As Democratic lawmakers work to reach common ground with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the lawmaker's latest remarks shed light on how the U.S. government's structure is designed to stifle Democratic progress.
Speaking to NBC News reporters on Monday, October 25, Manchin suggested he stands directly in the middle of the political aisle.
"I'm totally out of sync with 48 other Democrats," Manchin told reporters Monday night. "I love them all. And I love all the Republicans."
He continued, "So I'm just trying to survive in a very, very divided Congress in a very divided country."
In a new Washington Post op-ed, opinion columnist Greg Sargent offers a detailed assessment of Manchin's words and what they really mean. "This is both true and misleading at the same time," Sargent wrote. "Yes, Manchin is smack in the middle of a 'divided Congress.' But the suggestion that Manchin is smack in the ideological middle of our 'divided country' is an illusion, one created in part by our malapportioned Senate."
Using one climate provision Manchin seeks to remove from President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda, Sargent explained:
"Manchin is both well to the right of public opinion on many matters and in a position to decide, single-handedly, what the party representing a majority of Americans can and cannot pass into law. You can see the destructiveness of this dynamic in a new effort by Manchin to water down a critical climate provision — a methane fee — in the big social policy bill Democrats are negotiating.
In short, Manchin's position almost gives him single-handed power to sway legislation since he is directly in the middle of a split Senate. The writer wrote, "The problem, of course, is that Manchin has too much power over this outcome while simultaneously being well to the right of public opinion on the matter."
Manchin's remarks are also representative of another problem, Sargent noted: the illusion he believes he represents. "It's a fiction that Manchin's role as a decisive vote means he's smack in the ideological middle of the country," Sargent wrote. "In fact, this fiction makes the problem worse. It creates the illusion that he represents the true ideological center of public opinion — that the public is evenly divided on these issues, and that the deadlock in the Senate merely reflects that."