Well, it all depends.

To Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is a one-man obstacle to progress; on the other side of the aisle, he’s the best Republican the country has had since Ronald Reagan.

Except, of course, the West Virginia senator is a Democrat. The best kind in a world where principle matters. By recently committing to protect the filibuster, which Democrats had hoped to upend, Manchin likely has made impossible much of what President Biden had hoped to accomplish: significant advances on gun reform, immigration and climate change, not to mention the cynically named “For the People Act,” which might have been better titled, “For the Democrats Act.”

As always, Democrats in power tend to overreach while Republicans tend to obstruct.

The act, which purports to expand voter access, is in reality a Democratic Party power grab that takes redistricting authority away from state legislatures while permanently enshrining in law ballot harvesting, same-day registration and no-fault absentee voting. The bill would also essentially nullify state voter ID laws. Though I’ve recently criticized those laws, I concede they are subject to reasonable differences of opinion.

With Vice President Harris in place to cast the decisive vote in the 50-50 Senate, the only way for Republicans to stop its passage, as well as other Democratic pipe dreams, is through the filibuster. Manchin has now made it clear that he’ll do nothing to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, which both parties at different times respect, use and abuse.

Manchin had already opposed previous efforts to weaken it when, in years past, both Democrats and Republicans sought alterations that served their purposes. After then-Majority Leader Harry M. Reid sought to eliminate the judicial filibuster, Republicans took it a step further and removed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Manchin opposed both moves.

Manchin also opposes background checks on firearm purchases, an odd tic from my perspective. But again, he’s from a red state that’s full of hunters and Second Amendment purists. As he wrote in a recent Post op-ed: “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.”

Manchin said his hardened position on the filibuster was informed by the Jan. 6 riots and attack on the Capitol.

As self-styled warriors stormed the offices and corridors of the “people’s house,” Manchin said he decided that advancing bipartisanship would become his unflagging operating principle going forward. The bitter forces that had led Americans to turn violently against one another and led to the attempted overthrow of the nation’s duly elected government had to be addressed in a serious way, he said. No more games.

In another time, Manchin might be considered a hero for standing on such principle, much the way Democrats these days view Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) for voting for Trump’s second impeachment. Of course, another’s principles are salutary and laudatory when they serve one’s own purposes. Manchin’s just happen to suit Republicans in this instance. Nonetheless, standing alone against the herd is an uncomfortable place, no matter what party you belong to.

If some think that Manchin is merely preserving his reelection chances, the same can’t be said of Romney. Utah is solidly red and deeply Mormon. His Senate seat is secure no matter what. At 74, Romney has run for president twice and may have no future ambitions. But a girl can dream. If sanity were someday to return to our borders, a Romney-Manchin presidential ticket might hold some appeal for independents, as well as Republicans and Democrats who’ve been trapped so long beneath their respective parties’ underbellies, they’ve practically begun sprouting mushrooms.

Let’s be clear: Manchin’s willingness to serve as the lone buttress against a torrent of Democratic legislation required enormous courage. He might even be a worthy successor to Romney as a recipient of the JFK Profile in Courage Award. As Caroline Kennedy wrote in a statement about Romney: “He reminds us that our Democracy depends on the courage, conscience and character of our elected officials.”

Manchin’s urgent call to bipartisanship will likely fall on deaf ears, at least along the Potomac. But it won’t go unheard by everyday Americans, most of whom really do want their government to work along bipartisan lines, and who believe that “for the people” is more than an act.

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