The activists outside Joe Manchin’s houseboat

By | October 29, 2021

All summer long, activists have pressured Democratic leaders for a reconciliation package that delivers on all of President Biden’s promises. That means Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin faced protesters in their offices, homes… and bathroom stalls. Today, Playbook’s Tara Palmeri explores the new face of activism, and she asks POLITICO’s co-congressional bureau chief Burgess Everett on whether the activism is having its intended effect on Manchin and the latest on the Democrats messy reconciliation fight.

On the effect Covid and Jan. 6 have had on activist access to the Capitol:

“There’s coronavirus restrictions which keep members of the public not allowed to visit unless they’re invited in. So you’re losing a lot of that spontaneity and after Jan. 6, the police are using more tactics to limit the public from getting super close to the Capitol during busy days and things like that. And so they’re having to be more creative in ways to get through, and that would usually involve finding them somewhere in D.C. I’m not sure it’s getting maybe the same traction that it would have when you actually are able to confront people here [at the Capitol]. I mean, like you said, that the Jeff Flake elevator moment is pretty infamous in congressional lore. There was a tangible result from Jeff Flake being confronted by these women about Brett Kavanaugh. They delayed the confirmation of him for a week for the FBI to look into it [after Flake heard their concerns]. So it’s not like activists can’t make a difference, but we’re not feeling that right now here at the Capitol.” — Burgess Everett

On whether activists’ have escalated their tactics and changed where they protest:

“We’re doing ridiculous things because they’re forcing us to! We’d rather be doing something else.” — Nadine Block, activist

“Either they’re not working in their offices, they’re at home, and so we have to go to speak to them where they’re working, which is at their houses. And this is a far cry from violent right supremacists who go and threaten people. We’re going to speak to them so that these elected officials and servants of the state do their jobs.” — Nadine Block

On the ultimate impact of activists:

“I think good activists like those who have been showing up to Joe Manchin’s boat understand that you can use social media to kind of do lobbying in a much more low-budget way than actual lobbyists do, but still have an impact, at least in the sense of getting coverage, raising awareness, even if you’re not necessarily changing the member’s mind.” — Burgess Everett

On the difficulty of a 50-50 Senate passing everything President Biden had promised:

“There’s a lack of recognition, should I say, among members of the public about how small these majorities are in Congress and who you’re relying on as the deciding vote, and that Democrats just needed more seats to do what they started talking about earlier this year? And so there’s been a little bit of a problem managing expectations for the Democratic Party on voting rights, on climate change, on paid leave, on so many of these issues. With Joe Manchin, who’s a deciding vote, you really have to think about the world through his prism. Democrats didn’t even expect to be in this position. They weren’t even supposed to take the Senate. These two Georgia races surprised everyone and then expectations shot through the roof, and I feel like they’ve been slowly coming back to Earth ever since. And it’s almost November now, and it gives you a sense of how long it’s taken for people to kind of grapple with the reality of a 50-50 Senate.” — Burgess Everett