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Analysis

Progressives are about to get hit with a series of major disappointments. Manchin opposing a voting rights bill is just the beginning

Senator Joe Manchin.
Senator Joe Manchin.ANNA MONEYMAKER/NYT

Progressives woke up Sunday morning incensed over the news that Senator Joe Manchin will refuse to support a bill that would give Washington more say in election laws than ever before.

House Democrats passed HR 1, also known as the For the People Act, earlier this year and handed it to the Senate, believing it to be the only way to stop efforts by state Republican lawmakers to pass restrictive new voting laws in their states. In the Senate, the math never really worked. At least 10 Republicans would have been needed to break a Senate filibuster on the bill. And all Senate Republicans are totally opposed to the measure, viewing it as a power grab.

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But there was still hope among progressives that Democrats would see this issue as so important they would do away with the Senate filibuster forever.

News that Manchin would not give his support ― announced in an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail Sunday ― effectively derailed the fantasy that there could be even a 50-50 vote on the issue, with the tie broken by Vice President Harris. And Manchin went further in his op-ed, writing that he would not vote to eliminate, or even weaken, the Senate filibuster.

By Monday morning, Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York labeled Manchin “the new Mitch McConnell” because of the way Manchin just stalled a major Democratic agenda item.

However, the Manchin announcement is only the beginning of what will likely be a string of major disappointments for progressives.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island took to Twitter Monday to announce he is “now officially very anxious” about major climate legislation now that it is being dropped from the infrastructure bill conversation, and with no end to the filibuster in sight.

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The same could be said for major tax increases on the rich, minimum wage increases, police reform, gun control, or any other major item on the Democratic agenda.

After all, time is running out. There is still a massive infrastructure bill to pass. Then, President Biden wants to pass another huge economic bill ― the American Families Plan ― and then the rest of his budget. It would be an ambitious list even if the 2022 midterms weren’t just around the corner. Speaking of which, odds are good the next disappointment for liberals is that Republicans retake the House at the end of next year, officially stalling action on big progressive hopes for years.

Above all of the maneuvering in Congress looms the US Supreme Court, where major damage could be done to the liberal cause, thanks to a newly cemented 6-3 conservative majority. Already, the Court has said it will take up a major challenge to abortion rights, and decisions on voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and the Affordable Care Act are just around the corner. And unlike Congress or the presidency, the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court is not likely to change anytime soon.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.