Manchin Is Dems’ Secret Santa

Joe Manchin has done Democrats a massive political favor. While there won’t be any ticker-tape parades for the senator from West Virginia, you can bet that lots of folks on the blue team from the White House and Congress are quietly happy to be done with Build Back Better for the time being.

Washington so often conflates politics and policy. Partisans tend to assume that the policies they like are popular. This is true because they live in bubbles where everybody agrees. This is also true because they, against lots of evidence to the contrary, tend to think of themselves as being smart.

Such was the case in the previous presidential administration with repealing Obamacare. Republicans had been huffing bad polls for the Affordable Care Act since before it passed in 2010 like stoners cracking whip-its at a Rusted Root show. But they read the polls wrong. A substantial chunk of the opposition had been from the left, where many felt the new entitlement was too stingy. When it came time to repeal the law in 2017, Republicans realized that the dissatisfied majority was useless. There was no consensus, even among the GOP, on what to put in Obamacare’s place.

The solution was avoidance. Republicans announced that they would go for a fake repeal of the law in 2017, apply the hypothetical savings to the tax cut they were far more interested in passing, and then return in a few years to actually repeal and replace the benefits. It was a shoddy budgetary trick and the height of irresponsibility for a party that had spent seven years promising to repeal the law without ever settling on a replacement.

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