Supercreator Daily: Joe Manchin is an easy scapegoat

I’m deeply frustrated by how Manchin’s opposition has stalled much of Biden’s agenda. But the reality is simple: Democrats lack the power to enact their agenda on their own terms.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has become a thorn in his party’s side since Democrats won the Senate majority. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia met with a group of civil rights leaders today to discuss a path forward on voting rights legislation as the odds of Congress passing the For The People Act in the near future evaporated after Manchin voiced his opposition to the legislation last Sunday.

“We had a constructive conversation. I think everybody pretty much knows the importance of what we’re doing. “And I think I’m very much concerned about our democracy, protecting people’s voting rights,” Manchin, who is the only Senate Democrat who hasn’t signed on a co-sponsor of the bill, said after the meeting.

“Our meeting today with Senator Manchin was robust and insightful. We discussed several topics, most notably the urgent need to maintain the integrity and viability of our democracy through updated voting and election protection legislation,” President and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson added. “We are committed to ongoing conversations with Senator Manchin, as well as all senators as we work to pass federal legislation that will protect our most sacred and fundamental right, the right to vote.”

As of April, 361 voter suppression bills had been introduced by Republicans in state legislatures who are dramatically escalating their efforts to restrict voting rights. In a functioning democracy, should be easier for everyone — Democrat, Republican or Independent — to vote. The For The People Act — known as H.R.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate — would expand voter registration and voting access, limit the removal of voters from voter rolls and require states to establish independent commissions to carry out congressional redistricting. I’ll take my chances on any major progressive policy proposal if the voices and votes of marginalized creators and communities are unsuppressed.

In his Sunday op-ed, Manchin wrote that he opposed the For The People Act because election reform should be a bipartisan pursuit. (Manchin cosponsored the 2019 version of the bill along with 45 other Democrats when the party was in the minority. No Republican senators supported the bill then either.) “I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights,” he said, without offering examples to justify his good cheer.

I agree with the Senator: It would nice for both parties to reach across the aisle to pass a bill that 52 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Independents and 85 percent of Democrats support. (Another poll found that 79 percent of Manchin’s constituents support the bill, including more than three out of four West Virginia Republicans.) The problem is that Republicans are uninterested. And we’ll continue to find ourselves at this empasse until he accepts his conservative colleagues as the obstructionists they are instead of the team players he hopes and wishes they’d be.

In the meantime, the bill faces an uphill climb: All Democrats would have to vote for the legislation with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. But this would require Democrats to abolish the filibuster that prevents legislation from passing with a simple majority first. The problem is that Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are publicly opposed to this as well. And my spidey senses tell me there are a few old-schoolers on the left who are privately opposed to nuking the filibuster as well.

Manchin makes for an easy scapegoat due to his relative conservatism in a party that’s being pushed left by anti-establishment super progressives who endorse liberal economic and social policies and are hypervocal about the shortcomings of the Democratic Party. And to be clear, I am deeply frustrated by how Manchin’s opposition has stalled much of President Biden’s agenda.

But objectively speaking, the reality is simple: Democrats lack the power to enact their agenda on their own terms. A razor-thin House majority and evenly split Senate do not make for passing a progressive mandate, no matter how badly I want one. There are too many Republican voters who are too unpersuaded by Democratic policies to switch to my side. Besides, it’s easier to participate in a digital pile-on of the party’s current bugaboo than it is to build consensus among those who see the world differently than I do. Combine this with structural barriers to expanding the electorate and it’s obvious why so many of us are exasperated.

So where do we go from here?

Manchin said after the meeting that his position on the bill is unchanged, but has expressed support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore the preclearance formula the Supreme Court gutted in a 2013 decision. (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came against the John Lewis bill as I was writing this story.) Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he plans to move forward with a vote on the For The People Act later this month, even though it’ll fall short of the 60 votes needed to be signed into law due to no GOP support.

