The progressive far-left, in ascendance since 2016, may have just met its upward limit in Joe Manchin.
Unless acted upon by an outside force, progress towards passing President Joe Biden’s sweeping Build Back Better legislation package might have theoretically gone on forever.
Passing it into law would have been just the beginning, after all.
Democrats have certainly been making plenty of progress towards passing the Biden Administration’s short and long-term answer to COVID-19, inflation and climate change. With the behind-the-scenes horse trading and back-channel negotiations for which Mr. Biden is famous working furiously over the past months, BBB seemed a foregone conclusion.
What happens when an unstoppable force like the progressive left meets an immovable object like Joe Manchin?
Democratic voters- at least those in the media pundit class- have made no secret of their frustration at the answer: Manchin announced on FOX news this Sunday that he would not, could not support BBB.
There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth since Senator “Joe Manchin Just Tore Out the Heart of Biden’s Agenda,” in the words of Rolling Stone. Perhaps liberal pundits thought the Democratic Party, like any other dysfunctional family, would, at the end of the day, remember they’re all family. If so, they were wrong.
Instead, progressives may have just met their upward limit. To here the Overton Window can be opened; and no further.
To progressive lawmakers, this is somewhat less than a surprise. To progressive voters, their alignment with the far-left principles espoused by Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Justice Democrats seemed like a sure thing. That such a zeitgeist would ever stop seemed a far distant prospect, if not an outright impossibility.
Progressives have certainly been an unstoppable force in ascendance since the 2018 election, and probably from the moment Sen. Bernie Sanders failed to become the Democratic Party nominee in 2016.
Since then, the Justice Democrats have unseated several long-serving moderate Democratic members in upset elections. By their own admission, progressive groups intend to unseat far more, giving the American people fewer Joe Manchins and more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes by replacing moderate Democrats with progressive candidates in the primaries.
They appeared likely to do it, too, as the 2020 year of COVID-19 crested and Joe Biden assumed the Oval Office.
Progressives have moved the Overton Window on a number of social issues. Progressive policies have transformed the U.S. Southern border since the days Donald Trump held the Presidency. Teacher’s unions emerged from 2020/2021 more powerful than ever. Progressive DAs have reduced or eliminated cash-bail in several major cities, decriminalized certain previously illegal acts and downgrading others from felonies to misdemeanors.
Progressives have thrown the brakes on American energy independence; the Keystone Pipeline is closed but Russia’s Nord stream 2 pipeline is finally in business and OPEC is back to dictating the price of oil.
Higher gas prices are good, as far as progressives are concerned. They want people to drive less and buy electric cars, anyway. Inflation doesn’t bother progressives overmuch either; American consumers can afford it and progressives want people to buy less, too.
Shrinking the U.S. economy, according to prevailing wisdom on the far left, would be beneficial to mankind. Not only do we need to shrink the U.S. economy, according to these same authorities, we need to do so urgently.
The only question remaining to the progressive movement as 2021 got into full swing was how far could they go. The answer seems to be this far and no further.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
It’s a question for the ages, and a question no one wants to see answered as the answers usually involve things like runaway freight trains and chemical chain reactions.
It’s how mountain ranges get made, and unmade by water and heat; it’s how we got the Grand Canyon and the Three Gorges, and the Three Gorges Dam project destined to throw off the rotation of the planet.
When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, furniture gets moved around. Cracks appear in the earth, rivers jump their banks, icebergs calve, cliffs shear away from the mountainside, holes appear in the ozone.
Something always has to give in a situation like that and woe betide any human being nearby when it does.
It is unclear what, if anything, Democratic leadership can do to change Manchin’s mind.
Sweeping progressive legislation held up by a single Senator may strike progressives as terribly unfair. It is important to remember that 50 other Senators don’t support BBB either; Republicans. The country being as equally divided as it is, progressives may have overestimated the strength of their position.
Popular progressive notions on Twitter fall flat in a Democracy where the Democratic Party holds the majority by the barest margin.
Joe Manchin wants, above all else, to be reelected in his state. The calls he must be fielding from constituents about the price of fuel, inflation, and pain at the pump must be overwhelming for him to stake out this unpopular position so firmly.
It is possible that the immovable object the unstoppable progressives have run into isn’t in fact Joe Manchin at all, but tens of millions of voters complaining about higher prices and the rising cost of living.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)