The problem with middle of the road politicians

Written By: - Date published: 11:38 am, January 23rd, 2022 - 21 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, International, us politics - Tags:

In the US of A Joe Biden is struggling.  He has, for a US President, the best of intentions, and a plan that is in American terms very brave, and Democrat majorities in the House of Representatives and a tied Senate with a Vice Presidential casting vote.  But he cannot get important legislation through.

The problem lies with the senate.  The Democrats have a knife thin majority that normally in functioning democracies should be sufficient.  But he has two defectors.

One, Joe Manchin, represents North Carolina, one of the States producing coal.  Manchin is hopelessly conflicted.  He derives significant income from the Coal industry.  He also fights every step designed to limit the consumption of coal, despite its status as a potent greenhouse gas producer.

The Washington Post has the details:

In Sen. Joe Manchin III’s hilly West Virginia home county, his family’s business has made millions by taking waste coal from long-abandoned mines and selling it to a power plant that emits air pollution at a higher rate than any other plant in the state.

That enterprise could have taken a hit under a key part of President Biden’s climate agenda, a $150 billion plan to push coal plants toward cleaner energy. One lawmaker, though, played a central role in killing that proposal: Manchin, who has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from the family coal company while using his role as a Democratic swing vote in a 50-50 Senate to dictate Biden’s policies.

When pressed about whether he has a conflict of interest, Manchin bristles. “I have been in a blind trust for 20 years. I have no idea what they’re doing,” the senator told reporters in September, referring to his family’s coal firm. “You got a problem?”

But contrary to his public statements, documents filed by the senator show the blind trust is much too small to account for all his reported earnings from the coal company, as of his latest financial disclosure report, which covers 2020 and was filed in May.

Manchin’s latest financial disclosure report says that the West Virginia family coal business that he helped found and run, Enersystems, paid him $492,000 in interest, dividends and other income in 2020, and that his share of the firm is worth between $1 million and $5 million.

Biden’s other problem is Arizonan Senator Krysten Sinema, someone who started in the Green Party but has gradually drifted right.  She initially opposed Biden’s infrastructure bill and helped to water it down.  Even more worryingly she has recently opposed the suspension of the senate filibuster so that urgently required minimum voting standards can be passed.  The filibuster is where 40% of Senators can stall the senate from acting.  The most recent notable suspension of the fillibuster was by Republicans to get Trump’s Supreme Court nominations passed.

Currently fifteen US states controlled by the Republicans are attempting to pass measures to make voting by African Americans more difficult.  They presume correctly that the lower the turnout the better their chances.  Biden is attempting to get a law passed that would set minimum standards nationally in an attempt to thwart their efforts.  Sinema has said that she fully supported the intent of the law, but has refused to agree to suspending the filibuster.

It is paradoxical that she is siding and voting with a minority to allow changes to laws that affect the rights of other minorities to vote.

From Lauren Gambino at the Guardian:

Frustration reached a turning point this summer after Sinema doubled down in her support for the filibuster, which Republicans have used to block voting rights legislation. Two civil rights leaders, the Rev Jesse Jackson and the Rev William Barber, were arrested during a protest outside her Phoenix office.

Gilbert Romero, a prominent progressive activist in Phoenix who interned for Sinema in 2014, said he doesn’t see such anger abating anytime soon, especially if she continues to stand in the way of Democratic policy goals. In his view, Sinema underestimates the threat of a progressive primary challenge.

“She thinks she’s like Teflon and nothing is going to stick to her – that’s misguided,” he said, adding: “We’ve [unseated] much more powerful people than Kyrsten Sinema.”

The Arizonan Democratic Party has formally censured her for her failure to support the voting rights legislation.

The motivation for the Republicans is clear and was given away from Mitch McConnell who recently said about concerns the proposed changes were attempts to disenfranchise African Americans:

The concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

Clearly in Mitch’s mind African Americans are a different class of people compared to other Americans.

Sinema’s motivation for her action is captured in this bubblegum piece of prose:

Saying she opposed reform because the filibuster protected the rights of the minority, Sinema said in a floor speech she was “committed to doing my part to avoid toxic political rhetoric, to build bridges, to forge common ground, and to achieve lasting results for Arizona and this country”.

Protecting the rights of other minorities obviously is not a primary concern for Sinema.

She continuously talks about compromise and the need to work across the aisle.  But this can only result in “lets not kill all the kittens only half the kittens” sorts of deals being reached.

I do not know who to despise more, Manchin with his willingness to sacrifice the world’s future so he can keep rolling in the big cheques or Sinema’s totally amoral compromise at all costs wrecking of the Democrat’s chances in Republican states later this year and for the foreseeable future.

Whatever the approach politicians who refuse to properly engage in decision making based on self interest whether it be financial or political, deserve our contempt.

