For Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), nothing is more important than bipartisan governing. As the New York Times' Michelle Goldberg put it, the conservative Democrat is part of a tiny contingent committed to the idea of bipartisanship "as a supreme good, which in practice means bowing to the wishes of a party that doesn't believe Joe Biden is a legitimate president and wants above all to see him fail."
Given the fact that the Senate is evenly divided, leaving Democratic leaders with literally no margin for error, the implications of the West Virginian's approach are far-reaching. On every issue, if Manchin isn't on board with his party's agenda, the issue dies.
This includes voting rights. The senator told NBC News last week that any voting rights legislation considered by the Senate must be bipartisan to gain his vote, saying that a single-party push on the issue is a "disaster waiting to happen."
But what if there was already a single-party push on the issue? The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein explained in a newly published piece that the latest research "quantifies how completely Republicans have excluded Democrats from the passage of the restrictive voting laws proliferating in red states."
In places such as Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, the most restrictive laws approved this year have passed on total or near-complete party-line votes, with almost all state legislative Republicans voting for the bills and nearly all Democrats uniting against them, according to an analysis of state voting records provided exclusively to The Atlantic by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) told Brownstein that Republicans in her state have not only targeted elections, GOP officials have also "completely shut the Democrats out of the [legislative] process."
Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic whip in the Iowa House of Representatives, added, "It is unfathomable to me that we would look at this issue and say we have to bring Republicans along, in this political climate, in order to make true change. I don't see anywhere where Republicans are inviting Democrats along, or inviting Democrats to the table."
The Iowa legislator asked, "Why are some Democrats saying, 'I won't do this unless it's bipartisan?'"
That need not be a rhetorical question.
To hear Joe Manchin tell it, a single-party push on voting rights is a "disaster waiting to happen." Reality makes clear, however, that this precise disaster is already unfolding, and has been for months. Republicans in states nationwide are brazenly abusing their positions, undermining democracy by tilting the electoral playing field in their power, confident in the knowledge that voting-rights advocates will receive no federal rescue.
The decision Senate Democrats have to make -- in this instance, literally all of them -- is whether the "disaster" Joe Manchin fears will continue unchecked.