposition but dismiss fiscal restraint when in power. Holding the debt ceiling hostage is no way to handle it. It is a sad state of affairs when addressing the full faith and credit of the United States government cannot be done in a civilized matter.

Image Credit: “Senator Joe Manchin (WV)” by Third Way is licensed underCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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