21 comments on “The problem with middle of the road politicians ”

  1. Blazer 1

    U.S.A ugly on the inside and ugly on the…outside…

    'The land of the slaves….and the home of the…Cherokee.'

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    Agree with Micky. These two “republican democrats” are indeed despicable creatures.

    But this goes back many years, the DNC is corporate and corporate donor aligned. The US seems stuck with fpp voting, gerrymandering, voter suppression, Electoral College and all the rest.

    A mass voter turnout in 2022 elections, and community organising is the only way to start to turn things around.

    • Gristle 2.1

      Half the states with 27% of the USA's population control the senate. Disproportionate influence of some is built into its political system.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    Senator Krysten Sinema… who started in the Green Party but has gradually drifted right.

    Okay, that's worth a reality-check.

    was elected to a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 2012. After her election, she joined the New Democrat Coalition, the Blue Dog Coalition and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, amassing one of the most conservative voting records in the Democratic caucus.

    So as a congresswoman she did indeed drift rightwards. Wikipedia gives details:

    The New Democrat Coalition is a caucus in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress made up of centrist Democrats who take a pro-business stance and a moderate-to-conservative approach to fiscal matters… The Coalition supported the "third way" policies of then-President Bill Clinton… As of December 2021, the New Democrat Coalition is the largest House Democrat ideological caucus.

    The Blue Dog Coalition (commonly known as the Blue Dogs or Blue Dog Democrats) is a caucus in the United States House of Representatives comprising members from the Democratic Party who identify as centrists or conservatives. The caucus professes an independence from the leadership of both parties and promotes national defense. The caucus has 19 members.

    The Problem Solvers Caucus is a bipartisan group in the United States House of Representatives that includes 58 members, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, who seek to foster bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues. Created in January 2017

    Sinema is the first openly bisexual and the second openly LGBT woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and to the Senate in 2012 and 2018, respectively. She also was the first woman elected to the Senate from Arizona.

    So her identity politics features three subgroups of her party, plus at least two other minority political groups depending how far into the alphabet soup you want to dive.

    Add those five to her Green & Democrat identities, you get seven dimensions to her political identity. Seven being the magic number, her success is no surprise. She's operating on diverse bases. To a Democrat dinosaur, such sophistication is incomprehensible.

    In 2003, Sinema became an adjunct professor teaching master's-level policy and grant-writing classes at Arizona State University School of Social Work and an adjunct business law professor at Arizona Summit Law School, formerly known as Phoenix School of Law.

    So although I agree with you re Manchin, there seems no valid basis for viewing this woman as unprincipled or even suspect. She's genuinely centrist, seems to me.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      Genuine Centrist ? ( Manchin has always been centre right)

      This is not centrist US style.

      'When George W. Bush was elected president, Sinema quickly began to make a name for herself in the state with left-wing activism. In the run-up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sinema, then a law student at Arizona State University, was a frequent organizer of anti-war rallies, organizing 15 by the start of the Iraq War.'

    • Tiger Mountain 3.2

      Well the point is “centrist” might not be where a more genuine representative would want to be when faced with stalled Voting Rights, upcoming Roe v Wade, and diluted Build back better legislation.

      Never mind the identity wash–Ms Sinema takes cash from corporates–like so many US politicians, and they admit it! And Ms Sinema is siding with the sworn enemies of women and gays and trans. Unprincipled describes her most accurately.

    • Craig H 3.3

      I don't think the issue is just her being centrist (although that's annoying people), it's that she ran for the Senate as a progressive and then immediately dropped the facade.

  4. Sanctuary 4

    I read a piece by an ex-staffer of Sinema that is an off the charts ego maniac who believes she can be president running as an centrist independent, and that is what drives her decisions these days.

  5. Ad 5

    Even if Trump's family is jailed and bankrupted, de Santis will be sufficiently Trump-esque to rise with the midterms and a full -throated Republican Senate majority.

    One day the Dems will get Texas, and tilt the game back……

    But somehow the Democrats need 2 more in the Senate to cancel out Sinema and Manchin.

    Till then it's a very long 3 years to 2024.

  6. Corey Humm 6

    The irony is that our government is proudly a middle of the road government and our prime minister is proudly a cautious conservative whose pretty much ruled out doing anything meaningful on any of the issues we face so kiwi's can't throw stones.

    When you're a middle of the road politician claiming to be a progressive but you rule out doing anything economically progressive that only leaves social and identity issues and things like marijuana and the prime minister and labour ruled out even engaging in the marijuana debate which makes her more conservative than most congressional democrats, south Aussie labor, the Canadian liberals and most center left parties globally.

    We don't have Joe manchins yet this extremely middle of the road government is failing to deliver, I mean how many more Decembers is she going to say "she hopes house prices don't go up as high as the previous year next" without being ripped to shreds for having the power to do more than hope.

    I've never heard an nzlp leader talk about class or poverty without the world child in front of it but I've heard Biden, Albo, Starmer and Trudeau talk about it.

