AOC sounds like the fool, she is. Here’s something you probably won’t hear from either the left or the right: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is a much more important and influential Democrat than New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Just this week, Manchin did something far more consequential than anything AOC has done in her entire career. Yet everybody is paying more attention to her. Now, when I say “everybody,” I mean almost nobody, save for the insular world of political journalists and party activists.
AOC, Sen. Bernie Sanders and other leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party have had to explain why the Democrats lost seats in the House and so far only picked up one seat in the Senate in an election that was supposed to sweep in an army of young, very progressive Democrats under the banner of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. While that conversation dominated coverage, Manchin announced that he would unilaterally block the progressive agenda in the Senate by not voting for the only maneuver that would make it possible. He told Bret Baier of Fox News that “whether it be packing the courts or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that.”
Given the math of the Senate — no matter who wins the Georgia runoff races — it would be all but impossible to abolish the filibuster without Manchin’s vote. And without abolishing the filibuster, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All are nonstarters. I think this was a true act of statesmanship on Manchin’s part because I passionately oppose abolishing the filibuster and court-packing. But I also think Manchin’s announcement was good for the Democratic Party and not great for the GOP.
Historically, when one party was seen as too extreme, the other party benefited. When one party went too far left or right, that left the center up for grabs. And traditionally, that’s where elections have been won. That’s changed in recent years for a bunch of reasons. Voters have self-sorted into ideologically bubbled communities, and their preferred media sources have tailored their programming to those bubbles. This drives the parties to focus more on turning out their bases than persuading middle-of-the-road voters.