An accidental Fulcrum Strategy
Instead of creating a 3rd caucus in the Senate by electing independents, are we about to see the dream of the bipartisan/antipartisan movement come to fruition as a consequence of party dysfunction?
The 3rd party / independent / no labels / bipartisan / antipartisan politics crowd in has long advocated for combating the dysfunction of the Senate by creating a small but significant caucus separate from the Democrats and Republicans as a fulcrum to pull gravity away from edges and create new pathways to actually governing. Called lots of things over the years but most recently “The Fulcrum Strategy” by Unite America.
This morning, there is much speculation about what Senator Manchin is actually doing by pulling back from the table on Build Back Better. The only research I have seen on what actual people in West Virginia think about the BBB plan is this report from Data for Progress. From August and an admittedly small-ish sample (348 likely voters) but it reveals a strong majority (68%) in favor of the plan including support from more than half of Republicans surveyed. So while Sen. Manchin claims he can’t explain the bill at home, he clearly has other concerns in mind.
He may actually believe his stated concerns about inflation. He may believe his own rationale that somehow more social supports actually make us more vulnerable to new shocks. He may even be worried about the national debt. But he may actually just be more focused on the status of his unprecedented power. Never in his career has he had more, and he seems to believe that if he actually uses it in service of the people he represents, that he’ll lose it. That would be true if power were about attention, but is nonsense in a system of borrowed power where delivering for people leads to more trust, more confidence, and more support — especially when you already have the cultural power that comes from the out-sized attention from a conflict-centric media engine. And now, on the heels of his latest grand proclamation to solicit more attention and therefore more negotiation from the Biden Administration, the whisper narrative about him leaving the Democratic party is getting louder.
If he does leave the party, he’ll more than likely become an independent. If he becomes an independent, there’s a non-zero chance Sen. Sinema follows suit. If Sens. Romney, Collins, and Murkowski — who have all been increasingly at odds with a GOP captive to President Trump — then renounce their tenuous party affiliation and all five start caucusing together, abracadabra: fulcrum without ever actually electing a third-party candidate. And with a semi-permanent position at the center of Senate politics, the five of them probably become the biggest advocates for eliminating the filibuster.
Mostly Monday morning speculation, and I’m not necessarily advocating for this as a good thing, but interesting to consider a world of three caucuses in a Senate with no filibuster.