    Economically Jacinda Ardern is extremely middle of the road.

    On drug reform they are extremely middle of the road and out of step with their contemporaries.

    On climate change they are spectacular in their rhetoric but middle of the road in action.

    On housing they arent middle the road, they are across the road with national and act.

    On poverty they are in the middle of the yellow brick road in a fantasy land.

    on identity issues they do deliver, so lucky me for being gay and from a mixed race family I guess yay me. Identity issues don't give me a house to live in or food to eat but who cares about that yay!

    NZ is a deregulated neoliberal dumpster fire and all of our politicians are various shades of beige middle of the road nothingness

  7. Gypsy 7

    I don't doubt Biden's intentions, but unfortunately he has ascended to the presidency when he s well past his 'use by' date, and he has the misfortune of having chosen arguably the worst VP's since forever.

    • Craig H 7.1

      Not sure what the VP has to do with anything, Kamala Harris will break all ties in his and his party's favour, and otherwise she has no legal influence. I would also argue that Dick "someone apologised to him for getting shot while hunting together on the grounds that it was his fault for being in Cheney's gun's way" Cheney was far worse than Kamala Harris.

      • Gypsy 7.1.1

        The VP is very important to any President. They do a lot of the heavy lifting and trouble shooting. It is hard to imagine how Biden could have got it more wrong.

  8. Gristle 8


    In the USA the Overton Window has moved so far to the right that Labour would be regarded as communists and National would nicely fit into the middle-left of the Democrats.

  9. Jenny how to get there 9

    The situation is dire.

    By failing to deliver to the American people, the Centrists will deliver the country to the Far Right.

  10. pukahu road 10

    As the President, Biden has executive powers that can be employed as he chooses.

    Manchin and Sinema are being scapegoated but the reality is Biden throughout his political career has been a beneficiary of corporate money across the energy, big pharma and health insurance sectors to name just a few.

    For 36 years Biden was a Senator of Delaware, the state commonly known as the "tax haven" state of the US.

    This man has no intention of making necessary and far reaching social and financial system changes.

    The reality is he is an establishment tool with a deeply conservative stance on crime, healthcare, minimum wage, student debt and of course the industrial military complex.

    The DNC is a corrupt organisation led by flawed and compromised politicians who generally swallow the same bribes as their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

    After the mid terms the Democrats will probably lose both the house and the senate.

    DeSantis is the favourite to run as the Republican candidate in 2024 and the drums are beating for the corrupt warmonger HRC to have another shot.

    What a mess.

    • Gosman 10.1

      There is zero chance Biden would be able to take the rest of his party with him if he attempted that. Any change he made would only last until the next Presidential election which he would lose.

      • Jenny how to get there 10.1.1


        24 January 2022 at 12:08 pm

        There is zero chance Biden would be able to take the rest of his party with him if he attempted that. Any change he made would only last until the next Presidential election which he would lose.

        I can remember the same argument being used against legislating against Nuclear Ship visits. ie. That an incoming National Party administration would repeal such a law. (When a popular policy has become entrenched and formalised in legislation, it is not worth the trouble of risking the political fallout to try and repeal it.)

        Pukahu Road’s summation for reasoning behind Biden’s reluctance to use his executive powers to follow through on his own program, is the more accurate reason behind his inaction.

        pukahu road

        24 January 2022 at 11:51 am

        ………the reality is Biden throughout his political career has been a beneficiary of corporate money across the energy, big pharma and health insurance sectors to name just a few.

        For 36 years Biden was a Senator of Delaware, the state commonly known as the "tax haven" state of the US.

        This man has no intention of making necessary and far reaching social and financial system changes.

        The reality is he is an establishment tool with a deeply conservative stance on crime, healthcare, minimum wage, student debt and of course the industrial military complex.

    • Jenny how to get there 10.2

      pukahu road

      24 January 2022 at 11:51 am

      As the President, Biden has executive powers that can be employed as he chooses…..

      The tragedy being, when the 'right' inhabit the White House they have no hesitation in using the executive powers of the President to push through their program.

      From the BBC


      12 April 2017

      One of the first ways a new president is able to exercise political power is through unilateral executive orders.

      While legislative efforts take time, a swipe of the pen from the White House can often enact broad changes in government policy and practice.

      President Donald Trump has wasted little time in taking advantage of this privilege.

      Given his predecessor's reliance on executive orders to circumvent Congress in the later days of his presidency, he has a broad range of areas in which to flex his muscle.

      What are executive orders?

      Here's a look at some of what Mr Trump has done so far……

  11. DS 11

    One, Joe Manchin, represents North Carolina, one of the States producing coal. Manchin is hopelessly conflicted. He derives significant income from the Coal industry.

    He's from West Virginia.

    The state in question is the most pro-Trump place in the USA, and any alternative would be much, much worse.

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