When History is Written…

When the history of the 21st Century is written (assuming there are people alive to research and write it) America’s current decline will be attributed largely to one man–and that man isn’t Donald Trump.

Of course Trump is dangerous. A number of his choices–both personnel and what passes for policy in his childlike worldview–are potentially catastrophic. But he is too delusional and ignorant to qualify as evil.

No, the most evil man in American government, in my humble opinion, is Mitch McConnell.

Trump is simply the result of McConnell’s consistent elevation of partisanship and power over principle. As James Fallows has pointed out, it was McConnell who took the filibuster from a seldom-used mechanism meant to ensure that minority opinions would be heard to a routine method of subverting majority rule. It was McConnell who famously promised to obstruct anything and everything Obama might do, irrespective of whether what was being obstructed was good policy, good for the country, or even if it had originated with his own party.

It was McConnell who, in the  summer of 2016,” put the kibosh on FBI going public with a warning of the Russian interference in the election, which they were already investigating.

And needless to say, it was McConnell who ignored 200+ years of precedent, and simply refused to allow the Senate to do its constitutional duty of advising and consenting to a sitting president’s nominee for the Supreme Court–doing incalculable damage to the rule of law and ultimately, to respect for close decisions that will be handed down by a court that includes a Justice conspicuously occupying a “stolen” seat.

In 2006, as McConnell was about to emerge as the Republican leader in the Senate, Zachary Roth and Cliff Schecter wrote an article for the Washington Monthly titled “Meet the New Boss.”  Here are some excerpts:

McConnell is a staunch conservative and a master of procedure, but no piece of landmark legislation bears his name. Almost the only issue on which he has a national profile is campaign-finance reform, and on that, he’s known as the man who fought it at every turn…

The Senate’s shift toward increased party discipline has been accompanied by a growing willingness to use the legislative process to benefit the Republican Party’s financial backers…

[McConnell is] a master of Senate rules and procedures, and he harbors no presidential aspirations that might distract him from his job. But unlike earlier leaders, he doesn’t keep score by legislative accomplishments. For the first time in recent memory, the Senate will be run by a leader with both the ability and the desire to use the institution entirely for partisan advantage

I’m hardly the only observer who attributes much of  America’s current dysfunction to McConnell. Dana Milbank calls him “The Man Who Broke America.” Milbank starts with one of the many, many examples of McConnell’s hypocrisy and dishonesty:

“No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate,” the minority leader said.

He continued: “Breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American. I just hope the majority leader thinks about his legacy, the future of his party, and, most importantly, the future of our country before he acts.”

Are these the words of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the Republican majority changed Senate rules this week to do away with filibusters of Supreme Court nominations?

Actually, they were uttered in 2013, by then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), when Democrats pushed through a similar filibuster change for lesser nominations.

Milbank doesn’t mince words:

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.

Milbank further documents McConnell’s willingness to subvert longstanding Senate culture in service of rabid partisanship, pointing out that by 2013 his unprecedented, frequent use of the filibuster had blocked 79 of Obama’s nominees; that compared with 68 presidential appointments blocked during “the entire previous history of the Republic.”

The primacy of the rule of law was the most basic premise of the American constitution; as John Adams famously proclaimed, the Founders gave us a government of laws, not men. The constitutional architecture, with its three branches of government and a federalist structure leaving significant authority to the states, was an effort to constrain the abuse of power.

Trump doesn’t understand any of that, and he clearly has no idea how to use the rules themselves to evade those constraints. He doesn’t even know what the rules are.

McConnell, unfortunately, does.


  1. I am having serious trouble these days putting my thoughts together into coherent written form to express them without sounding like Trump’s Tweets. I tried yesterday but deleted my attempts; the fact that Amendment X is so simply stated seems to be misunderstood and followed by many states (Republican owned states) as they ignore the Constitution of the United States as well as each state’s Constitution. As McConnell has done regarding ignoring the Constitutional requirement for a Senatorial Hearing on ALL SCOTUS nominations and changed the Senate rules to appoint his personal choice. Important local court cases going to state supreme courts often result in being heard by SCOTUS for final decisions so this appointment of Gorsuch is redefining state and federal judicial history. All federal and state rules and regulations were thrown aside as this one ugly little Kentuckian took control of this and many other issues. Has anyone else noticed that he looks demonic when he smiles after getting his way?

