Another Senate Dem Signals Openness to Becoming an Independent: 'We'll See What Happens'


As the political world digests Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to become a registered independent, questions are swirling about whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) will join her.

CNN’s Manu Raju asked the West Virginia senator if he would leave the Democratic Party.

“I’ll look at all of these things. I’ve always looked at all those things, but I have no intention of doing anything right now. Whether I do something later, I can’t tell you what the future is going to bring,” Manchin responded.

He continued, “I’m not a Washington Democrat. I don’t know what else to tell you…And if a Washington independent is — we’ll see what happens there. We’ll have to look.”

“People are registering more for independent than any other party affiliation, they are sick and tired of it,” Manchin added.

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That is not a no, but it is also not a yes.

It is more of the ambiguous we have gotten from Manchin over the past

Sinema announced her plan to leave the Democratic Party and become an independent, as IJR reported.

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In an op-ed published by The Arizona Republican, Sinema wrote, “Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties’ priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line.”

“In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress,” she continued. “Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating.”

Sinema’s move sounds like a political earthquake at first. And it may be depending on how she acts.

But it probably will not impact Democrats’ plans too much. Their committee structure will likely be the same as it would be if she stayed a Democrat, which will allow them to advance nominees quicker than with a 50-50 Senate.

Already, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine) are registered independents but they caucus with the Democrats and typically vote with Democrats.

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The real difference for Sinema could come after the 2024 election. If she runs for reelection as an independent and is able to fend off a Republican and Democratic challenger, she would have more latitude to vote as a true independent senator.

Yes, Sinema tends to agree with Democrats more on social and economic issues than Republicans. But over the past nearly two years, she has displayed a tendency to buck the party on some of its priorities. And if she can cobble together a coalition of voters in Arizona and win without the help of a party apparatus, she would be more immune from the pressure of party leaders to vote for certain legislation.

Of course, that freedom may not really matter if Republicans win control of the Senate in 2024.

Still, Sinema’s move and Manchin potentially switching his party highlight the risk Democrats and progressive activists took by attacking them for nearly two years.

There was never a guarantee they would stay in the Democratic Party and just vote like robots. And the constant attacks might pave the way for them to become true independents and be immune from party pressures.

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