While Susan Collins was on the floor of the U.S. Senate putting on a master class on the chamber’s duty to advise and consent, Joe Manchin was writing an email.
The delivery was different but the message was the same: The Democrat from West Virginia will vote with the Republican from Maine to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And just like that, barring disaster or a Montana wedding that runs a little too long, the judge will soon become the ninth justice.
The consequences will linger, however, and the Collins and the Manchin announcements should be viewed back to back. Both made calculations to be sure but his was particularly gutless.
Collins spoke at length unpacking her logic and defusing allegation after allegation against Kavanaugh. Her speech will be analyzed and dissected and held up for scrutiny. His short statement—which arrived in the inboxes of DC reporters minutes after her speech ended and still hasn’t been posted on his official website—is purposely designed to avoid attention.
BREAKING —> Manchin to back Kavanaugh pic.twitter.com/bZaZ0i68f9— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) October 5, 2018
Granted that politicians don’t generally trumpet moments when they split with their own party. Granted also that Manchin will receive slings and arrows and scorpions and all sorts of unpleasant things from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., for his disloyalty.
The fact remains though that Manchin made a simple calculation. If he helps Kavanaugh get a seat on the bench, he has a better chance of keeping his own seat in the U.S. Senate. A necessary gamble in a state that Trump won by a landslide. By all accounts, Manchin had to vote for the nominee.
That was the assessment of his Republican challenger, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who dismissed the support as another example of “Manchin votes for Manchin.”
Manchin's challenger, Patrick Morrisey, pans the senator's support for Kavanaugh says in statement just now that "Manchin votes for Manchin." #WVsen pic.twitter.com/tPnqjQihwU— Philip Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) October 5, 2018
Morrisey isn’t wrong. This is just how the greatest deliberative body in the world operates. Some senators have the courage to deliver a 30 minute speech on the Senate floor. Others quietly release press releases. Both were compromises to an extent. One was eloquent and the other ugly exactly like our democratic system.