NOVEMBER 2, 2021
Meyerson on TAP
Memo to Media: Stop Calling Manchin et al. ‘Moderates’
Being more swayed by big-money contributions and an anti-mother bias are far better descriptors.
“Moderates Hinder Efforts to Negotiate Drug Prices,” says a front-page headline in today’s Washington Post. Certain Democrats are indeed blocking those efforts, but is the media right to characterize them as moderates? How much of the fight between the overwhelming majority of both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses and the Manchin-Sinema-Gottheimer-Peters gang can accurately be described as left-vs.-center or liberal-vs.-moderate, which are the autopilot descriptions that the media applies to them?

Consider, for instance, that a number of these battles are being waged over policies that would win over swing voters and, indeed, are popular across the political spectrum. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, fully 83 percent of Americans, including 76 percent of Republicans, favored allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to bring down the prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients and people with private insurance. Which is why, on Sunday, 15 House Democrats in frontline districts—genuine moderates—signed a letter to the congressional leaders saying that bringing down drug prices was key to their survival in next year’s midterm elections (and, by extension, to the Democrats’ ability to hold a majority in the next Congress).

There are similar majorities in support of other initiatives that the so-called moderates have blocked, like paid sick leave (73 percent in a recent CBS News poll) and extending Medicare coverage to vision and dental care (84 percent in the same poll).

So, is “moderate” an accurate characterization of the Manchin Gang? Is it moderation that dictates their stances?

Even a cursory look at the campaign contributions to those gang members suggests other factors besides “moderation” are in play. In the House, two of the three Democrats who blocked the relatively comprehensive drug price negotiation provision—California’s Scott Peters and Oregon’s Kurt Schrader—are among the largest recipients of drug company campaign contributions. The nay-saying duo of Schrader and Peters have received a combined $1.5 million in pharma contributions in the course of their congressional careers. The one Democrat who blocked that provision in the Senate, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, raised a record $1.1 million from July through September, as her opposition to reducing drug prices became clear. A good chunk came directly from Big Pharma executives, even as a paltry 10 percent came from actual Arizonans. With ratios like that, it would not be a stretch to conclude that Sinema, who’s not up for re-election until 2024, may be more motivated by a high-paying job in a high-paying industry than she is by winning the votes of her constituents, moderate and otherwise, should she seek re-election.

We should note that the other Democratic senator from Arizona—former astronaut Mark Kelly—met with fellow moderate Amy Klobuchar and genuine leftists Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren last Thursday to discuss how to get a drug price reduction into the reconciliation bill. Does that make Kelly a liberal and Sinema a moderate? I think not.

So, what do we call these non-moderate moderates who for reasons of their own have broken ranks with their fellow Democrats and President Biden? How about OMT Democrats—Only Money Talks Democrats?

That works for most of them; I’m not sure it does justice, though, to Joe Manchin, who increasingly seems a character of Dostoevskian perversity. With each passing (or blocking) day, Manchin comes across as a creature of steadily mounting rage against fellow legislators who don’t pay him sufficient obeisance, who fail to recognize that this is really all about him. On one issue—paid family leave—he has positioned himself as the sole but sufficient bulwark against making sure that Americans in need, most particularly mothers of newborns and sick children, must choose between work and parenting.

There’s a term for this that is far more accurate than “moderate.” The mot juste for Manchin is “motherfucker.”

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