A democratic republic such as ours depends on a legislative assembly in which the collective ethos assumes, and is committed to, making legislative decisions for the good of the country. Parochial interests are expected to be represented and reflected to some degree in the final product. They are not expected to establish the rule by which the final product succeeds or fails.
Legislators are elected from their individual states to serve for the nation. As such, our government is not a loose confederation of autonomous states where each negotiates for their own exclusive wants in competition with the exclusive wants of other states. That was tried once with the Articles of Confederation and it didn’t work. Europe tried it for several centuries. It took two world wars to convince them there had to be a better way to avoid internecine war and cooperate for the greater good.
I expect most readers to wonder why such an obvious and well known fact needed to begin this essay. Well, it seems the obvious and well known is hidden from stiff necked legislators who should know better.
Throughout our history members of the legislative assembly were sufficiently committed to their duty and diverse enough to tolerate oddball outliers, and even well organized efforts of subversion, but times have changed.
Long running organizing to move the nation toward autocracy with a democratic veneer has been successful enough to create the hard core polarized legislative politics characterizing the last thirteen years. Into this new legislative ethos, the outliers gained power.
As an outlier, Senator Joe Manchin, in his stiff necked way, insists he was elected from West Virginia not for the nation, but for West Virginia only. In an evenly divided Senate with Republicans dedicated to stopping everything, regardless of its value to the nation, Manchin has become a dictator of one by making the interests of West Virginia, and only West Virginia, determine his willingness to vote for or against anything. Curiously, his take on what is good for West Virginia is seriously flawed, but that’s for another time.
Manchin is not an ideologue. Ideologues are inflexibly wedded to a rigidly narrow world view. Castro was an ideologue and in his shadow, so are the adherents of Trumpism.
Manchin is no ideologue, but he gives the ideologues everything they want with his unwillingness to work that which is good for West Virginia into what is good for the nation. He seems unable to comprehend how important it is for a final decision to integrate some portion of what his state needs with portions of what other states need to produce legislation that puts the good of the nation first.
Manchin would do well to learn from Bernie Sanders. Gadfly social democrat that Sanders is, he’s learned to fight hard for what he believes right and good for the nation, and to negotiate for what he can get.
As long as I’m taking a shot at Manchin, why not fire one over the bow of House progressives led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC). Unlike Manchin, she is reported to be something of an ideologue willing to sabotage negotiated compromises that fall short of her ideological ideals. That’s fine with the GOP opposition who are happy to cheer her on.
House progressives desire to be the voice of the working class too long subject to the whims of Republican policies that treat them like disposable, cheap labor commodities. They mean well, but Trumpists, using old fashioned fascist propaganda, have beaten them to the punch. Trump may no longer be able to command 74 million voters, but Trumpism has a solid hold on many millions who have been convinced that, in the name of protecting their rights and freedoms, they should surrender them with unquestioned loyalty to autocratic rule.
House progressives will lose unless they learn two things. One, how to negotiate in good faith with less liberal members. Two, how to speak to working and middle class voters in plain language that addresses their deepest fears and desires.