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The Ur-Manchin Candidate

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Memo to Joe Manchin: ENJOY BEING “THAT GUY” WHILE IT LASTS.

Once again, the Senate has a That Guy problem. And this time, That Guy is Joe Manchin. Krysten Sinema is also trying hard to be That Guy, but as long as a white male is That Guy nobody’s gonna pay attention to a lady That Guy*. So we get to focus on Manchin.

The first That Guy in my political memory was Joe Lieberman, a man whom my brain spent a lot of time mad at back in the day because, well, I was young and That Guy was new to me. Good ol’ Joystick Joe, as I used to call him for his role in decrying a video game he said would ruin society but would instead spawn a passable movie reboot we all got to watch in our homes for free because the cameo from Home Alone 2 fuckbotched a pandemic**, loved the attention he got from being the guy who thwarted his own party’s plans in the name of being a “bipartisan moderate”.

The next big That Guy was John McCain who, in a rare variation on the theme, did the That Guy schtick at the Republicans. While his That Guying did result in some good policy outcomes overall, it’s important to remember that like all That Guys, John McCain didn’t give a fuck about policy outcomes. They do what they do for the attention, the power, and the spite.

For proof of this, let’s look no farther than Joe Fucking Manchin, who this past weekend said he’d vote against the Democrats’ vital and sweeping voting rights legislation. Why? Feels like it’s been forever since I’ve typed these magical words, but ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

”I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening blinds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For The People Act.” - Manchin, in a for-real written-ahead-of-time op-ed in the Charleston Gazette.

Are the things in the For The People Act good? Are they bad? Doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is that Republicans don’t like it, therefore it’s partisan, and partisan is bad and bipartisan is good and Joe Manchin, as ranking That Guy, has an entire political identity built around being bipartisan. And apparently pretending that the “blinds of democracy” are a thing?

And so, if Democrats and Republicans can’t sit down over a beer and find a common-sense middle ground between “Black people should get to vote” and “Black people shouldn’t be allowed to vote”, well, Joe Manchin will take the side of the Republicans, who are doing everything they can in every state they control to make sure that Black people can’t vote, and if they manage to, white Republicans can overturn the results. Such a damn shame stopping that would be partisan.

How do you deal with That Guy? You exert leverage and pressure on them to make them do your bidding. This is why most successful That Guys are Democrats, because either “exerting leverage and pressure” isn’t part of their playbook, or too many of them secretly want what Republicans want and That Guy is a convenient excuse to let it happen.

Republicans, on the other hand, have fewer That Guys and more Susans Collinses - allowed to cast “no” votes on measures that will pass anyway, but when the chips are down, are limited to expressing concern about whatever fascist, racist, or misogynist bullshit they just signed off on.John McCain could only be That Guy because he was a war hero with a compliant media in his back pocket, so the GOP mostly couldn’t lay a finger on him.

Joe Manchin’s not a war hero. Totally unrelated fun fact - Joe Manchin’s daughter runs a pharma company and oversaw all the “vital” “research and development” that “necessitated” the six-fold increase in the price of Epi-pens since 2007. Anyway, clearly the Democrats have nothing they can use against Manchin so he gets to help Republicans steal all the elections going forward and then the joke will be on Manchin because the Dems will never be in power again at which point the joke will be on us because he’ll probably just switch parties and stay out of President Gaetz’s re-education camps.

Fuck That Guy.

*Note to Simena - the role of “Democratic Susan Collins” is still up for grabs if you want to emerge from the shadow of That Guy and come into your own as That Woman. It’d be great if these roles weren’t gendered but you go to war with the patriarchy you have.

**And that’s how you rock a nonessential adjective clause, motherfuckers.

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