Manchin is now the man of the moment, with the fate of the Democratic agenda in his hands in a 50-50 Senate. He’s going about it in his wide-eyed, can’t-we-all-get-along way that his colleagues might find grating if it weren’t so sincere. Senators in his party who agree with him from afar on delicate issues like the For the People Act and maintaining the filibuster call him a heat shield. He told a confidant that after the shock of Jan. 6 insurrection, he feared a civil war could break out between and within the parties. He wanted to create a safe space for warring sides and factions to talk it out.
Call him what you want—and many use unprintable epithets—he looks like the Pied Piper as reporters and other Senators follow in his wake as he goes to cast another vote that will enrage someone. Eight Democrats voted against raising the minimum wage but Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, a Green Party activist who’s tilted right since she ran for her seat in 2018, is generally inscrutable but something snapped in her that day. She flounced to the well in an exaggerated schoolgirl get up and what looked like a wig, gave a theatrical thumbs down, and flounced out seeming as happy to own the libs in that moment as Marjorie Taylor Greene is to taunt them everyday.