Joe Manchin Abandons The Democratic Party

[Senate Democrats, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

Another Democrat in the Senate has announced that he will be switching to independent, and it might be one of the least shocking developments in politics.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced on Friday that he has switched his party registration to independent, fueling speculation about his political future. This move comes after Manchin declared his retirement last year, raising questions about whether he might consider running for office again in November.

Manchin, known for his centrist positions, has often been a pivotal vote in the Senate and served as a main critic of Joe Biden from his own party. His decision to become an independent highlights the ongoing shifts within the political landscape and adds an element of uncertainty to the upcoming election season.

Political analysts are closely watching his next steps.

Manchin did not immediately say anything about his political plans. But the move allows him to possibly reconsider his plan to not seek reelection — or to run for governor, a job he previously held.

Aug. 1 is the deadline for independent candidates to file for office in West Virginia. Manchin was facing a Saturday deadline to register as an independent and still have a chance to file as an independent candidate this election.

The centrist senator announced in November 2023 that he would not run for another term, handing Republicans a likely pickup seat in solidly red West Virginia. The GOP nominee for the seat is the state’s governor, Jim Justice.

“Today, our national politics are broken and neither party is willing to compromise to find common ground,” Manchin said. “To stay true to myself and remain committed to put country before party, I have decided to register as an independent with no party affiliation and continue to fight for America’s sensible majority.”

Longtime West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval first reported the news. Despite his party change, Manchin has gone completely independent. He said he plans to continue to caucus with Senate Democrats, according to his office.

So the question remains: what is Manchin up to?

NBC News speculates that he’s likely looking into returning to his old job as governor of West Virginia. The race would pit him against Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whom he beat by roughly 3 percent in 2016.

Early on in his term, Joe Biden played Manchin like a fiddle, tricking him into backing Biden’s “Green New Deal” by pretending that the bill was really aimed at building infrastructure and reducing inflation.

Manchin has never forgiven the president for that and has since been a thorn in the side of Biden, explains NBC News. “For years, Manchin had been perhaps the most conservative member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, burnishing a reputation for going his own way and relishing his role as a thorn in the side of Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden and his own party leadership.

And while he voted with Biden on major legislative initiatives, including the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS and Science Act, Manchin has been an outspoken critic of the current president on numerous occasions, particularly on energy issues.

Last year, Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy committee, threatened to join Republicans in voting to repeal the IRA, Biden’s signature climate change law that the senator had helped negotiate, over objections to how the law was being implemented by the administration.

And in 2022, Manchin demanded that Biden apologize for urging the closure of coal-fired power plants and a shift to clean energy, calling his comments ‘divorced from reality.'”

In November, despite Democratic pleas that he try for another term in Washington, the senator announced he’d be leaving the Senate, drastically hurting the chances that his now former party would retain its majority regardless of who wins the presidency.

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