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Free-thinking politicians? Crazy, I know

What do U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Rob Portman all have in common?

If you said each has sufficiently ticked off their respective political parties, you’d be correct.

To be clear, each has made members of their parties no less than crazy with preposterous ideas that — brace yourself — involved actual free thinking.

Democrats, of course, are furious with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

Amid last week’s continued horrible inflation numbers, Manchin made clear that any support of President Biden’s climate, energy and tax package was not coming from him — at least not right now. So, with a Senate split 50-50, that effectively kills the plan. Certainly, no self-respecting Republican is going to go along with it — particularly this close to midterms.

Far left Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, criticized Manchin harshly for, in his words, intentionally sabotaging the president’s agenda.

Manchin, of course, frequently sides with Republicans, going against the grain of his liberal party.

How do I feel about that? I love it!

No, I don’t always agree with him (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t). Frankly, I just personally like to see politicians stand their ground and voting logically, rather than just along party lines.

Republicans are similarly livid with Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the GOP vice chair of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Niall Stanage, a White House columnist at The Hill, a top U.S. political website, has said he thinks Cheney believes the Jan. 6 investigation outweighs her political aspirations.

NewsNation reported last week that Stanage also said this about Cheney: “I think Liz Cheney is genuinely appalled by what happened” Jan. 6. “I don’t think she has suddenly transformed herself into a liberal; the congresswoman is quite ardently conservative,” Stanage said. “She just has very

vehement opposition to what happened on January the sixth.”

He’s probably correct, but it’s about to cost her an election. Cheney almost certainly will lose her elected seat, now trailing some 22 points behind her Trump-backed opponent Harriet Hageman.

But rather than campaigning as the election approaches, Cheney instead is in D.C. presiding over the House committee investigating Jan. 6.

Again, whether you agree with Cheney’s involvement in the investigation or her outspokenness about the Capitol attack, logical people would admit it’s hard not to respect her tenacity in fighting for what she believes, even at the detriment of her political career.

And then there is Portman.

During his political career — particularly during the Trump administration — some GOP lawmakers grew increasingly displeased with the Ohio senator’s, let’s just say, insufficient support of the former president.

Portman was equally disheartened by his colleagues in D.C. because the moderate Republican cited frustrations as much of the reason he decided not to seek re-election this year. When he announced last year that he would not run again for this office, he referenced “partisan gridlock” and dysfunction in American politics.

While he often backed Trump, he was not afraid to voice criticisms too. “Our country is very polarized,” Portman said, noting that Trump didn’t help matters.

And after Jan. 6, Portman said this: “Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened.”

Indeed, he gained no popularity points among Trump backers. But I found it refreshing to hear a politician speak his mind rather than the party’s talking points.

Manchin’s current six-year term doesn’t end until January 2025, and while his Democrat colleagues and voters are viewing him as a party wrecker right now, we all know many things change quickly in politics.

Regarding Cheney’s re-election chances, Stanage also said in the overwhelmingly red state of Wyoming, Cheney would have to poach many Democratic voters willing to change party affiliation to back her if she is to win.

That got me day-dreaming.

Could you just imagine a society without political parties or affiliations, one where we all are free thinkers like Cheney, Portman and Manchin? And what if voters lived in a world were we just cast ballots for — brace yourself again — the best candidate?

Crazy, I know.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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