https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/557905-out-of-touch-democrats-running-scared-of-progressives

Democratic senators, we are told, are “befuddled” by Joe ManchinJoe ManchinAl Gore lobbied Biden to not scale back climate plans in infrastructure deal White House briefed on bipartisan infrastructure deal but says questions remain Harris to meet with Texas state lawmakers who blocked election reform bill MORE. Alexander Bolton writes in The Hill that colleagues are “confused” and trying to figure out why the West Virginia senator is “bucking his party.”  

Seriously? Democrats don’t understand why Manchin, who is up for reelection in 2024 in a state that went for President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ seized House Democrats’ data from Apple Iowa governor questions lack of notice on migrant children flights to Des Moines Senate confirms first Muslim American federal judge MORE by nearly 40 points, might object to the progressive takeover of his party? That he might find the progressive voting rights bill, the For the People Act (H.R. 1), unpalatable, or imagine that his voters would throw him out for undermining the Senate filibuster tradition?

Have Democrats lost perspective, forgetting just how unpopular progressive policies such as open borders and defunding the police are to most Americans? That only 15 percent of Democrats self-identify as “very liberal” or progressive?

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If so, they deserve to lose control of Congress in 2022. Here’s a refresher course for Democrats who have climbed way out on the progressive limb and are busily sawing:

  • Biden successfully campaigned as a moderate, until it became clear that Bernie’s supporters might not climb aboard the Biden express. At that time, the former vice president reached out to Sanders and formed a “unity platform” to attract progressive voters. The policy summary included combatting racial inequities and climate change, but in deference to moderates, declined to embrace the Green New Deal, “Medicare for All” or cancelling student debt, all prime ambitions for Sanders. Biden got to run as both a moderate and a progressive, keeping his party intact.
  • Even polling in which Biden gets high approval shows more voters self-identify as conservative than liberal; this is still a center-right country. Moreover, clear majorities disapprove of many items on the progressive agenda, like open borders and expanding the federal government. Furthermore, improving race relations and combatting climate change are not the issues of greatest concern to most Americans. Job creation, strengthening the economy and fixing our broken immigration system are more important.

Sen. Manchin has not only offended his Democratic colleagues by refusing to bust the filibuster (many of the same folks who just a few years ago vowed to uphold it when the GOP held the chamber); he is also breaking ranks by not supporting the monster 800-plus page voting rights bill that has been one of Democrats’ top priorities for the past few years. The innocuous sounding For the People Act is an attack on states’ rights in that it imposes federal control over each state’s voting rules, and it is also an attack on free speech. The proposed legislation would bar people from privately donating money to favored causes; Democrats know that public shaming from the liberal media could cause donors to think twice about giving to groups opposing abortions or pushing for charter schools, for example.

There’s more. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Social media flooded with ‘ring of fire’ eclipse photos McConnell doesn’t expect Manchin to flip parties MORE (R-Ky.) said the bill would “make the Federal Election Commission a partisan body, and legalize ballot harvesting, where paid political operatives can show up carrying stacks of other people’s ballots.”

In addition, the bill would allow voters to cast ballots without showing identification, a requirement that 72 percent of the country favors. This is a not a “For the People Act”; it is instead a “For the Democrats Act.” The left has presented the legislation as countering recent GOP-led efforts to make voting more difficult, but the bill was crafted long before the 2020 election. In 2019, it was dubbed H.R.1, signaling its importance to the party.  

In a recent Economist poll, only 42 percent of likely voters thought that voting should be made “easier” or “much easier.” But 50 percent of those surveyed thought voting should be made tougher, or not changed. Public opinion does not support Democrats’ takeover of voting regulations. 

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In a recent op-ed, Manchin defended his record on protecting and furthering voting rights, which he did as secretary of state in West Virginia. In that post, Manchin claimed to have established “early voting for the first time in West Virginia in order to provide expanded options for those whose work or family schedule made it difficult for them to vote on Election Day.”  

Manchin decried the politicization of the debate over our election laws, saying that “partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.” He called for a bipartisan effort to resolve disputes about voting rules and noted that the updated H.R. 1 has attracted no GOP support.  

Manchin has been excoriated by progressive Democrats for opposing their juggernaut. But really, who put them in charge? Who is allowing the leftist fringe to control the agenda?

Generally, parties operate from the middle, not kowtowing to their most extreme fringe. But Democratic leaders fear the progressive left. The Justice Democrats, after all, have raised enormous amounts of money ($6.3 million in the 2020 cycle) and ousted long-time legislators, helping to elect progressives Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezProgressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Omar: I wasn’t equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Ocasio-Cortez rips Democratic critics of Omar MORE and Jamaal Bowman, both in New York. 

It has been rumored that AOC, who is shown by polling to be unpopular with a majority of Americans, might challenge Sen. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden seeks to unite allies on China Manchin insists he supports voting rights — we’ll see Biden talks reconciliation with Schumer as infrastructure negotiations falter MORE (D-N.Y.) in 2022. If the Senate majority leader takes that threat seriously, it would explain a good deal. Like why Schumer is allowing his leadership of the Senate, and his party, to be undermined by a fractious crowd that is pushing policies disliked by a majority of Americans. 

It is Democrats’ bad fortune that their standard-bearer in the Senate comes from New York, a state that is as out of touch with most Americans as AOC. And, for sure, out of touch with voters in West Virginia.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.

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