It’s fair to say that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is the most conservative Democrat in the US Senate. Now his growing discomfort with the far-left positions of some in his party is beginning to make headlines.
Manchin recently clashed with Squad superstar and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). The war of words between AOC and Manchin goes back more than a month when Manchin criticized the idea of defunding the police, saying “defund, my butt” and calling the idea part of a “crazy socialist agenda.”
Defund the police? Defund, my butt. I'm a proud West Virginia Democrat. We are the party of working men and women. We want to protect Americans' jobs & healthcare. We do not have some crazy socialist agenda, and we do not believe in defunding the police. https://t.co/EIFHX5OQ37
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) November 11, 2020
AOC has repeatedly expressed support for the defund the police initiative pushed by BLM and Antifa. Minneapolis and other cities which have moved forward with the radical proposal to slash police funding have seen major crime spikes and rising public disorder.
AOC recently responded to Manchin’s past criticisms of defund the police by tweeting a photo of herself giving Manchin a hate-filled stare while he spoke.
"I guess she put the dagger stare on me," Manchin said about @AOC. "I don’t know the young lady — I really don’t. I never met her. I’m understanding she’s not that active with her bills or in committee. She’s more active on Twitter than anything else."https://t.co/6htgbln5XF
— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) November 30, 2020
Democrat Showdown: Manchin vs. AOC
Specifically, Manchin recently hit back at the New York Congresswoman by calling into question her work ethic, saying he’s never met AOC and she seems to him to be more of a social media star than an effective legislator.
Manchin has been frustrated with Capitol Hill and legislative gridlock for much of his career and was reportedly close to quitting his job and trying to run for West Virginia governor last year, saying “this place sucks.”
He is also frustrated by the far-left of his party who are pushing fringe positions such as defund the police which increase the alienation that everyday Americans increasingly feel for the Democrats outside of sheltered coastal bubbles and suburban enclaves.
As Manchin has observed, America is increasingly divided between hard-working rural and small town residents and those who live in big cities far away from farms and industry and often detached from the realities of the country.
Part of the reason this story has made headlines is that Manchin matters more than ever. As a centrist and conservative-Democrat on various issues, he will be part of a Congress with small majorities where his vote will count significantly as President-Elect Joe Biden tries to govern from the middle.
If Democrats end up victorious during the two upcoming runoff elections in Georgia next month and gain the majority in the Senate, Manchin will hold deciding votes on many issues coming from the far-left progressive base, while if Republicans win one or both of the Georgia races and keep control of the Senate they will still be very interested in reaching out to Manchin to help block far-left legislation and find common ground.
It remains to be seen how much sway Manchin will actually have, but it’s clear that at the very least his star is rising and he’s gaining even more relevance in the center of his party.
Manchin is enthusiastic about the chance to gain back ground from the left of the party, saying that a Biden presidency will be “a golden opportunity to bring the country back together and for us to work in the middle.”
AOC responded to Manchin’s latest criticism by tweet on Wednesday – ironically reinforcing Manchin’s accurate accusation that’s she’s social-media focused. Her post implied that Manchin is a financially-compromised puppet who “begs” for money from “corporate CEOs” while implicitly casting herself as a progressive champion busy with “the seriousness of our policy work.”
I find it amusing when politicians try to diminish the seriousness of our policy work, movement organizing & grassroots fundraising to “she just tweets,” as though “serious” politics is only done by begging corporate CEOs for money through wax-sealed envelopes delivered by raven
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 2, 2020
The conflict between AOC and Manchin reflects the tensions in the Democrat party between it’s far-left, activist base and its more moderate, business-friendly center. The party’s relatively poor performance in the Congressional election has it in identity crisis where they are not making the gains that they expected, alienated by offensive statements and radical positions espoused by the likes of AOC, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Back in the real world, arrogant and irresponsible ideas like “defund the police” are dangerous and potentially deadly.
Indeed, as AOC scrolls Twitter and chases retweets, Manchin is focused on more important things, offering prayers for a West Virginia police officer who was shot on Wednesday in Charleston.