    The possibility of writing the truthful history of the 21st Century has already been defiled by the rewriting of history books in some states regarding the route to this 21st Century. There was much fear and upheaval by many looking at the turn of the clock to the year 2000; is what we are seeing now a delayed millennial reaction in our own leaderless government and nuclear threats by one little fat man, barely out of his childhood, putting the world on notice of imminent attack?

    Our history is being rewritten daily, and sometimes almost hourly, with little time for decisions to take effect or provide knowledge of what our personal or national situation is or will be before the end of the day. The GOP was aware of Trump’s total lack of understanding of anything governmental or political and allowed him to surround himself with family members and White Nationalists to guide him and McConnell to legalize his verbiage. All the while diverting our attention from the Trump/Putin/Russia connection of many years – part of past history and vital to our future history and the history of the world at large with its many interconnections and lengthy list of participants.

    Meanwhile Congress is on spring break for two weeks to attempt to “get their acts together” before their return. Will they pick up where they left off on the Trump/Russia investigation or hope we have forgotten it while celebrating Easter or Passover, et al, and begin a new chapter of American History under the Trump regime?

  2. McConnell is one of many actors in the Washington Establishment who has broken America. My biggest concern is the Neocons have gotten to Trump prescribing a way to #MAGA by starting WW3 with Syria, Russia and Iran. It also unified the Establishment Media and criminals inside the Beltway to support our megalomaniac chief. He was an ego-driven idiot an hour before setting off 59 Tomahawks and nothing has changed except are fraudulent media has tipped its hand. So has all the hawks in Washington. Why are they all so eager to destabilize Syria and the Middle East?

    McConnell is just another owned entity of Kleptocracy…which is exactly how they took the seat on the Supreme Court…they stole it.

  3. EVIL – that is the exact word I have used to describe McConnell for the past several years.

    I used to wonder how the people in KY kept voting him into office until I finally realized that it has to be a perfect combination of gerrymandering and wealthy conservative money.

  4. McConnell never ceases to amaze me w his duality towards rules and ethics: if the Republicans do it, it’s acceptable; if the democrats do it, it’s obstruction. He also has no problem lying to the media and the public; he has become a cancer on democracy.

  5. What history will conclude about McConnell, among other things, is that he took hypocrisy from merely shameless to weapons-grade.

  6. When I read Sheila’s first paragraph of her blog today, I knew who she was going to name as the #1 architect of America’s decline, having read Dana’s essay. She is right – it’s McConnell – a force in American politics that is oblivious to the damage done as he ploughs through our history of a carefully put together democracy. I think it is not enough to call him merely partisan; he has an almost pathological desire to exercise power over the governing process. Having no aspirations of achieving further office beyond majority leader in the Senate, he is free to make the most of the power he has in following the Senate’s rules when to his advantage and disregarding or changing them when inconvenient to his power-grabbing purpose, all the while wallowing in “campaign contributions” (aka bribes) from the rich and corporate class for his considerable help in seeing to it that their taxes and regulatory environment are to their liking. Stealing a Supreme Court seat is but one example of his public perfidy; there are many others.

    Along with a libertarian sidekick in the Senate who on occasion disagrees with his ahistorical tactics, McConnell and his fellow ideologue combine to give the people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky the poorest representation of the fifty states as measured by the unwritten rules of fair play envisioned in our Constitution and the substitution of Senate “Rules” for the langauge of the Constitution itself, not to mention the impact of their narrow and power grabbing tactics on the rest of us. Like Trump, though for different reasons, neither of these people has proven that they can handle grants of power in democratic fashion, and especially McConnell, who is a cancer on our body politic. History will not treat these two kindly, but I, for one, will not wait for history (if, as suggested by Sheila, we have one), since that is small recompense at some future date compared to the damage they are doing to our democracy today. Between people like this added to the other world of Trump and Bannon, their joint efforts in the destruction of our democracy must be robustly resisted, so let’s get on with it as though our lives depend upon it – because they do.

