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Manchin, Byrd and the Arc of Justice

Jamie Stiehm on

WASHINGTON -- Much depends upon Sen. Joe Manchin III, the man stuck in the middle of a deeply divided 50-50 Senate. The West Virginia Democrat opposes the Voting Rights Act; he's the only one in his caucus to break ranks.

Manchin faces a major arc of color bending toward justice. Tell him, please, this is one of those rare times history rhymes.

If he bends on the issue, the centrist Manchin has a chance to redeem the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd's, D-W.Va., greatest regret. Byrd filibustered the famed Civil Rights Act of 1964, to his everlasting shame.

As governor, Manchin won Byrd's Senate seat in 2010 and viewed him as an inspiration.

Yet, the powerful West Virginia senator is fixing to defy a new president of his own party. Making bold plans, Joe Biden backs the voting rights legislation.

Manchin could clear a crucial debt for Byrd: a legend who vastly raised West Virginia's fortunes. Also a scholar on the Senate, Byrd carried a small Constitution in his shirt pocket, clear on checks and balances.

 

Manchin changing his mind could not be more apt or urgent now at this embattled moment.

As Republican statehouses openly seek to suppress voter turnout -- hello, Texas -- the For the People Act federalizes elections to make American democracy more free, fair and uniform.

No senator grew wings more than Byrd to become one of the greats. He filibustered the Civil Rights Act, holding the floor for 14 hours. As a young Southern man, he belonged to the Klan.

Yes.

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