Two men are back-to-back in front of a white background.
Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.

Ethan: Back in December you predicted that U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin would un-enroll in the Democratic Party before the year was out. Are you still hanging tough with that prediction?

Phil: If President Joe keeps insinuating that Senator Joe is the problem, instead of the extreme and inflationary policies he is trying to impose, I’m optimistic that my prediction may come true.

Ethan: Extreme policies? Adopting a meager 15 percent corporate minimum tax that will slow inflation as it brings down demand, and that 130 countries around the world have agreed to adopt, is extreme? Reducing carbon emissions through investments in solar, electric, and efficiency is extreme?

Phil: Corporations don’t pay taxes, their customers do and we are making measurable progress on carbon emissions. This conversation reminds me of how Democrats kept bashing Sen. Joe Lieberman, your nominee for vice president in 2000 for heaven’s sake, into finally becoming an independent. 

Ethan: The original Uncle Joe became an independent because he lost a Democratic primary and his only chance of retaining the seat was to flip to independent.

Phil: And if he hadn’t, there was a chance that seat would have come to my side of the aisle, so be thankful he won and continued caucusing with your party.

Ethan: There was no chance of that seat flipping Republican. And after Connecticut Republicans elected him, Sen. Lieberman rewarded them by endorsing John McCain in 2008. Something, sadly, I could see Joe Manchin doing in 2024 against President Biden.

Phil: My analysis is that both senators were putting the constituents of their states ahead of the party. That is a trait I deeply respect. It is not easy taking that kind of heat from your leadership.

Ethan: I respect that too, but in the case of Manchin, his constituents support the provisions of Build Back Better. And in reality, desperately need the help. Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industries that fund his family (coal) and his campaign (oil and gas) do not. And with Lieberman, his constituents opposed the Iraq war and voted strongly for Barack Obama. 

Phil: Well, clearly, both of their constituents wanted them to return. Lieberman won that reelection by double digits and Manchin won in a heavily Trump state. It seems to me, your party’s claim to a rainbow coalition is actually only a coalition of those who pledge allegiance to the liberal leaders of your party. 

Ethan: Seeing as there are 12 million more registered Democrats in America than Republicans, and seeing as Republicans now rank third in voter registration in Maine, I daresay our tent is much more diverse than yours. That said, honestly, I do think Democrats need to take more serious action to get Manchin to stop wasting our time. We spend months negotiating with the guy, and he bails in the end. I have come to believe he is simply using us to get more donations from those who finance his campaigns.

Phil: He has been clear every step of the way about his objections to Build Back Better. Yet your man Sen. Chuck Schumer has bulldozed ahead apparently thinking he could pressure him to change his position. It did not work. If you were the majority leader what would you do? 

Ethan: Hang him out of an airplane by his toes? Look, I certainly don’t pretend to know all the possible levers Schumer could pull, but stripping him of being chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee certainly makes sense. Or the airplane idea. 

Phil: And when you do that, we will provide him with a parachute as he makes Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell majority leader again!