This is going to be a far less poetic look at The Joe Manchin Problem than what ADRASTOS offered earlier today, but I wanted to talk about this entire shit-storm from a bit different angle: the awful media framing.
Since everything about American politics seems to be covered as sports, the Build Back Better bill was covered strictly from a political viewpoint, i.e. “horserace political journalism.” This meant that because conservatives have successfully made everything about dollar figures and fake-concern about deficits, the price tag dominated all discussion.
In turn, everyone focused on Manic Pixie Dream Senator Krysten Sinema and Maserati Owner Joe Manchin, who both in their own ways seemed to delight in being the parent who loves telling their kid what they won’t get for Christmas. How much would they slice off it? What would the final dollar number be?
Meanwhile, there was very little in relative terms in the media about what is in the bill. Polls showed that Americans didn’t seem to have any idea what was in it, although what is actually in it is popular. Hard not to see the connection.
This leads us to Manchin’s Sunday bombshell, proverbial turd in the egg nog for the holidays, which he dropped on Fox News. Because of course, he did, blind-siding President Biden along the way.
The blind-siding of Biden is important to my point because a lot of the framing was “bad for the progressive agenda” (as if the bill didn’t have almost all of the moderate Democrats supporting it) and “bad for Democrats.” This is all true, but, it also leaves out a few things.
For starters, it’s bad for Manchin’s constituents. The childcare and early education aspects of the BBB are desperately needed in West Virginia. Also bad, this morning it leaked out how Manchin views low-income West Virginians, and other low-income Americans:
"In recent months, Manchin has told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children." via @ArthurDelaneyHP @taragolshan https://t.co/tffLDsCAyY
— Grace Segers (@Grace_Segers) December 20, 2021
This is classic right-wing-uncle-at-the-dinner-table nonsense. I grew up next to a housing project in a low-income-to-working-class neighborhood, and I had friends who were on welfare but none of the families had drug problems. Yes, there are certainly those who use, but there’s not enough for it to be considered a true problem; indeed, treating it as a real problem ends up being more expensive.
There are so many aspects of the Build Back Better plan that would help a lot of Americans, offer assistance they need. Assistence that many other nations have. But we don’t, because of people like Manchin who talk a good game about how much he “cares about the American people” but in reality demonstrates a deep contempt for them.
It’s really sad, and it will harm more than “the progressive agenda.” It will harm people that I believe Biden sincerely wanted to help.
The last word goes to Iris Dement, whose “Our Town” could be about one of many towns in West Virginia.