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Congress

Perhaps Joe Manchin should get together with Liz Cheney to swap war stories.

Neither is likely to get invited to many social gatherings, at least not ones organized by their own political party’s leadership. Not after both had the audacity to listen to personal conviction or — heaven forbid — their own constituents.

Cheney, in refusing to back down in her condemnation of former President Donald Trump’s election interference, was largely a bump in the road for what the GOP House leadership intended to do. Manchin, a senator who comes from a state where only 12% of Democratic voters supported Bernie Sanders for president, creates a more significant hurdle after he voiced opposition to two progressive priorities: A broad infrastructure bill and expansive elections legislation.

After the chaos and uncertainty of 2020, a strong case can be made for a federal role in elections. But it should be one that establishes broad parameters to prevent the changing rules and squishy deadlines we saw last fall, both of which helped sow seeds of doubt. Instead, the “For the People Act” is more of a take-it-or-leave-it proposition that has no room for compromise. If you don’t support it, you don’t support free elections.

Is this true?

Take the bill’s provisions on early voting. It requires two weeks of early voting in federal elections. For this, it is hailed as saving democracy.

In Missouri, a local state senator proposed an election bill that included a provision for no-excuse absentee voting three weeks before an election, something the state doesn’t currently offer. For this, the bill was routinely labeled as a “voting restriction,” just as clear as the night is dark.

On mail-in voting, the federal bill would require a ballot application to be sent to every voter prior to an election. A mail-in ballot could be accepted up to 10 days after an election, as long as it’s postmarked by Election Day.

A reasonable person could say that the 46% of American voters who submitted a mail-in ballot last year can’t all be wrong and that their votes were valid, but maybe it should be on the voter to initiate the process. And maybe 10 days is an awfully long time to keep everyone hanging. Election Day was the day when most votes were counted for many years, and democracy seemed to survive.

Manchin had the nerve to question this, and now he is labeled as some sort of Quisling figure. If you think that’s laying it on a bit thick, consider what The New York Times had to say: “We may be living through a brief interregnum before American democracy is strangled for a generation.”

If it’s not first buried by hyperbole.

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