While early polling suggests the Democratic Party may lose many seats in Washington next year, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is calling for primary challenges to two of the party’s existing centrists — a move that could further weaken the left’s power in the U.S. Senate.
“[It’s] not my job to tell Arizona or West Virginia what to do, but if the people in those states want new leadership, I’d be prepared to support them,” Sanders told Politico last week speaking of Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
According to an AP report from Jan. 18, Sanders, “said home-state voters would be disappointed that the pair have refused to support changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster against major voting legislation while also balking at a massive, Biden-backed spending and social plan known as Build Back Better.”
A filibuster allows a minority to delay or even prevent action on a bill, and requires 60 votes to overcome in the Senate. Senate Democrats attempted to vote to get rid of the rule, making it possible to pass future bills with a simple majority. Sinema and Manchin opposed the change, however, keeping the 60-vote threshold in place and sinking a major voting act that would have federalized U.S. elections and established Covid-era voting innovations that open the door to easy fraud.
According to the report in Politico, by taking on this effort to find far left challengers to run against these two Democrats, Sanders risks further alienating them from their own party at a time when their votes are necessary for the left to pass its agenda.
“The rest of the Democratic caucus is ready to move on and try to keep hold of their fragile majority,” Politico reported. “… With zero margin for error, the party now desperately needs Sinema and Manchin’s votes for both a Supreme Court confirmation and a potential revival of President Joe Biden’s climate and social spending bill.”
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is the party’s campaign arm. He told Politico the stakes are very high between now and the next election for Democrats to pass some bills while they still have just enough seats to do it.
“There’s just so much at stake going forward, with the Biden administration and things we care deeply about,” he said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., expressed similar concerns to Politico.
“I want to work with all 50 Democrats and get something passed now,” she said.
Columnist Henry Olsen, writing for the Washington Post on Jan. 19, was quick to criticize the Vermont senator for being out of touch with Americans living in West Virginia and Arizona.
“It also shows how disconnected progressive ideology is from reality,” Olsen wrote. “… Indeed, Manchin — the only remaining Democrat elected statewide in West Virginia — was sent to Washington by an overwhelmingly conservative population. The fact that he and Sinema prioritize the views of their constituents over the views of progressive activists isn’t heresy; it’s democracy.”
Olsen further commented on how out of touch he felt that the Progressive Party has become with non-progressive voters.
“Progressives might be able to enforce their ideology in the ivory towers of Silicon Valley or academia, but it will not work in West Virginia or Arizona. Worse, it will likely alienate those non-progressives whose votes created the Democratic majority to begin with,” he wrote.
To the AP, Manchin said he welcomes any primary challenges.
“I’ve never run an election I wasn’t primaried. This is West Virginia, it’s rough and tumble. We’re used to that. So bring it on,” he said.