During President Trump’s speech to Congress earlier this week, Democrats met almost every comment he made with eye rolls, shrugs, and scoffs. Throughout the televised speech, viewers could see the amount of hatred coming from Democratic leaders – so much so, that is was uncomfortable to witness.
One Democratic senator set out to do the opposite. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) chose to stand and applaud the President after he called to “make America great again,” while other liberals sat and opted not to.
Manchin is a Democratic leader from a well-known swing state, and he’s up for reelection in 2018. While many believe this played a vital role in his actions on Tuesday night, there’s much more evidence to the contrary. Could it be that Sen. Manchin knows that unity is better than division when it comes to legislating the free world?
Many Democrats were vocal in their opposition to the speech before the evening had begun, and even while it was taking place.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) announced her decision to boycott the speech in an official statement before to the event. “I don’t honor him, I don’t respect him and I don’t want to be involved with him,” Waters said in her statement.
During the speech, we saw even more objection from the left. While Trump condemned the recent desecration of Jewish cemeteries, dozens of Democrats refused to stand. Many also sat through the ovation surrounding the widow of slain Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens.
There was also audible laughter when President Trump said “the time of trivial fights is behind us.” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) even raised his hand in objection to the statement. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) was seen sitting in the middle of a row talking on his cell phone during the speech.
At the end of the evening, when Trump concluded his statements, every member of the Democratic caucus raced out of the chambers, with the exception of Sen. Manchin and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), both of whom stayed behind to shake the president’s hand.
Democrats have been refusing to cooperate with the new president and their Republican counterparts since his first day in office. They have delayed confirmation hearings for cabinet nominees, which has slowed down many legal processes. When they do attend the hearings, they have made a record-high number of votes against the nominees.
The rejection during the speech was just a more visual example of their distaste for the new administration.
According to Matt Dickinson, a political scientist at Middlebury College, “On the usual issues that you expect Democrats to oppose, they seem even stonier than I remember — no hint of an olive branch or honeymoon period with a new president whatsoever, from what I can see.” Dickinson continues by saying the Democratic caucus seemed “reluctant to stand even when Trump references God as their maker. And if you can’t stand for God…”
The unified rejection of Trump during his speech was actually planned ahead of time. According to a House Democratic aide, the majority of the caucus followed the leadership of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) on how to react. Senator Manchin chose to follow his own path.
At the end of the evening, as he was making his way through the crowd to greet everyone, President Trump took an extra second to shake Sen. Manchin’s hand and give him what many would consider to be a ‘bro hug’ before moving along. This was seen as a sign of gratitude from Trump to Manchin for his support throughout the speech.
Could the Senator from West Virginia be the pivot in a new direction? His support of the Trump administration and decisions made by Republican members of Congress makes it look that way.
On Thursday, Sen. Manchin defended the recent developments that uncovered meetings between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on two separate occasions in 2016. Claims that Sessions misled the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing in January led to his decision to ultimately recuse himself from any further investigations that the Department of Justice will partake in that may include any possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.
During an interview with CNN, Senator Manchin indirectly defended the meetings between Sessions and Kislyak. Revealing he had also had meetings with Russian ambassadors, as well as other foreign officials, the senator said it was a normal occurrence during any campaign. “Yes, that happens,” he said. “We meet with all the ambassadors, or try to anyway, to build relationships.”
Proof of other Democratic leaders meeting with Russian officials has also been uncovered. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) denied having any such meetings, but after sorting through her social media accounts, it was found that she wasn’t quite honest in her statements.
Sen. Manchin has also shown support for many of Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions. On Thursday, the same day as his CNN interview, Manchin voted to confirm former Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry as the new Secretary of Energy in the Trump administration.
Manchin’s vote was seen as very controversial by other Democrats, but a sign of unity by Republicans. The senator also released a full statement via Twitter to explain his reasons for voting to confirm Secretary Perry.
My statement on my vote to confirm Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry: pic.twitter.com/kELocoWEfR
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) March 2, 2017
In his statement, Sen. Manchin touches on Sec. Perry’s pledge to work with him and other Democratic leaders on energy policies. He also talks about Perry’s plan to visit West Virginia to witness the hard work and dedication of the state’s coal miners and the technological advances they have made.
While having only one dedicated senator in his corner so far doesn’t seem like a great feat, this may be exactly what President Trump needs to help bring the parties together in Congress and work toward his own agenda. Senator Manchin has shown that he is dedicated in his position to serve his state, as well as his support for the current president, regardless of party affiliation.
Let’s hope other Democrats can see the hard work Manchin is putting in and realize they need to either get with the program or get out of Washington.