| Washington Wrap |

Manchin Endangers Biden’s Legacy

A development that highlights the Democratic Party’s existential dilemma

Photo: AP Images


Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia stands in the way of Joe Biden fulfilling his key campaign pledges, in a development that highlights the Democratic Party’s existential dilemma. Events of the last month have proved conclusively that there’s no “Democratic Party” — just two wings fighting a fierce tug-of-war, and the rope is starting to fray.

Manchin presents a fascinating case study — a Democrat elected by one of the most conservative states in the union. If he loses reelection in 2024, the Senate’s 50-50 tie is broken and Democrats lose their edge. Manchin’s first allegiance is owed to the voters who sent him to Washington. Coal-rich West Virginia has few other economic assets, so it’s only natural that voters there are averse to Biden’s plan to combat climate change.

To see this story in its full context, let’s step back one year. Trump was hammering Biden as a Washington insider who hadn’t changed anything in 47 years, also openly casting doubt on his mental acuity. Democrats responded by positioning Biden as a modern-day FDR who would aggressively push a progressive agenda, and they assured voters he would run for a second term.

Most pundits took this with a grain of salt, predicting that Biden would try to ram through a highly ambitious legislative package in one term and not run again. This way, he could prove that America’s oldest president was anything but a dinosaur.

A key element of Biden’s platform is aggressively tackling climate change. For this to happen, he would need more than just lavish UN cocktail parties. Biden wants aggressive action that will fundamentally restructure the US economy, including, among other things, transitioning the auto industry from gas to electricity and widespread construction of electric vehicle charging stations. For the average American, to whom the price of gas is the most important thing, buying a Tesla vehicle for north of $40,000 is science fiction out of Silicon Valley. And while many wealthy white progressives support this idea, it’s not at the top of their priorities.

It remains unclear which elements of Biden’s agenda will end up being passed in the exhausting negotiations within the Democratic Party. But his ambitious scheme to replace existing power stations operating on coal and oil with wind, solar, and nuclear energy is not likely to be enacted. This highlights Biden’s weakness as a leader and raises the question of whether he’ll end up leaving behind any legacy whatsoever.

And one more thing. Biden’s climate promises weren’t just about leaving behind a legacy, but also about differentiating himself from Trump, who took America out of the Paris Climate Accords. Biden is clearly far from bringing about the revolution he promised. He would obviously like to position himself as a global leader for change. But for now, all his administration’s eloquent rhetoric is ringing hollow.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 882)

Oops! We could not locate your form.