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What Manchin Knows — And What Progressives Could Learn

The 2010 Senate candidate was almost a caricature of the sort of Republican who drives Democrats crazy. He bragged about his endorsement by the National Rifle Association, criticized "Obamacare" and dramatized his support for coal by picking up a rifle and blasting away at a bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the guy who turned those themes into a victory was not a Republican. He was a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And he's somehow proven to be both the indispensable senator for President Joe Biden and a villain to many in his party.

You might think Democrats would be building shrines to the person who has kept them in control of the Senate. A Democrat has about as much business representing West Virginia — which Donald Trump won by a 39-point margin — as a vegan sandwich has on the Burger King menu.

Of course, Burger King does offer a vegan sandwich — the Impossible Burger. And it has succeeded much as Manchin has, by doing an excellent impersonation of something people like. Impossible Foods offers an appealing oxymoron — "meat made from plants," as it advertises.

Manchin does the same, compiling a center-right voting record from his desk on the liberal side of the chamber. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that during Trump's tenure, he sided with the administration 50.4 percent of the time. He scores low with both the American Conservative Union (27 percent) and the American Civil Liberties Union (23 percent). The website GovTrack grades Manchin as more conservative than two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

It's no wonder that liberals differ with him on many issues. But they have let his refusal to support reform of the filibuster or the Democratic election reform bill cloud their minds. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) called Manchin "the new Mitch McConnell." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused him of complicity in "voter suppression."

The attacks bring to mind what Biden recalls his own father saying: "Don't compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative." It doesn't seem to occur to Bowman that if not for Manchin, the Senate would be under the control of the real Mitch McConnell, who would use a GOP majority to block Biden on almost every front. For Manchin to align himself with Ocasio-Cortez would produce a different type of voter suppression — of West Virginians willing to cast their ballots for him.

It's easy for politicians like these to fault Manchin for being insufficiently progressive, because they don't have to run for office in West Virginia. Bowman's district went for Biden by a 52-point margin; Ocasio-Cortez's by 45 points. They can lurch as far left as they want without fearing defeat at the polls.

A Democratic politician in West Virginia, however, has to carefully balance party priorities with political survival. That Manchin has been able to win statewide over and over is not an achievement; it's a miracle. He's been able to do it largely by consistently staying arms-length from the prevailing ideology of his party.

In that endeavor, his recent vilification by progressives is more likely to help him at home than to hurt him. It reinforces Manchin's priceless reputation as a different kind of Democrat.

But they have reason to be grateful to him. One reason is that he's not entirely averse to taking political risks on behalf of his party's agenda. The website FiveThirtyEight found he has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time so far.

Without Manchin, Biden would be unable to get many of his judicial nominees confirmed. Republicans would chair all Senate committees and determine the legislative calendar. The president would face a stone wall of GOP opposition. Today's Democratic frustration would give way to outright despair.

What the party needs is not fewer people like Manchin but more. The Democratic approach works well in presidential elections, but it has yet to produce lasting majorities in Congress — and it has been a dismal failure in state elections.

Manchin has demonstrated that it's possible for a Democrat to win in the reddest of states by selectively straying from liberal orthodoxy. If many others would follow his example, Democrats would have a stronger hand, which would make Manchin less of an impediment to their agenda.

Progressives who think they are at odds with him are really at odds with political reality. Manchin never forgets that, as Shakespeare wrote, there is no virtue like necessity.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

New Video Emerges Of ‘Deeply Unwell’ Greene Harassing AOC And Staff

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Wednesday, two Washington Post reporters witnessed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Karens) chasing and "aggressively confronting" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling her a "terrorist sympathizer." It was another in a growing catalog of incidents of Greene harassing and bullying AOC.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested the House Ethics Committee should open an investigation into Greene's actions as there is increasing evidence that Greene seems singularly obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez, repeatedly publicly challenging her to a debate over the Green New Deal, where she no doubt intends to bully rather than debate facts.

CNN reporters Em Steck and Andrew Kaczynski haveuncovered a since-deleted video showing the now congresswoman visiting the U.S. Capitol in 2019, before she was elected to Congress.

Hapless Media Have No Idea How To Cover Deranged Republicans

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Hours after Republican House members forced Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to surrender her leadership role for the sin of denouncing Trump lies about his election loss, Republicans at a House Oversight Committee hearing addressing the Capitol Hill insurrection spent the same day spreading misinformation about Trump's attempted coup.

