Manchin deadlock example of ‘divided we fall’
Published: Dec 22, 2021 07:35 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

There is now a 50-50 tie in the US Senate between Republicans and Democrats, which is a typical phenomenon of the polarization of the US politics and society. The recently blocked Build Back Better Act that US President Joe Biden has been pushing since September is hampered by such a split.

Theoretically, if a bill was met with full opposition from Republican senators and resulted in a 50-50 tie, the democratic Vice President Kamala Harris, who acts as president of the Senate, could break the tie and make the final decision with her one vote. 

However, the trouble now for the Democrats is that there is a "traitor" within the party - the Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who publicly declared his opposition to the act. 

It's no secret that Manchin, a millionaire, has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, according to the New Yorker magazine. Last year, he collected $500,000 from a private coal brokerage called "Enersystems" which was founded by Manchin himself in 1988 and currently run by his son Joseph Manchin IV. He is also the US senator who has received the most political donation from the oil, gas and coal industries. Therefore, some US media outlets believe that Manchin is certainly opposed to new policies announced by the Biden administration to invest in improving people's social welfare and encouraging the development of renewable energy technologies.

After Biden took office, many people in the Democratic Party regarded him as another (former US president) Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal, launched in the 1930s, laid the foundation for the US to become a strong economic power. 

Can Biden do what Roosevelt did? It seems very difficult now. It is not because the US lacks money, but because the US lacks a political system that is flexible, willing to compromise, or capable of carrying out preset policies.

The Manchin phenomenon reflects two problems - the highly antagonistic and polarized US political system on one hand, and the entanglement of US politics and capital interest groups on the other.

People can interpret this as "US democracy." But every political system needs the ability to implement administrative goals, which is a power of execution. Politics is not only about talking, but also about the ability to take action as well.  A major power like the US should be more capable of doing major tasks, and pool all its resources to complete major tasks. If all tasks, especially major ones, are dominated by the interests of political and capital interest groups, there will be a vicious circle of "If I cannot do it, then I won't let you do it either," just like the current situation in Washington.

The title of the book Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, coauthored by US political scientists Matthew Grossmann and David A. Hopkins, can well illustrate the division in the US. Such division has left no room for compromise. A two-party system without compromise can only result in internal exhaustion. 

This is what US politics means. Indeed, the deeper reason lies in the division and polarization of American society. Bipartisan politics, the division and polarization form a causal relationship with one another. If it is "united we stand" after the 9/11 terror attacks, it is now "divided we fall."

The bipartisan confrontation and entanglement of US politics have developed into what we see today, and can no longer be explained by "democracy." In doing so, we will only sabotage the significance of the word "democracy."

Therefore, the US' problems, especially the troubles that emerge from its political system, cannot be solved by simply emphasizing competition with China. Given its problem of political polarization, it is clear that the US' inflammatory words against China, uttered to unite the American people and boost their morale, are being said in vain.

China-US competition is not just limited to the high-tech and military fields. Whether the US will take the lead must also consider one thing: their ability to meet political requirements. A political system more capable of pooling resources on major tasks and uniting people is more likely to develop in a smoother and more stable way. 

The author is a senior editor with the People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina