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Manchin shows he's unwilling to take Americans' rights seriously

The conservative Democratic senator has a habit of claiming to support rights that he does virtually nothing to protect.


First you see it, then you don’t. 

We can always expect a disappearing act when it comes to Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat of West Virginia.

He was the lone Democrat on Wednesday to vote against a bill that would have guaranteed federal abortion rights. It was the second time in three months he's done so.

Manchin’s support for civil rights is like a mirage that forms the moment he talks about it, only to disappear when he actually has to prove it.

Speaking to the news media ahead of his “no” vote, Manchin claimed he'd support a bill that would “codify Roe v. Wade,” the federal abortion rights ruling, which is precisely what the Women’s Health Protection Act would do. But Manchin won't back that bill because, he claimed, it would “expand” abortion rights.

There’s a lesson here: It’s that Manchin’s support for civil rights is like a mirage that forms the moment he talks about it, only to disappear when he actually has to prove it.  

His pseudo-support for voting rights is no different. He’s written that he believes “the right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy,” yet he’s repeatedly blocked attempts to bypass the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. And as Republicans in state legislatures have passed a wave of laws restricting access to the ballot, Manchin has offered nothing but empty platitudes about the need for bipartisanship, feigning ignorance about the overtly political, right-wing attack on voters nationwide. 

Sen. Joe Manchin before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies hearing on May 4 in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Joe Manchin before a Senate subcommittee hearing on May 4 in Washington, D.C.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images, file

His stance on climate change is the same. Even being the coal baron he is, Manchin has said he thinks human-made climate change “is real and it’s a serious threat to our citizens, to our economy, to our environment, to our national security and to our world.”

That’s undeniably true. But time and again, he’s opposed climate legislation — including President Joe Biden’s "Build Back Better" agenda — that would help curb climate change and reduce its most drastic impacts on the most marginalized people.

For the people who rely on the freedoms Manchin is unwilling to take seriously — the right to vote, bodily autonomy and the right to a healthy environment, for example — his insincere commitments to these things have become a tired schtick. But Manchin wears his political nebulousness as a badge of courage, a sign of his independence. In reality, it’s just oppression masquerading as high-minded individualism.