Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) says she has figured out why Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is voting against the For the People Act. That’s the sweeping overhaul of election laws that Manchin deep-sixed last week with his announcement that he will support neither the bill nor dismantling the 60-vote threshold that would allow it to pass with Democratic votes alone.
“[The bill] stands up against lobbyists and dark money. I would reckon to think that this is probably just as much a part of Joe Manchin’s calculus as anything else. Because when it comes to this bipartisan argument—I don’t buy it,” Ocasio-Cortez told MSNBC. The congresswoman, keeper of many positions unpopular in her own party, cannot summon the moral imagination necessary to understand that another person could sincerely dissent from the majority. Nor is she afraid to make such claims when her own campaign finance conduct could more easily be called into question.
This kind of motivated reasoning is nothing new. And certainly it is not the domain of one party or sect. I assume Ocasio-Cortez would have raised as much money as she could to unseat incumbent Democrats, even if the funds didn’t flow through her former chief of staff’s firm. Similarly, I assume Manchin opposes the bill for his stated reasons—chiefly that it would be acidly divisive at a time of paranoiac partisanship—not because it would limit his access to “dark money.” If you intend to have a real discussion, assume sincerity in your adversary unless proven otherwise.
The human mind is like a miniature Mozart, pouring out masterpiece symphonies of rationalization, one after another. Our powers of reason usually serve to defend our own turf, not choose on which turf to stand. Nothing has changed on that front since David Hume taught us 283 years ago: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”