Let’s say for the sake of argument that Manchin is operating in good faith and would support a limited but substantial list of voting reforms (e.g., independent redistricting, guaranteed early and no-excuse absentee voting, a mandatory paper trail subject to audit) and H.R. 4, which would reauthorize preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. He would then still need 10 Republican votes, which he seems to think can emerge from open debate and negotiation.
Manchin almost certainly will not find 10 Republicans willing to acknowledge that the problem is not voting fraud but voting restrictions . . . Manchin will have to make a decision that he seems determined to avoid: If no voting rights bill will ever garner 10 Republican votes, what is he prepared to do about it? The answer may be “nothing.” He currently enjoys cover to avoid tough votes (on voting reform and anything else) if the 60-vote cloture rule remains in place. So long as the filibuster makes passage of controversial bills impossible, he need not go up against home-state conservatives on any issue. He could, of course, support a limited exception to the filibuster (as reconciliation has done) to requires a simple majority to pass legislation that entails constitutional protections, but it is far from clear that would pass muster with him.
Manchin must surely realize that Democratic voters, donors and activists — as well as his fellow officeholders — will not accept a senator who refuses to defend voting rights in the midst of an onslaught of Jim Crow-style legislation. Voting rights and protection of multiracial democracy are so fundamental to the ethos of the party (more so than abortion rights, taxes or any other topic) that Manchin risks an irreparable breach with his fellow Democrats should he refuse to block the Republicans’ assault on voting rights.
Rubin doesn’t really offer any realistic way Democrats can pressure Manchin though. The idea of primarying him is pretty much a joke; Paula Jean Swearengin lost in 2019 by 70-30%, and if past rumors were to be believed, Manchin already had to be begged to stay on for that race. It’s hard to see him feeling concerned by it.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be absolutely great if Dems find a way to do it. I just don’t know how they could.