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Principled bipartisan coalition saves civil discourse in America


Personally, I’m pretty relieved that the Republican Party’s long-standing zero tolerance policy for incivility on Twitter will be maintained:

The White House withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday evening.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget,” President Biden said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”

Tanden was facing bipartisan opposition from senators due to past intemperate comments she made on her Twitter feed. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) announced last month that he would oppose her, meaning Tanden would need the support of at least one Republican to be confirmed in the evenly divided Senate.

I basically agree with Yglesias both that whether Tanden gets a Senate-confirmed or non-Senate-confirmed position in the White House isn’t a particularly big deal, and that it’s nonetheless irritating to see intelligence-insulting Republican bad faith rewarded. I do think he’s dead right about what Manchin was doing, though:

He represents West Virginia in the United States Senate, so he needs to break with his party a fair amount to have a reputation as a guy who breaks with his party a fair amount. Casting “yes” votes in favor of a bunch of Trump nominees who’d be confirmed with or without his vote is absolutely the lowest-cost-possible way you could do that.

Breaking with Biden in a 51-50 Senate, by contrast, is always going to be hard because the votes tend to be consequential.

But Tanden makes a good sacrificial lamb for several reasons. One is because the issue of behaving disrespectfully to Republicans really does matter in West Virginia, where the median voter is a Republican. It’s true that Manchin has not upheld a content-neutral doctrine of civility here, but that’s the point — he needs to worry about upsetting Republicans. Then, Tanden is a particularly good sacrificial lamb because the Angry Internet Leftists hate her too, so Manchin gets to actually win points with the segment of the party that is most ideologically distant from him. Tanden herself is a smart political pragmatist who’ll tell you how lucky Democrats are to have Manchin holding down that seat.

Last but by no means least, the actual policy stakes here are low. The Biden White House is undoubtedly not thrilled to be having this headache. But at the end of the day, however it’s resolved, we’re not going to look back on this as a legacy-defining moment.

It’s a chance to break with the party in a way a lot of the left of the party likes without having any major impact on policy, plus because of Tanden’s Extremely Online status got far more attention that a defeated cabinet nominee normally would. One could even argue that things went a little overboard:

Look, this is clearly a job for Caro but this will do in the meantime.

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