Here’s everything else you should know today:






In case you missed it: Ask Michael

The final print cover of Lucky, the Condé Nast-owned magazine I worked at as a fashion assistant, contributing editor, digital fashion editor and style columnist. Photo by Miguel Reveriego

Last week, a reader asked me to share the major difference between working at a magazine and writing your own newsletter. I published my full response in this week’s issue of Supercreator Select, a new exclusive bonus newsletter for premium subscribers to The Supercreator. Here’s a snippet:

For one, the format of a print publication and digital properties are dissimilar from a newsletter that's optimized to be enjoyed from your inbox. I've got to account for those variances when I'm planning, writing and editing The Supercreator. The frequency is different too: Print magazines spend weeks — sometimes months — planning and producing features. And even when I worked as a digital editor, I still had at least a week to report, write and build most of my stories. At The Supercreator, I’m on deadline four days a week. It feels like a luxury to have more than a day to turn around a story these days.

Subscribe to get this Sunday’s Select sent straight your inbox, which in addition to Ask Michael includes weekly interviews and a breakdown of the stories I’ll be covering in the upcoming week so you can focus your attention on the stories that matter to you and your creativity.

And stay tuned for a sneak peek of next week’s Ask Michael in tomorrow’s issue of the Supercreator Daily.

Read All About It

Annie Lowery at The Atlantic on the rise of the Calm app:

It is a very modern success story, and a somewhat paradoxical one: Calm is a young San Francisco company selling a centuries-old spiritual practice, a smartphone app that purports to undo the anxieties of the smartphone age, and a venture-funded start-up that has managed to monetize sitting and doing nothing. Getting people to chill the fuck out, amid the thousands of crises wracking our modern world, is apparently worth billions.

Marianne Eloise at The Cut on memes as interactive trauma diaries:

Trauma memes work in the way that all memes do — they communicate something instantly recognizable or relatable — but there’s an extra level of understanding for both creators and audiences. Clinical psychiatrist Vincent McDarby believes trauma memes can aid in healing and help people learn to encounter their triggers without being overwhelmed by them. “Processing is about being able to experience these emotions at a level we can tolerate. If the trauma evokes such a strong emotional negative reaction that we’re overwhelmed, we’re not able to heal,” he tells me. “Memes can be one way of trying to process the emotion.”

Sapna Maheshwari at The New York Times on the hard work of making ordering groceries online so easy:

The pandemic prompted millions of Americans to buy their groceries online and pick them up curbside or have them delivered, fueling new demand for so-called pickers like Mr. Fraser. Grocery companies are using tools that promise to map workers’ routes through stores and track their speed and accuracy, bringing metrics typically associated with warehouse jobs into local grocery aisles. Pickers, in turn, find themselves doing work that can be physically taxing, mentally stifling and increasingly guided by automation and technology.

Noah Smith at Noahpinion on America’s scarcity mindset:

So America has created artificial scarcities of tangible goods like housing, education, and access to the country, and intangibles like a sense of belonging. Not all of our scarcities are artificial, of course — high-paying jobs at top companies like Google are limited due to the superstar firm phenomenon. But for the most part, the things Americans are scrabbling to take from each other are things whose supply we have chosen to limit.

Nicole Laporte at Fast Company on Dispo’s second shot at being an Instagram killer:

Beyond forcing users to take photos without any reshoots or filters—you simply shoot a roll of photos and see the results the next morning—Liss and his team have worked to avoid adding any features that can lead to angst and a negative sense of self on social media. For example, the number of people someone is following on Dispo is hidden. “If you talk to the average teenager, they obsess about what’s known as their ratio on Instagram—the number (of people) they follow versus who follow them,” Liss explains. “It’s desirable to have more people following you. That behavior has been ingrained in us by Oprah, who follows nobody, and Beyoncé, who follows nobody. But for the rest of us, who cares? As a result (of taking that number away), we’ve found people following much more freely and not stressing over how long their following list was.”

Constance Grady at Vox on Chrissy Teigen’s fall from grace:

The attributes on display in the tweets that have led to Teigen’s downfall appear to be some of the same attributes that made Teigen so widely beloved for so long: her lack of filter, her love of roasting people widely agreed at the time to be terrible. What’s changed is that now, it’s clear that the way she wielded them was fundamentally misdirected.

Michael’s Pick

Goodfit “Working Woman” Puzzle by Uzo Nioku ($28): I’ve been considering jigsaw puzzles as an alternative to books to focus my attention when I’m offline.

Thanks for reading! I appreciate you for sharing part of your day with The Supercreator. See you tomorrow. —Michael