Could Manchin go the Sinema way and seek independence?

Last Friday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona made headlines when she announced she would quit the Democrat party to become independent.

Sinema told Politico that she "never really fit into a box of any political party."

Sinema began her political career in the Arizona Green Party and rose to prominence for her advocacy of LGBT rights and opposition to the war on terror.

However, when Sinema first ran for office, she ran as a Democrat in 2004, perhaps to increase her clout in politics.  It turned out to be an astute decision; it enabled her to be elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2012 and to the U.S. Senate in 2018.

In recent years, Sinema has shown reluctance to blindly side with the Democrats' far-left agenda.  

Still, it is rare for an incumbent to quit his party and choose to be independent, where there is no party support for multimillion-dollar re-election campaigns.

There is a probability that she knew she would suffer certain defeat in a Democrat primary against a far-left Democrat.  Hence, being independent is her sole chance at re-election. 

Another benefit of being a Democrat is that it offers protection from media attacks.  The media may have despised Sinema for blocking Biden's far-left agenda, yet they never attacked Sinema the way they target MAGA Republicans. 

But all that has changed.

The U.K. Independent seemed irked by Sinema's independence.  Their columnist Eric Garcia claimed she was more comfortable working with Republicans.  He supported his assertion by claiming that Sinema has been seen chatting with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and minority whip John Thune prior to key votes.

MSNBC also slammed Sinema's exit, claiming that her move was calculated rather than sincere because she needs to appeal to a broader electorate in the Land of Goldwater and McCain.

But they purposefully overlooked the fact that Arizona re-elected Sen. Mark Kelly and elected Democrat Katie Hobbs as governor.  Perhaps rigging, and voter fraud, had a lot to do with these victories.  There's also the fact that Democrats control the election infrastructure.  As secretary of state, Democrat Katie Hobbs oversaw the election while running for governor.  Sinema will face an uphill challenge when she runs for re-election in 2024.

With those things stacked against Sinema, why are the Democrats so concerned?

The Democrats had 51 seats in the Senate following a victory in the Georgia Senate runoff.  However, with Sinema's departure, the Democrats are back to 50.  The GOP holds an identical number of seats in the Senate.  But Democrats have Vice President Kamala Harris as the potential tie-breaker.

Democrats fear that Sinema's departure may open the floodgates and cause "conservative" Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, who also faces re-election in 2024, to seek independence.

This could bring down the Democrat Senate seat count to 49, with VP Harris's vote making it 50, meaning both parties will have 50 Senators.

The Democrats have good reason to be concerned, as Manchin and Sinema have a great deal in common.

The two blocked Biden's far-left agenda to some extent.

They both supported maintaining the filibuster while most Democrats were against the 60-vote threshold.  The abandonment of the Senate's filibuster rule would have enabled Democrats to pass their "voting rights" bill, which would have rigged elections in their favor forever.  Among the items on this bill was a ban on state photo voter ID laws, which makes voter fraud already much worse than it already is.

Biden's plan for the big government via Build Back Better also was stopped, once again by Sinema and Manchin

It caused the duo to be named called "Manchinema."

So what is the situation in Manchin's home state of West Virginia?

From 1932 to 1996, the only Republican presidential nominees to win West Virginia were Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984.

But the color began to turn to red in 2000, when Al Gore's environmental extremism repelled Democrat voters linked to the coal industry, causing George W. Bush to win that state.  Bush also won re-election in 2004 with West Virginia backing him.  Obama lost the state in 2008 and 2012.  Trump won it in 2016 and 2020.

West Virginia has elected only GOP candidates to the U.S. House since 2014 and currently has a GOP governor.  Manchin's colleague in the Senate is a Republican.

However, West Virginia Democrat party chairman Mike Pushkin dismissed rumors of Manchin wanting to take the independent route, branding it wishful thinking on the part of Republicans.

Manchin told CNN he has no intention of leaving his party immediately.  But he didn't rule out the possibility of the distant future.

According to ABC News:

While speaking with reporters on Monday afternoon, Manchin, D-W.Va., maintained that he is already "the most independent person" in the Senate and confirmed that he has considered alterations to his party affiliation before.

He didn't foreclose ever leaving the Democrats but said he has no plans for such a move.

"I don't know how you get more independent than I am," he said. "I look at all of these things, I've always looked at all of these things. But I have no intention of doing anything right now. Whether I do something later, I can't tell you what the future is going to bring."

Manchin probably sees Sinema's departure as an elevation of his importance in his party.  He could be the sole difference between the passage and failure of any bill.  It gives him more bargaining power.  Remaining in the party gives him the support and funding for his re-election, and also protection from media hit jobs.

It remains to be seen if Manchin faces a tough primary challenge from a far-left Democrat.

Beyond "Manchinema," this movement of the independent politician must be welcomed by voters.

Over the years, both parties have become so entrenched in the D.C. establishment that there is very little difference.  They may make tall claims and attack each other during hearings and on their respective partisan TV news channels, but behind closed doors, there is agreement.

Most across party lines vote to send billions to Ukraine, for amnesty for illegal aliens, for gratuitous big-government spending, for gun control.  They support vaccine mandates.  Even on social issues, there is agreement.

The Republicans are usually mum when the Democrats wreak havoc by breaking myriad inviolable norms in Washington.

On questionable practices such as insider stock trading, or charter flights, both sides indulge.

On social media regulation, both sides take campaign money from the giants.

It makes sense to have more independents.

These independents may not always turn out to be angels, yet the fact that they are not affiliated with either party is a boon.

In fact, it could be argued that Donald Trump was the first independent president to be elected.  He merely rented space in the GOP, but he faced stiff opposition from within his party at every crucial juncture of his election and bid for re-election.  The GOP establishment remained bystanders as the Democrats waged wars against Trump.

Back to the Legislative Branch.

Supporting independent candidates may be a route for voters to take on the establishment.  It just has to be a handful of independents that prevent either party from having majorities.

These few independents could end up asking the right questions without the fear of facing reprisal from party bosses and voting against bills that stand against the public interest.  If the public see some effectiveness, they may vote for more independents.

But the road to independence won't be easy for any politician.

Both parties have a monopoly in Washington, and they will not allow this monopoly to slide away easily. 

They could tag-team and spend millions to attack independent rivals.  The independent candidate may not have the funds to counter these attacks, causing the voters to be swayed back to the old parties.

The other obvious risk is that independents themselves could fall prey to the inducements from D.C.

But since the two-party system seems to be failing the public, trying something such as supporting independents may not be such as a bad idea.

Image: Senate Democrats via Wikimedia Commons (cropped), CC BY-SA 2.0.

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