Stealing presents from kids hardly seems like the role of a U.S. senator, yet that’s effectively what Sen. Joe Manchin and Republicans appear poised to do.

Failing to enact President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative would be a disaster for Coloradans. The bill contains crucial funding to help Americans get back on track, and many of the programs directly seek to support the growth of a rapidly shrinking middle class. 

Examples of programs include no-cost preschool access, Medicare prescription drug pricing limits, job training access, elderly care, climate change funds and reform for Dreamers. In poll after poll, each of these policy topics are widely supported by the majority of Americans. 

Trish Zornio (Photo by Holly Hursley Photography)

The overall bill is also supported by both of Colorado’s U.S. senators, yet Manchin’s inability to join his own party’s plans could completely derail efforts to rebuild the middle class — especially after a pandemic that has deeply exacerbated wealth disparities. 

One particularly striking sticking point for the so-called Democrat appears to be expansion of child tax credits, a program that is reported to have lifted 132,000 Colorado children out of poverty. These tax breaks offer parents the ability to buy essentials such as healthier food or housing.

As Sen. Michael Bennet has pointed out repeatedly, data clearly shows the benefit to improving child outcomes, noting that cutting this vital support for families — particularly right after the holidays — could have a devastating impact locally.

The overblown opposition to the Build Back Better bill feels reminiscent of when during President Barack Obama’s term he received extensive pushback for the Affordable Care Act.

The act later went on to be a pillar of success, winning large support among Americans. Many can hardly remember a time when preexisting conditions could make you ineligible for health care, a testament to its success.

Arguably, the Build Back Better plan will see similar success. The bill will almost assuredly prove wildly popular with voters in the long run, and not passing the bill could cost Democrats key momentum in the upcoming midterm elections.

Still, too many are suggesting the problem is with the Democrats. Manchin’s resistance further highlights the absurdity of anyone wanting to suggest that Democrats remain in full control of the Senate.

Perhaps it’s true on paper, but it has been anything but true in practice. While there are, and should be, shades within each political party, Manchin isn’t really a Democrat — or at least he really doesn’t want to seem like one.

Manchin’s own team brags that he votes more with the opposition. On his website, he is listed as having voted with Senate Republicans 54% of the time over his Senate career, a self-reported statistic that would imply even Manchin is aware he isn’t predominantly in line with his listed party.

The Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has openly courted Manchin, calling on him to ditch the Democrats and join the GOP.

While it’s Manchin’s prerogative to be in any party he chooses, the distinction and accuracy on paper is important. It’s the difference between a 50-50 split in the Senate — what newspapers report today — and a 51-49 split favoring Republicans, a number more reflective of reality based on Manchin’s own admission.

This holds huge ramifications for how the public perceives the Democrats’ success, and whether or not they fully control the legislature as claimed.

It’s for this reason that if Manchin succeeds in holding up the interest of millions of Democrats as a man of one, the party — including Colorado’s senators — should fight back by once and for all by renouncing their support for him as a Democrat.

Not doing so risks losing a growing base of the party, and perpetuates the false notion that the Democrats are in control of the Senate when they so clearly are not.

Manchin’s actions give “grinching” a real-life twist, and if his heart won’t grow bigger by listening to voters and passing Build Back Better, the answer is not to ditch the Democrats — it’s to vote in better ones.

Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.

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Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Trish can be found on Twitter @trish_zornio