Manchin: Ocasio-Cortez? The congresswoman from Twitter-01?

On one hand, Joe Manchin’s riposte to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez amounts to a sick burn in the Beltway. However, Manchin might end up surprised to find out that Twitter matters more than the Beltway does to more Americans than the other way around. The New York Times caught up with the man most likely to be the pivot point of the US Senate, and Manchin wasted few words in skewering Ocasio-Cortez for her attempt to criticize his position against “defund the police.”

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the oh-so-substantive response AOC gave Manchin three weeks ago (via Leah Barkoukis):

When asked, Manchin told the NYT that not only hasn’t he ever met Ocasio-Cortez, but that he hears she hasn’t met any hard work on Capitol Hill yet, either:

“I guess she put the dagger stare on me,” Mr. Manchin said. “I don’t know the young lady — I really don’t. I never met her. I’m understanding she’s not that active with her bills or in committee. She’s more active on Twitter than anything else.”

That amounts to a sharp insult in a chamber where legislative prowess is prized. Mr. Manchin said he would stand firm against the agenda that the left flank of his party is pushing.

Zing! Not that the senator from West Virginia is wrong to call AOC a dilettante, but … well, he’s not wrong at all. He might just be missing the point. These days, who really gets impressed by legislation? It’s all posturing, zingers, ideological warfare, and desperate resorts to the Supreme Court for actual legislating rather than taking tough votes on important issues. Getting a House seat is a springboard to a Twitter career, not the other way around. I’m no fan of Oliver Cromwell, but one does at times have a faint sympathy for his “you are no Parliament” sentiment.

That, however, is what Manchin wants to change. Having come to the realization early that “this place sucks,” he suddenly finds himself in the center of the institution — and with the leverage to make it work again, or so he believes:

Now, with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. preparing to govern from the middle in a Congress whose thin majorities will force him to compromise on almost every priority, Mr. Manchin, a centrist, suddenly finds himself at the center of relevance in the nation’s capital. …

“I think we have a golden opportunity to bring the country back together and for us to work in the middle,” Mr. Manchin said excitedly. “I’ll tell you the reason why: The numbers are so close with what the Democratic House members lost. For Nancy Pelosi, she’s going to have to work with people that have a more moderate view than some of the people that pushed her from the left.”

If Democrats are able to win two runoffs in Georgia in January and take control of the Senate, any plans to enact a liberal agenda — such as increasing the number of Supreme Court justices — will have to go through Mr. Manchin. Likewise, if Republicans win at least one of the Georgia races, allowing them to maintain Senate control, they will need centrists in both parties to help block progressive items or pass compromise legislation.

That is the situation that Mr. Manchin said he considered more likely. He is already preparing for a power dynamic that he asserted would give him and three moderate Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — a big role in determining what happens at the dawn of Mr. Biden’s presidency.

Color me skeptical. Manchin’s correct here too, but again seems to be missing the point. Pelosi keeps talking about the election results as a progressive mandate and wants to double down on her agenda with that 9-seat majority. Just as she was for months on the COVID-19 relief package, Pelosi’s more interested in virtue signaling to the progressive elites than in compromising with centrists. One could make a similar case about both Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell (signaling to the other pole, of course). Posturing nets huge donations, while compromises leaves those coffers empty.

Perhaps Manchin will succeed where others have failed. The razor-thin majorities in both chambers certainly provide him a good opportunity to test his theories. But perhaps he should start thinking about a Twitter career as a solid backup to his current one.

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