‘Two different sides of a coin.’ Manchin, Sinema, and Democrats’ future

In news clips and skits from Saturday Night Live, Sens. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and others are frequently grouped together as two centrist Democrats who oppose progressives. They argue over President Joe Biden’s Build Back better Act.

But the “Manchinema”, as they are often called, isn’t exactly one. The senators are not only different in their personal lives – the one is a former coal executive from West Virginia and the other is an eccentric ex-Green Party activist hailing from Arizona – but also they seem to have differing legislative priorities.

Why We Created This

If West Virginia is the Democratic Party’s past, Arizona could be its future. The White House can find a way to appeal both to rural voters who have been leaving their party, and suburbanites educated in college who are moving left.

These differing priorities reflect the politics of their respective states. Senator Manchin is a declining group of white, rural voters who lack college degrees. Many of these people have left the Democratic Party to support the GOP. Senator Sinema is from an area that’s rapidly growing and where the Democratic Party has gained converts as suburban areas outside of booming Phoenix become blue.

The recent bickering over the agenda of Mr. Biden can be seen in a highly-wired effort to heal those divisions.

“West Virginia is two sides to a coin,” states Steven Allan Adams (a reporter for the West Virginia state government).

Washington

In “Saturday Night Live”, skits and news clips, Sens. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and others are frequently grouped together as two centrist Democrats who oppose progressives. They are arguing over President Joe Biden’s Build Back better Act.

But the “Manchinema”, as they are often called, isn’t exactly one. The senators are not only different in their personal lives – the one is a former coal executive from West Virginia and the other is an eccentric ex-Green Party activist hailing from Arizona – they appear to also have differing legislative priorities.

Which has made Democrats’ efforts to negotiate a compromise even more complicated.

Why This

Was Written

If West Virginia is the Democratic Party’s past, Arizona could be its future. The White House can find a way to appeal both to rural voters who have been leaving their party, and suburbanites educated in college who are moving left.

A private meeting was held by the White House with Senators Manchin

and Sinema

. Details about possible cuts and modifications to the bill are now starting to emerge. This is largely due to their respective demands.

Mr. Manchin expressed opposition from the beginning to several of the climate change provisions such as a clean electric program and a carbon tax. Both of these proposals now seem unlikely to be included in the final bill. Although he supports targeted spending to benefit low-income Americans and not free community college (which is being cut), he hasn’t expressed his support for the other provision. On the revenue side, he favors tax-rate increases for wealthy Americans and corporations, and he has publicly said he thinks Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices.

Ms. Sinema is much more reserved. News reports have indicated, however, that she is resisting many of the revenue-raising parts of the bill, such as higher corporate and income taxes. She’s also reportedly unenthusiastic about the prescription drug pricing proposal. But the senator’s office denied a recent New York Times report that she was seeking to sharply cut climate measures as “flat wrong.” In an interview last month with The Arizona Republic, she detailed myriad ways in which “a changing climate costs Arizonans,” saying she viewed the budget bill as a chance to address the issue.

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, shown during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Oct. 19, 2021, has been tight-lipped this fall about her objections to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

These differing priorities in some ways reflect the politics of their respective states and electorates. His constituents are mostly white, rural voters who have not received college degrees and many of them have left the Democratic Party to join the GOP. Ms. Sinema hails from Arizona, a state that is rapidly growing and where the Democratic Party has gained converts. As formerly Republican suburbs around booming cities such as Phoenix become blue, In other words, Arizona could be the future of the Democratic Party, while West Virginia might be the party’s past. The recent bickering over Biden’s agenda is a way to try and bridge these divides.

“West Virginia is two sides to a coin,” states Steven Allan Adams (a West Virginia state reporter who was also a former West Virginia Senate communications specialist).

“In Arizona, you can see a state known as the birthplace for conservatives. But in the past couple of years, it has become more purple and may turn blue in the future,” Adams said. “West Virginia is the opposite of that.”

In West Virginia, last Democrat standing

Party leaders have given themselves a deadline of the end of the month to come up with a framework that will satisfy both progressives and moderates. The Democrats plan to adopt the Build Back Better act using budget reconciliation. This allows them to bypass the filibuster by the GOP in the Senate. With just 50 Democrats in that chamber, the party cannot afford to lose even one vote, which means both Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema (along with every other Democratic senator) will need to be on board. But it has been difficult to address the differing concerns expressed by these two legislators. And while some of their objections have been attributed to the senators’ own ideological views – or, more cynically, their financial interests – much of it also clearly reflects attitudes in their home states.

West Virginia was one of only three states in the nation that saw its population decline over the past 10 years; it will lose one of its U.S. House seats in redistricting this year. The state capital of Charleston was the country’s fastest-shrinking city in the 2020 census. The Democratic Party of West Virginia is shrinking faster than ever, with more registered Republicans than registered Democrats. The Mountain State, once considered reliably Democratic only decades ago has become as reliable Republican. In 2020 then-President Donald Trump won there with almost 69% of the vote – his second-largest margin in any state. It’s hard to be a Democratic Leader in West Virginia.” John Kilwein is the chair of West Virginia University’s department of political science.

Mr. Manchin, West Virginia’s only remaining statewide elected Democrat, won reelection to a second term in 2018 by only 3 percentage points, helped in part by an unpopular Republican opponent.

” The state is so red about Joe Manchin, [2024] will be a difficult battle for him,” states Mr. Kilwein. Still, he suggests that all the attention the senator has received for bucking his own party on the budget bill may be helpful at home.

Mr. Manchin’s reported opposition to many of the package’s climate change programs runs contrary to the almost 70% of national Democrats who call it a “very important” voting issue. It makes perfect sense, coming from a state with a history of coal mining.

” “From a strategic perspective, this is how Manchin should handle [reconciliation bill negotiations]” Mr. Kilwein states.

The West Virginia senator’s approval rating fell a few points in a recent poll of likely voters (from 49% last year to 44% now), but the percentage of West Virginians who disapprove of Mr. Manchin has also decreased, from 44% to 37%. Even though some West Virginia Democrats may be unhappy about Mr. Manchin’s position, they most likely know that he is their only viable option to hold the seat. If you are still a Democrat living in West Virginia you may be very liberal but also practical. You understand Manchin as probably the only viable option for holding the seat,” states Bob Shrum. Shrum is a veteran Democratic strategist who directs the University of Southern California’s Dornsife Center for the Political Future.

Democrats growing in fast-growing state

Unlike West Virginia, Arizona saw its population grow by almost 12% over the past decade, with two of the nation’s fastest-growing cities in the 2020 census. The population of Buckeye, a suburb of Phoenix, increased by almost 57%. And Arizona’s Democratic Party have grown simultaneously. The number of registered Republicans still outnumbers registered Democrats statewide, but Democrats have added more voters to their rolls in the past two years than the GOP. For the first time in almost seven decades, Arizona has two Democratic senators: Ms. Sinema and former astronaut Mark Kelly, who won a special election in 2020.

As the state shifts left, there are signs that Ms. Sinema’s opposition to some progressive priorities could land her a primary challenger in 2024: A Primary Sinema PAC has already been created to help fund an opponent. A recent poll of likely Democratic voters in Arizona found Ms. Sinema’s approval rating to be a dismal 25%, while 85% approved of Mr. Biden and Senator Kelly.

” People here are disappointed with her,” states Matt Grodsky (an Arizona political strategist who was previously the director of communications at Arizona Democratic Party). “She is at odds with commonsense Arizona voter thinking.”

Ms. Sinema hails from Arizona, one of the nation’s most arid and hot states. She has previously expressed her support for climate change legislations, but she has not yet made clear where she stands regarding the proposed proposals.

” Arizona voters support these types of investments towards a green economy,” states Tony Cani (an Arizona political strategist, and ex-deputy director for Biden Arizona). “There are signs that a number of companies and innovators are coming to this state to set up shop.”

But some Democratic critics believe she’s underestimated levels of support back home for certain social programs.

Prescription drug pricing reform, for example, polls well with all voters, not just Democrats. According to one survey, more than 80% of adults nationwide favor allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies to lower prescription drug prices. Critics argue that this could limit the ability of pharmaceutical companies to create and market new medicines.

“Politically, Manchin’s actions are more defensible given the state he represents and his political profile,” says Democratic strategist Joel Payne. Sinema does not have the same reason to trust. Her quixotic approach is less palatable to her base and leaves them wondering, ‘Why are you throwing sand in the gears?'”

Ms. Sinema’s strongest reservations appear to be on the revenue side. She’s reportedly questioned tax hikes for both individuals and large corporations, which critics say could hurt American businesses’ global competitiveness. This may seem reasonable coming from an conservative state that has attracted workers from California, which is high in taxes. The Arizona GOP-led State Legislature adopted sweeping income tax reductions this year. This changed the state’s progressive to flat rate system. Still, the issue is contentious: The new cuts were in response to a ballot measure passed by voters in 2020 to raise taxes on Arizonans making over $250,000 per year. To stop the law’s implementation, activists are collecting signatures.

Critics point out that Senator Kelly, Ms. Sinema’s Arizonan counterpart, has not been blocking the law’s passage, which suggests a new political calculation that many see as being more in line with Arizona’s rapidly-changing state.

Mr. Cani says that Arizona’s voters want to be “super-transactional”, and they don’t care about any particular program.

“She doesn’t want her name to say “I’m stopping government,” says Mr. Cani. And that’s not what the Arizonans want from her .”

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