So, y'all, I have a theory about Joe Manchin. To be clear up front, this is just deduction & speculation, not any kind of inside info. But I think it explains some otherwise puzzling facts. A thread.
Recall that, early in Biden's term, the common take on Manchin was: "He'll kick up a fuss, demand a few symbolic concessions, but in the end, he'll vote w/ Dems." And that take held true through the Covid relief bill, even through early BBB negotiations, until late last year.
Around autumn of last year, the vibe shifted from "grumpy guy in the caboose begrudgingly going along for the ride" to "asshole who's determined to stop the train." People in talks w/ Manchin about the BBB's clean energy standard say he went from constructive to obstinate.
He stopped listening to the very smart people he'd brought on as energy advisors. He started wanking on about inflation & the deficit. He started critiquing the bill based on Lindsey Graham's dumbass bogus CBO report. He became more theatrically obstructionist.
So what happened? Did all the Dems, uniformly, develop the wrong impression of him to begin with? Were Biden & Schumer always completely deluded about him? I know people love to dump on Dems, but that seems implausible to me. He was giving them reasons, then he changed his tune.
So what happened? To me, the most logical explanation is that, some time late last year, Manchin decided to run again. That changed all his incentives, from how to help Dems take advantage of their window to how to maximize his own profile.
West Virginia is a heavily, heavily red state. Manchin's personal popularity defies political gravity -- it's a complete anomaly in today's polarized world. The key to it is that he's seen as independent, as a check on the Dems. He survives on a mini cult of personality.
He also knows that Dems are going to get creamed in 2022, and probably again in 2024 when he's running, and it will help him to be seen as someone who can work with Republicans. Then he'll be the independent guy serving as a check on *their* ambitions.
He loves Murkowski and I would not be surprised at all if he aspired to follow her example: spurn his party entirely & run as an independent. Nothing would benefit him more with WV voters than a high-profile split with Dem leadership. "I didn't leave them, they left me," etc.
Anyway, that's the theory. When he thought he might be wrapping up his career, he was inclined to help his party succeed. Now that he's decided to run again, he needs to fight running battles w/ other Dems, w/ an endless series of vague demands & horseshit objections.
It explains his need to utterly humiliate Biden & Schumer before signing off on some denuded version of BBB. And it explains why he is determined to keep the filibuster in place: if the post-2024 GOP-dominated Senate can pass things w/ 50 votes, they don't need him.
But if he's the independent man in the middle & Republicans also face the filibuster, he's once again in the spotlight, once again the guy everyone has to come to in supplication. That's what he wants; he's addicted to it.
A final note: I obviously don't mean this as exculpatory in any way. He's a vain, dimwitted man making selfish, ill-informed decisions that will end in vast unnecessary suffering. If there's a hell, he'll burn in it. But I do think this theory at least makes him *legible*.
Ah, one addendum: as a few commenters have noted, it may be that Manchin decided to run for *governor* of WV again -- a position he vastly prefers over the Senate. That's plausible too & results in basically the same incentives.

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More from @drvolts

15 Jan
Great piece from @tomperriello draws on his experiences in other countries struggling in the wake of civil wars, schisms, etc. to argue that accountability is vital. Simply "moving on" is a recipe for trouble.…
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I guess Watergate is the last example of accountability I can think of. Iran-Contra, S&L scandal, theft of 2000 election, Iraq War, torture, financial collapse, voter suppression ... these are just the big ones. You could fill a book with GWB-era fuckery that was never punished.
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13 Jan
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The real problem is not the horrible things conservatives do. The real problem is other people holding them accountable.…
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The key: political scientists have found that, on balance, legislation favors progressives. More often than not, those seeking legislation are seeking change/reform.
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The obvious upshot is, if you're on the conservative side -- the side benefiting from & protecting status quo power dynamics -- you want less legislation. Less/smaller gov't generally. You want gov't to leave things alone, because the way things are works for you/your people.
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1) RW media/elites whip the RW base up into fury at schools & educators based on CRT nonsense.
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