Joe Manchin and six other Senate Democrats voted this week to reject Obama's appointment to head the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. They, along with every Republican, slammed to door on Debo Adegbile's bid for the office.
Adegbile supported the release of convicted police officer murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal. As the National Review notes, Abu-Jamal was found guilty of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. Adegbile, apart from his activism, has worked for the NAACP and currently serves as counsel for Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
Bob Casey (D) Pa explained his vote, saying that support for Abu-Jamal was important. He described the pain still felt by the officer's family and the city of Philadelphia.
The Civil Rights Division is supposed to "uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans." Whoever oversees the division has some latitude to interpret and decide who to go after and why. The character of that man or woman is vital to ensuring that civil rights cases do not devolve into witch hunts.
In a larger sense, this illustrates an important split in the Democratic Party. Traditional liberals and moderates rejected a left wing appointee of a left wing president. Only two of these Democrats face voters this year. Manchin's electorate would not decide his fate based on this vote alone.
This also sets up a subtext to the 2016 presidential election. Will a moderate run on the Democratic side? The appearance of one not connected to the Obama Administration could make for a lively race and produce headaches for Republicans.