Claiming that what transpired that day really wasn't a riot but instead a collection of misguided enthusiasts voicing their concerns, Republicans made clear not only would they not assign blame to Trump for stoking the deadly assault, but they were going to defend the rioters and rewrite history about that ugly day on Capitol Hill.

From Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA): "There was no insurrection. To call it an insurrection is a bold-faced lie."

In normal times, if the public sacking of Cheney for lack of fealty and the public support for insurrection had happened in the same calendar year, it would have been considered a shocking turn of events for a mainstream political party in this country. The fact that both events happened within hours of each other this week only highlighted how radical, dangerous, and anti-democratic the GOP has become, as it hurtles far beyond the mainstream and into the abyss.

Unfortunately, the Beltway press has no idea how to cover this story. It still refuses to use the proper tools and language to put the troubling actions of the GOP in context via its straight news coverage. Hiding behind Both Sides journalism, timid language, and purposeful naïveté, news outlets still aren't being honest about the dire threat Trump Republicans now pose to the country.

Watching the party maneuver itself to be able to invalidate future elections — by passing voter suppression laws, installing local election boards that refuse to certify wins, empowering state legislatures to refuse to certify their state tallies, and electing a Republican majority in the House of Representatives that will deny the Electoral College count — means the United States faces the most entrenched, internal political threat since the Civil War. That's no exaggeration, considering the defining loyalty test for the GOP today is backing Trump's claim that the 2020 election was stolen, which in turns positions the party to question all future election results.

The GOP and its followers have become consumed in deliberate lies, yet the press still views the party as a serious entity whose views deserve to be treated respectfully.

"It's time the media stop covering the GOP as a political party - it's not," tweeted SiriusXM radio show host Dean Obeidallah. "Today's Republican party is a white nationalist, fascist movement and those exact words need to be used by the media so everyone gets the threat the GOP poses to our nation."

It's clearly a conservative movement that's flown off the rails, and resembles nothing we've seen before in modern American politics.

Just in recent days:

• Republicans in Arizona running the clown 'audit' of the 2020 election are searching for traces of bamboo in paper ballots to prove they are counterfeits smuggled in from Southeast Asia.

• A Colorado State representative referred to a colleague as "Buckwheat" while addressing the House.

• QAnon loyalist and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene aggressively confronted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in the halls of Congress, and falsely accused her of supporting "terrorists."

• 124 GOP-friendly retired generals and admirals released an open letter spreading the lie that President Joe Biden stole the election, while labeling him a "Marxist" and "tyrannical" threat to America.

• A Republican lawmaker in Michigan wants to force non-partisan "fact checkers" to register with the state and face $1 million fines if public officials prove "wrongful conduct" in their work.

Nervous about claims of "liberal media bias" though, the press holds back.

After witnessing Taylor accost Ocasio-Cortez this week, Washington Post reporter Marianna Sotomayor told CNN that the ugly encounter "really does speak to the polarization that exists and the tensions between both parties, Republicans, and Democrats." [Emphasis added.] Wrong. What Taylor's deranged behavior speaks to is a Republican Party that has torn down the guardrails of common decency.

The New York Times recently published a long piece about the deepening "era of endemic misinformation — and outright disinformation." The article highlighted obvious partisan lies pushed by right-wing media and conservatives, such as Biden's going to force Americans to eat less meat. Instead of framing the epidemic as a Republican-created one, the Times pretended the avalanche of right-wing conspiracies represent a larger, cultural issue.

The press for years has consistently misreported on the increasingly extreme nature of the Republican Party. Specifically, journalists have pressed the faulty notion that GOP members are supposedly worried about Trump. Last summer, the Times announced Republicans were "despairing" over Trump's erratic and authoritarian behavior.

The Times' coverage looks deeply naïve in retrospect. Just like when, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, the Beltway media insisted a "reckoning" was looming for the GOP over Trump. Instead, Republicans just purged Liz Cheney for criticizing his anti-democratic behavior.

All last winter, the D.C. press told us not to worry about Trump's refusal to acknowledge Biden's lopsided victory — Politico insisted it was just "bad sportsmanship."

Today, there are some glimmers of media hope. CNN on Sunday night is airing a special report, "Radical Rebellion: The Transformation of the GOP," which hopefully won't downplay the rebellion, or what's now at stake. And more news outlets are now using "lies" to describe Trump claims about the 2020 election. That language change is welcome, although long overdue.

The Beltway press has never had to cover a political party that openly embraces anti-democratic policies, such as undermining free and fair elections in America. It's a defining media challenge.