As if we have not suffered enough, Joe Manchin is said to be flirting with the idea of running for president.
Earlier this month, the U.S. senator from West Virginia offered what many speculated to be a tease of a presidential bid.
For some time now, the political group No Labels, a mix of centrist Republicans and Democrats, has been open about its desire for a third-party unity ticket in the coming 2024 presidential election — pledging to spend $70 million to make it a reality should they find preferable candidates.
It appears Manchin, a conservative Democrat, is actively gauging whether he should headline such an effort.
Though the group has largely been secretive about its inner workings and general strategy, Puck secured audio from a conference call No Labels recently organized with its donors.
“The hope is to keep the country that we have, and you cannot do that by forcing the extreme sides on both parties,” Manchin, who joined the call as a closer, said. “Let’s try to make people come back together for the sake of the country, not just for the sake of the party.”
Separately, Manchin delivered a speech to Iowa business and community leaders in Washington, D.C. — which others took as a sign of him prepping to make a third-party bid for the presidency.
“When people say, ‘What’s your politics?’ I say I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate, which I think most Americans are,” Manchin said in a 30-minute speech, Axios reported.
When a politician employs empty jargon to elites residing in early presidential primary states, it’s right to deduce what prize they might have their sights set on.
For the record, when someone like Manchin says he’s “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate,” it loosely translates to, “Poverty is bad, but don’t tax me to help end it.” But it is the kind of shallow statement to expect from a corporate shill like Manchin. And it’s the type of meaningless, trite political catchphrase that draws the interest of people just like him.
Unfortunately, those people dominate the media and how news is crafted, so it’s not a shock that someone like Manchin, known for his attention-whoring, is exploring his options here.
President Joe Biden is currently on course to have a rematch with his predecessor, former President Donald Trump — a scenario that remains deeply unpopular with Americans, as expressed in polling.
Given the rampant lack of enthusiasm the general public has for another Biden vs. Trump election cycle, groups like No Labels purportedly are seeking 50-state ballot access for a hypothetical bipartisan presidential ticket in 2024. Let them tell it, America needs a centrist alternative to the extremism of both political parties. While one can’t dispute how the racism, queer and trans antagonism, and general authoritarianism that fuels GOP ideology makes them extremists, the Democratic Party is led by Joe Biden, an old white centrist.
Biden has passed some surprisingly progressive legislation, but a wrecking ball to political conventions he is not.
There is a limited appeal for a third party full of self-described moderates, no matter how much attention it might get in the coming months as the press fills the void between now and Trump’s presumed formal coronation as the Republican nominee next year.
Others, however, are worried about what damages a Manchin presidential bid might bring.
“If No Labels runs a Joe Manchin against Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I think it will be a historic disaster,” Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota told The New York Times. “And I speak for just about every moderate Democrat and frankly most of my moderate Republican friends.”
“I can think of nothing worse than another Trump presidency and no better way of helping him than running a third-party candidate,” Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois told the outlet.
This is needless anxiety. Every election cycle brings forth complaints about third-party candidates from political parties looking to make excuses for their failures. Much as one might understand why the likes of Ralph Nader and Jill Stein irritate select Democrats, Al Gore did not run the best campaign and ultimately lost to the Supreme Court anyway. In the case of Stein, perhaps the votes she got did not help Hillary Clinton’s efforts to beat Trump, but the fact remains that Clinton was told for months leading into Election Day that her support among Black voters was soft.
The white moderate is not the miracle worker or election decider that some already complaining about a potential Manchin candidacy would like to make it to be.
He has until January to decide whether to run for reelection — a race he is expected to lose if his opponent is current GOP West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
With a tough election cycle ahead, he’s looking for something to do. This prospective third-party bid sounds like his latest attempt to showboat and spotlight-steal while he still can.
Some close to him, however, argue that he won’t really join a No Labels ticket, which is why he is also reportedly considering another option: becoming president of West Virginia University.
Manchin hasn’t publicly expressed interest in the job, but at age 75, The Spectator predicts he “will be weighing all options that don’t entail a near-certain defeat at the ballot box in West Virginia next year.”
That includes fear of an embarrassing defeat on a third-party ticket.
I don’t like Joe Manchin. I find his politics cruel, and his attention-seeking for them irredeemable. He is the kind of politician who best exemplifies why so many Americans deeply resent politicians.
Still, in the interest of not wasting anyone’s money, he should take that job as president of his alma mater. It’s as close to the presidency as he’ll ever get. As for anxious Democrats fretting over what Manchin will do next year, please stop fretting and focus on the Democratic base, which will actually determine whether Biden gets reelected.