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Will History Repeat Itself?

June 12, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

The political scene in Washington today bears a curious resemblance to that of twenty years ago. Back then, as a result of the 2000 elections, a single political party controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
That time around, it was Republicans who had prevailed, but their control of the Senate was, to quote the Duke of Wellington, “a close-run thing.” With fifty Republicans and fifty Democrats, the Senate majority was determined with the tie-breaking vote of the newly elected vice president, Dick Cheney. As a result, for the first time in 48 years, a Republican president could count on Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill.
All that changed on June 6, 2001, when Sen. James Jeffords, a Vermont Republican, declared himself an “Independent,” and agreed to caucus with the Democrats. With Jeffords’ move, Sen. Tom Daschle (D., S.D.) replaced Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.) as Senate Majority Leader.
As a result, President George W. Bush was left to deal with a divided Congress on Capitol Hill.
Of course, the similarity ends there. Bush had been as a conservative born-again Christian promising a humble foreign policy inspired by “compassionate conservatism.” All that changed with the terrorist attacks on 9/11. On September 14, 2001, at a memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral, the president boldly announced that “our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”
Humble no longer, America was now devoted to fighting terrorism, exporting democracy (by force, if necessary) around the globe, and pursuing “big government conservatism” here at home.
We call to mind these events not only to observe how quickly things can change, but also to shed some historical light on a current Capitol Hill standoff that recalls that of 2001.
Today the Senate comprises fifty Democrats and fifty Republicans, with the tie-breaking vote resting in the hands of a Democrat vice-president. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sent a number of radical measures to her fellow Democrats in the Senate for their approval, but her plans have now run into a problem that might turn into a roadblock.

Enter Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the Democrat majority, describes himself as a “moderate conservative.” He is pro-life, he’s Catholic, and he’s from the increasingly Republican state of West Virginia.
Recently, Manchin has emerged as a bete noire roundly condemned by the Left. His sin? Hs alleged sabotage of the Democrats’ agenda — an agenda that could change the country even more profoundly than the attacks of 9/11 did twenty years ago.
This past Sunday, in an op-ed written for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin confirmed that he would not support the Democrats’ “For the People” Act. “This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support,” he wrote. “Why?…The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.”
“With that in mind,” he continued, “some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past….I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
The same day, Manchin invoked the Founding Fathers when he explained his position on Meet the Press. The Senate is “supposed to be a deliberate body to cool things off that come from the House,” he told a clearly disappointed interviewer. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re looking every way we can to bring this country together and unite the country….And I’ve always been about bipartisanship.”
Outrage abounded. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York summed up the Left’s response: “Manchin’s op-ed might as well be titled, ‘Why I’ll vote to preserve Jim Crow,’ tweeted New York Democratic Representative Mondaire Jones. The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill tweeted that Manchin is a ‘cowardly, power-hungry white dude’ who is upholding ‘white supremacy’. . . . The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wrote a column headlined ‘Joe Manchin retreats to fantasyland and sticks America with the consequences,’ saying that Manchin’s ‘party and his nation will pay a terrible price for his hallucinations’ about being able to work with recalcitrant Republicans.”
Manchin’s position had been the subject of conjecture for months. His choice of his hometown newspaper to announce his decision serves as a reminder to his Senate colleagues that ultimately, they work for the folks back home. As Sam Rayburn once quipped, “You gotta dance with them what brung ya.”
Of course, Manchin’s announcement also means that the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer revolution has hit a brick wall. How long will it last? Stay tuned.

Detritus

Kamala Harris has had another bad week. She traveled to Guatemala last Sunday to discover the “root causes” of illegal immigration, but in a press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, she emphasized the difficulties migrants would encounter on the trip north.
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come,” she said. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. So let’s discourage our friends or neighbors or family members from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey…where in large part, the only people who benefit are coyotes.”
Kamala hasn’t yet been to the border, even though Joe Biden put her in charge of the crisis there. So it fell to Giammattei to tell the truth: Kamala didn’t have a clue. Joe Biden’s policies were causing the worst influx of illegal immigrants in recent history.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” Giammattei told CBS News. But instead, Biden reversed Trump’s successful efforts to control the border and “the message changed too,” Giammattei complained. “‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children.’ The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”
And the coyotes are cashing in, big time. Veteran border reporter Todd Bensman says the situation is the worst he’s ever seen. Some coyotes are bragging to the media that they’ve raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars since Biden came into office.
Curiously, Harris hasn’t bothered to visit the border. When NBC’s Lester Holt confronted her on the issue, she replied, “…and I haven’t been to Europe. I don’t understand the point you’re making.”
On reflection, we might realize how clever Joe Biden was to appoint Harris to so many public roles. All sides now admit that she’s been a walking disaster. That realization might well protect Biden from efforts by some on the Left who want to send him back to his Delaware basement and install Harris into the Oval Office.
There is precedent for this. In Virginia two years ago, Gov. Ralph Northam was in big trouble. In the same week he was revealed to be both a supporter of infanticide and a blackface joker in medical school.
But Northam had an insurance policy. He was protected by the fact that his lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax, had been credibly accused of sexual assault.
In 2019, Virginia Democrats had achieved one-party rule in the Commonwealth for the first time in twenty years. Sure, the legacy media ignored the Fairfax accusations. Didn’t matter. Democrats knew that, should Northam be removed from office, their one-party rule would suffer a direct hit with the Governor’s Mansion occupied by a target ripe for Republican attacks.
Last Tuesday, Fairfax was defeated in the Democrat primary to succeed Northam by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. So Virginia Democrats can wave him goodbye.
And Kamala?
We learned twenty years ago that the unpredictable can happen. “9/11 changed everything” — including George W. Bush.
Will the unexpected “change everything” this time around?
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” wrote Vladimir Lenin. We’ll see.

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