I have been thinking about who my man of the year might be this year. And, by the way, who my woman of the year might be also. Of course, times are changing fast. Possibly I should be thinking about who my transgender person of the year might be. It has been a complicated 2021, what with COVID-19, and not one but two Cuomos out of action, and finally all the geniuses that the Biden administration has brought to Washington. Why not just lump all genders into one category? How about the prodigy of the year?
Consider a prodigy that has monopolized the news and the headlines from the year’s beginning to the year’s end, without doing any harm to anyone? The prodigy comes from a small state. One might say an out-of-the-way state, and the prodigy’s timing was perfect. The prodigy waited until the very end of the year to make a decision that could have been made at any time in the year. Who is the prodigy? My prodigy this year is Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat. By the way, he is a very nice man. He is a regular guy, as they say. How many Democrats are regular guys?
Mr. Manchin fills my protocol for the political candidate you would most like to have move into your neighborhood. You would not want Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, moving in next door. She might bring along members of her social set, “the Squad.” They might terrorize your children. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez might even terrorize your pets if you have them. Nor would you want Hunter Biden to move in next door to you. He might invite his father over for a Diet Coke. President Biden, you might recall, does not drink alcohol, but he does drink Diet Coke, and as for Hunter, he has been accused of drinking the real coke, the one that is prohibited by law. Actually, there are scores of politicians whom you would not want as neighbors. Remember the Clintons. Remember the Kerrys.
Mr. Manchin is not one of them. He is a perfect gentleman. I had him as our special guest at an American Spectator monthly dinner, and though he did not agree with everything that was said that night, he was perfectly cordial and displayed splendid manners. That is something that could not be said about all of our guests. That evening at the American Spectator dinner, the name of the director of the Environmental Protection Agency came up, Gina McCarthy. She was then touring the country for some environmental enthusiasm of hers — I think it was the gasless automobile. She has been making it clear that she would not be touring Mr. Manchin’s state of West Virginia. He dismissed her as obnoxious and an elitist. He was not alarmed by her, and he was reelected in 2018.
Most of my guests that night were Republicans, but all agreed. Mr. Manchin seemed to be, as one of my guests said that night, “one of us.” He was fiscally conservative in those days, and he is fiscally even more conservative today. In fact, it was over-profligate spending in the face of roaring inflation that caused him to reject Build Back Better. Now people are asking why Mr. Manchin does not cross the aisle. His state, West Virginia, is now more Republican than Democratic. He is the outlier in his state today.
In fact, last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, began in a subdued way to ask Mr. Manchin to cross the aisle. It makes perfect sense. His power in the Senate will only increase. His popularity will increase, and his value to West Virginia will multiply.
Though I am reminded of a statement made years ago by a man struggling with the same problem as Mr. Manchin is today. That was the former Democrat, Ronald Reagan. He said changing parties was one of the most difficult things he ever did, but he did it. My guess is that if Mr. Manchin crossed the aisle, he would not be alone. How about Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona? How about a half dozen members from the House of Representatives?
Moreover, Mr. Manchin, I just made you the prodigy of the year. Could bigger things await you as a Republican?
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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