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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Why Dems Need More Moderate Senators

Chris Cillizza writes at CNN Politics:

“On Thursday afternoon, barraged by reporters asking about criticism from the  left for his opposition to a $3.5 trillion budget package, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin offered progressives some advice:

If they want a bigger, more costly bill, they should “elect more liberals.”
Which is a good line! But Manchin misses the mark when it comes to the modern Senate, which has grown far more partisan and watched its moderate center erode away.
While the polarization has been asymmetric — Republicans in the Senate (and even more so in the House) have grown more conservative than Democrats have grown liberal — the results are the same: The ideological middle is no more.
According to GovTrack’s ideology ratings, there are only two sitting Democratic senators — Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — who rank more conservatively than the least conservative Republican. The middle is slightly more robust on the Republican side, with six GOP senators ranking more liberally than the least liberal Democrat.”
Cilliza concludes, “The issue is that there are so few moderates — especially on the Democratic side — that when the margin between the parties is narrow (as it is now), a single senator, like Manchin, has almost total power.”

In his article, “A big problem for Democrats is they need more Joe Manchins, not fewer,” at The Washington Post, Philip Bump agrees, and writes, “There is no scenario under which the Democrats should have a senator in West Virginia, but they do. It is mostly rural and heavily White in a way that has proved disadvantageous elsewhere. And, in fact, he’s a reminder that the party needs to figure out a way to get more senators like him, a way to win places that are more rural and more White, or risk permanent disadvantages in both the Senate and the electoral college….it’s hard to imagine a Democrat who could replace Manchin in West Virginia, particularly one who would vote any more to his left. It’s similarly tricky to figure out how the party holds seats in other heavily rural places with Democratic senators, like Montana, or gains seats in deep-red ones.”

Railing against Manchin doesn’t do liberal Democrats much good. If he wasn’t there, Mitch McConnell would be running the senate and no good legislation would pass. Moreover, if Democrats had a few more moderate senators, Manchin’s power would be diluted by more of a consensus of moderate and liberal Democrats. Democrats have to work with what they have, or heed Manchin’s advice to ‘elect more liberals,” a worthy, but tough challenge for 2022.

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