Susan Estrich: Joe Manchin finally blinks

From the commentary: And then, of course, there is the planet. Talk to young people today and the hopelessness comes through. They believe they are living at the end of a planetary cycle in which we — the baby boomers, the adults, the ones who were supposed to be trustees of our precious planet — have abdicated our responsibilities.

Sen Joe Manchin - Sen. Shelly Moore Capito
US Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (right) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) pay respects to US Marine Corp Chief Warrant Officer 4, Hershel Woodrow Woody Williams, lays in honor at the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 14, 2022. - Woody Williams, of West Virginia, who died at age 98 on June 29, 2022, was the last living World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
(Tom Williams/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
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On Wednesday, just as the bad news was coming on the economy, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he had reached an agreement with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the president's signature legislative package. Build Back Better has now become Stop Inflation Now, or some such name, but what it really is is America's signature move to fight climate change. If the bill becomes law, according to the legislative summary, it will cut our greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 40% by 2030.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
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From the commentary: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is already taking that risk, but the bigger one may be a miscalculation of the Republican primary electorate and what it may look like in two years. The bad news for DeSantis: It might well look like Kansas. The bad weather could spread for Republicans as their fondest wish — the overruling of Roe v. Wade — turns into an electoral disaster.
From the commentary: What is significant about the Kansas vote is that a very red state turned out to reject the kind of ban that Idaho and half the other states are likely to adopt. Or, perhaps, not so likely, knowing that voters may reject such bans and the Justice Department is ready to challenge them. If people start thinking about abortion in more realistic terms, as a necessary medical procedure and, in many cases, a life-saving one, the results change, as they did on Tuesday. And perhaps on more Tuesdays to come.
From the commentary: Recognizing this, the question for a Joe Manchin should not just be what is best for West Virginia; it should be what is best as well for our country and our planet. Those are not only interests we share but interests that the threat of global warming makes indivisible.
Summary: So, if not Biden and Trump, then who? We are always looking for the perfect candidate we've never heard of, but if you've never heard of him or her, can they really be ready to be president?

That is huge. It is, or will likely be, Joe Biden's signature legislative accomplishment, his equivalent of Obamacare.

Will it save Democrats in November? Maybe not. Talk of a recession, much less the reality of one, is something the White House is fighting against, with mixed success.

But calling it by another name — "banana" was the name in the Carter administration — doesn't change the reality. The layoffs have already begun in tech, but they won't stop there. Gas prices hit almost everyone's pocketbook. Inflation means your dollar buys less; high-interest rates and falling home prices mean your most valuable possession is worth less. Not the ideal recipe for a midterm.

But if the new legislation won't save the Democrats, it could go a long way to saving the planet. It puts our country where it should be, which is in a leadership role in fighting a global threat. Whatever else they accomplish, the Biden/Schumer success in winning Manchin's support — even with concessions for fossil fuels — is exactly the reason those two legislative maestros are in the positions they are.


The wild card for November, in many respects, is the abortion issue and, more broadly, the social agenda. In the past, the rule of thumb was that such issues galvanized the right more than the left, that it was the anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-gun minority who voted social issues, who turned an obscure legal theory like critical race studies into a voting issue.

But that could change, at least in key states like Pennsylvania, where pro-choice majorities could shift the balance. The conventional wisdom is that if the midterm turns into a nationalized election, with the economy as the dominant issue, the Democrats will get clobbered. But what if other factors, like social issues and what the law will be in your own state, come to play a bigger role?

And then, of course, there is the planet. Talk to young people today and the hopelessness comes through. They believe they are living at the end of a planetary cycle in which we — the baby boomers, the adults, the ones who were supposed to be trustees of our precious planet — have abdicated our responsibilities.

Add this to the economic woes facing our kids: the fact that they, realistically, don't expect to do better than we did. Heck, they don't even expect to own their own homes, which most of us did. Such hopelessness can easily translate into the apathy that makes younger people much less likely than their parents or grandparents to vote. But that, too, could change. After all, if Manchin could change his mind, anything is possible.

Susan Estrich can be reached at .


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More Commentary:
From the commentary: In striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court embraced extremism. American voters are likely to recoil from it. ... And that's bad news for the one party that has, as of late, on one issue after another, made extremism part of its brand: the GOP.
From the commentary:
From the commentary: So don’t assume that this raid means the federal government will prosecute Trump. The odds still remain low of any such criminal prosecution. ... The risks associated with Trump’s reaction are still very great. A prosecution could backfire in numerous ways ...
From the commentary: The public school system, increasingly dominated by left-wing political and social ideology, has long been in need of reform, or burial. The trend seems to be headed in the burial direction, like previous aging monopolies.
From the commentary: Speaking for myself, here's a recent use of the term I found merited, accurate and admirable. ... Cassidy Hutchinson, testifying in front of a packed hearing room and 13 million television viewers, spoke with uncommon composure as she described seeing the U.S. Capitol "defaced over a lie" and overrun on Jan. 6, 2021. "It was un-American," she said. Yes it was. Good for her for saying so.
From the commentary: And so, in local and national elections in the coming months, to say nothing of the presidential election in 2024, that small slice of the electorate that actually considers both sides before casting their votes will be charged with determining whether a group of men and women who would undermine the foundation on which American democracy is built will be allowed to once again attempt to do so. We can only hope they make the right choice.
From the commentary:
From the commentary: If that’s the case, then we can think of the complex system of multiple points where policy ideas can be initiated or vetoed as a mechanism to force those who choose to advocate for something such as a veterans health bill into having to learn the system, bargain with others with equally legitimate private interests and work out compromises. That is, it’s a system that tries to teach the advantages of a life of public participation.
From the commentary: Immigration rights advocates are furious that Biden has weaseled out of the pro-immigration stance he adopted to get elected.
From the commentary: The measure still has some legislative hurdles to jump over before it becomes a reality. But for the evenly divided Senate controlled by Democrats, Manchin could have been the biggest hurdle.


Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. es. She can be reached via

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From the commentary: Democrats haven't given up on America. Republicans don't want people to be miserable or dead. Most Americans, whatever their politics, have universal goals, mostly concerning peace and prosperity, and only differ on the paths we ought to take to get there. All we have to do, to make things better in America, is stop listening to the people who say otherwise.