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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Giving Power to U.S. Centrist Democratic Senators

Bipartisan Wisdom or Folly?

Elliot Benjamin

I see it as the only possibility to avoid complete disaster—and therefore I conclude that this is “Bipartisan Wisdom.”

Democrats and Progressives in the United States are currently in a very precarious situation. There is a Democratic majority in the Senate in the most narrow of margins, requiring the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. Consequently, Democratic Senate Centrists now have an inordinate amount of power. This has been demonstrated through the draining process of convincing Democratic Senate Centrist leader Joe Manchin to vote for the recently passed pandemic relief package, and can be seen currently through the ordeal of trying to pass the infrastructure package, with significantly more challenging contortions expected to pass the upcoming voting rights package [1]. Joe Manchin, along with Kyrsten Sinema, are by no means alone in regard to Democratic Senate Centrist resistance to the Progressive agenda, inclusive of resistance to weakening or eliminating the filibuster [2]. But thinking optimistically, it is possible that if Manchin, who is viewed as the dominant spokesperson for Centrist Democratic senators, makes headway with agreeing to support a Democratic/Progressive agenda, then the other Democratic Senate Centrists perhaps may follow suit [3]. Thus I will focus on Manchin, and at times Sinema, in this essay, keeping this optimistic possibility in mind.

For me personally, from my Progressive perspective, the most alarming consequence of the Centrist Democratic Senate obstruction of Progressive legislation is related to the upcoming voting rights package. In a nutshell, given all the hundreds of voting restriction bills that have been proposed, or already passed, in numerous states, if the voting rights package is not passed in the Senate then I think it is highly likely that the Progressive agenda will disappear after the 2022 elections, and that we will either have a return of President Trump in 2024, or quite possibly someone arguably worse, such as “President Marjorie Taylor Greene” [4]. But these last four words are not words that I want to ever have to utter again, so I am going to think optimistically here about how to retain Democratic control of Congress and the presidency. And before focusing on the voting rights package, I think it may be instructive to take a brief look at what is currently happening with the infrastructure package.

It is actually Kyrsten Sinema who has led a bipartisan group of 10 senators, inclusive of Joe Manchin, to formulate a compromised weakened version of the House infrastructure bill [5]. Of course there is no guarantee that there will be 10 Republican senators to vote for the bill and thereby remove the threat of the filibuster to defeat the bill. Nor is there any guarantee that there won't be Progressive senators to withdraw their support from this compromised weakened bill, as Bernie Sanders has said that he would not vote for this bipartisan bill as it now stands [6]. But I believe that it is the only game in town. In other words, without this bipartisan weakened compromise infrastructure bill we would have a strong Progressive infrastructure bill that has absolutely no chance of being passed into law. Having given Democratic Senate Centrists, under the leadership of Sinema with the strong involvement of Manchin, the power to formulate this compromised weakened infrastructure package at least offers the possibility of Centrists voting to weaken the filibuster, or eliminate the filibuster being able to defeat the infrastructure package, if it is the only possible way that the bill could get passed [3], [5]. And if the infrastructure bill does get passed in this way, perhaps it is a lesson that can be learned when it comes to the even more challenging voting rights package.

Manchin has repeatedly gone back and forth in regard to his position on supporting or rejecting the voting rights package, and his rejection or partial openness to weakening in any way the filibuster [7]. But there are indications that Manchin is feeling the pressure, as in regard to the bill to undertake an investigation of the January 6th insurrection that Senate Republicans managed to defeat through the filibuster, Manchin has said that he wants the vote to come up again and that more Republican senators need to vote for the bill so that the filibuster cannot defeat it [8]. Thus it may be possible that if a compromised weakened form of the voting rights package is spearheaded by Manchin and other Centrists, which appears to now be very much in the realm of possibility, and the bill is then defeated because of the filibuster, perhaps it is not out of the question that Manchin and these other Centrists may vote to eliminate the filibuster from defeating this voting rights package [9]. Of course this would be much more likely to happen if there is at least one Republican senator who votes for the bill, which I don't see happening [9], but at least it may be some ray of hope in an otherwise very dismal situation. We're talking dismal for Progressives such as myself here, with the prospect of President Trump in 2024, or the arguably worse four words that I said I would not repeat. So as frustrating and disappointing as it is for Progressives to see their wonderful Progressive legislation compromised and weakened by Centrists, no I don't think it is bipartisan folly to give power to these Centrists. Rather, from my Progressive perspective, I see it as the only possibility to avoid complete disaster—and therefore I conclude that this is “Bipartisan Wisdom.”

Notes and References

1) See Kate Sullivan (2021), Biden Signs Historic $1.9 Trillion Covid-19 Relief Law. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com; Laren Fox & Manu Raju (2021), Senate Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan Picks Up Steam But Faces Major Hurdles Ahead. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com; and Ronald Brownstein (2021), The Decision That Will Define Democrats For A Decade: Will They Get Rid Of the Filibuster If It Means Passing Their Voting-Rights and Election-Reform Agenda? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com

2) See GoodNewsRoundup (2021), In Defense of Joe Manchin: Saturday's GNR. Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com

3) See Stephen Wolf (2021), Voting Rights Roundup: In Major About Face, Manchin Lays Out Path for Compromise on Election Reforms. Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com

4) See Summer Concepcion (2021), 100 Democracy Experts Issue Dire Warning About the American Experiment. Retrieved from https://talkingpointsmemo.com; and see the article by Ronald Brownstein in [1].

5) See Burgess Everett (2021), Kyrsten Sinema Gets Her Make-Or-Break Moment with Republicans. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com; and Alexander Bolton (2021), Bip[artisan Infrastructure Group Grows to 21 Senators. Retrieved from https://thehill.com

6) See Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, & Ali Zaslay (2021), Dems' Skepticism Grows Over Infrastructure Negotiations. Retrieved from https://www.mercurynews.com

7) See Ian Millhiser (2021). How Joe Manchin Can Make the Filibuster “More Painful” for the GOP Without Eliminating It. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com; Brian Schwartz (2021), Joe Manchin Is Opposing Big Parts of Biden's Agenda as the Koch Network Pressures Him. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com; and see the article by Stephen Wolf in [3].

8) See Lee Fang & Ryan Grim (2021). Leaked Audio of Sen. Joe Manchin Call with Billionaire Donors Provides Rare Glimpse of Dealmaking on Filibuster and January 6 Commission. Retrieved from https://theintercept.com

9) See Kerry Eleveld (2021), Manchin's Voting Rights Proposal Puts GOP On Defense and Democrats Back in the Driver's Seat. Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com





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