The Virginia Senator no longer fits into today’s party
through Marshall Auerback
Photo credit: Getty
The Democrats continue to condemn West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who appears to have torpedoed the second leg of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal, which included generous green energy tax incentives, a universal pre-school ), expanded access to health care and offered generous tax breaks for children.
To be fair, Manchin is not alone. He is now offering political cover to other Democrats who have raised concerns about the law. This is easier for Manchin because he comes from a red, coal-dominated state while the other two live in increasingly blue-hewn states. In West Virginia, Trump got 68% of the vote against Biden, and the state has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. The governor, Jim Justice, won the state’s gubernatorial race as a Democrat but quickly switched to the GOP and Manchin could easily do the same, causing the Democrats to lose control of the Senate.
Joe Manchin represents a much older breed of “blue dog” conservative-minded Democrats – a type not seen in the days since LBJ or even FDR. But in today’s party it looks like a relic of a bygone era; the priorities of today’s Democrats, as reflected in “Build, Back, Better”, pay relatively little attention to the historic New Deal coalition, but rather reflect the priorities of the awakened professional manager elite.
The social base of the New Deal – a peasant-worker coalition at a time when about a third of the population lived in the countryside and a third industrial working class – no longer exists. Today the party is dominated by a progressive wing that appears to be more interested in trans rights than labor rights; and Green New Dealers, who advocate action on climate change that could make energy less affordable and reduce the resilience and reliability of the country’s overall energy supply.
In social policy, contemporary Democrats are often reminiscent of the Rockefeller Republicans of 1970 – priorities are planned parenting, the environment, feminism (which used to be an upper-class republican cause, not democratic), and civil rights (ditto). Remember that Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act, for example, would not have been passed without the support of social liberal Republicans, as many of its Democrats were unreconstructed racists and segregation.
But in economic policy, they avoid supporting structural changes that would really help the country’s working and middle classes. As reflected in the BBB bill, the progressive wing of today’s Democrats pretends that “carers” are the new steelworkers, even though this is essentially an elite foundation: by subsidizing their maids and nannies and doormen, they don’t have to pay higher wages. Likewise, the federalized day-care proposal provides for the children of maids and nannies to be put away so they can create a buyer’s market for non-union domestic workers willing to work for peanuts, with the taxpayer paying the bill to keep them alive receive.
Indeed, BBB socializes the cost of care for this class, but maintains a neo-feudal economic model that largely benefits the professional managerial class that now dominates the Democratic Party.
Joe Manchin may be a popular fall guy in the press right now, but as columnist Matthew Yglesias notes, “It’s not his fault that progressives failed to convince voters in Maine, Florida or North Carolina that their agenda was worth it to be supported in a certain way ”. that would have made him irrelevant. “Indeed. And with traditional swing states like Florida and Ohio turning increasingly red, Joe Manchin could turn out to be the Democratic Party’s slightest problem as we near the 2022 midterm elections and then the 2024 presidential election.