  7. For those who think McConnell can’t possibly be that bad, consider this. He once filibustered a bill he himself had introduced simply because Obama said he supported it.

    I keep hearing the line, “Democrats do it, too.” Take my word for it, nobody has ever done it to the extent that today’s Republicans do it. If this Republic fails, it will be Republicans who will be responsible, but they will somehow escape the blame.

  8. McConnell won the 2014 primary with 60.2% of the vote. According to analysis by the University of Minnesota, this is the lowest voter support for a Kentucky U.S. Senator in a primary by either party since 1938. McConnell bested his Dem opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes 56-41 percent. He thought he had it in the bag, but he ended up having to fight for the win. And in the end, the 15-point win marked McConnell’s second-largest margin of victory in his 30 years in the Senate.

    He’s up for another go ’round next year. Let’s hope our Kentucky friends bury the toxic waste.

  9. I totally agree that Mitch McConnell is the most dangerous man in America … as witnessed by the 3/21/17 comment I sent to Sheila. (See the following copy.)

    “On the evening Obama was celebrating his first inauguration as President of the United States, Mitch McConnell and cronies were having a meeting to determine how to keep Obama from serving a second term. Who was at the meeting? What did they decide to do? Did they do what they decided to do? How many of them went to jail for treasonous activities?
    “One thing’s certain. McConnell did not go to jail. He was not punished for anything, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was quite willing to join forces with Fake President Trump to scuttle Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. As long as he goes unchallenged, he’ll continue to operate in the shadows .. or even in the sunlight.”

    I have not changed my mind.

  10. Todd @7:17a.m.

    You’re absolutely right. “McConnell is just another owned entity of Kleptocracy…which is exactly how they took the seat on the Supreme Court…they stole it.” There’s no sole cause.

    McConnell is just one of many actors. The problem isn’t about actors its about the INVISIBLE POLITICAL SYSTEM which everyone knows that it is there, but are too scared to face.

  11. I would strongly suggest that you might want to give Todd much more credit than what’s been displayed the past few months. He’s much younger and can see the future a lot better than we can at our age.

  12. Sheila, you and I are in complete agreement on McConnell. He is an enemy of democracy and should be the centerpiece of Joe Donnelley’s re-election campaign in 2018. How do I despise McConnell? Let me count the ways.

  13. There’s a big battle going on in D.C. these days between oligarchy, party over country, incompetence, inexperience, the end times and nepotism.

    In fact the only saving grace seems to be the complete inability of the players to collaborate in any way.

    The race has a finish line, the 2020 elections, and the biggest risk is that the inability to get anything meaningful done will allow the country to have coasted on the previous administrations accomplishments and reach there with all of the rot hidden from view.

    Suckers that we are we could just sign up for part 2 because journalism has continued to be profitable rather than useful. Bring on the clowns.

    So what we are counting on is the right degree of collapse to save us from us. It has to actually cause pain and that makes nuclear war or economic collapse leading contenders. But, we have to have been left enough functional government to rebuild from.

    I would have bet big bucks through most of my life that I would never be anything but proud and optimistic about where I was smart enough to choose my parents from.

    No longer. Failure is a necessary precursor to recovery.

  14. August 6th, 2016: McConnell took a moment during his own speech to tout his decision to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

    “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'”

    This is an interesting comment: McConnell: If President Obama does a Clintonian backflip, if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/when-did-mcconnell-say-he-wanted-to-make-obama-a-one-term-president/2012/09/24/79fd5cd8-0696-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html?utm_term=.4c825358f8cc

    McConnell’s, comment that Bill Clinton did a back flip was revealing. Some of us on Left had always felt Bill Clinton had no spine when it came to opposing Corporatism and Republicans.

  15. Louie; I keep asking but never get an answer, can you tell me…was Merrick Garland ever LEGALLY removed as a SCOTUS nominee…no matter who nominated him or how near the end of his presidential term…was any LEGAL procedure taken? Is Judge Garland still considered a nominee or did the election and inauguration of Trump automatically end the nomination after McConnell’s illegal refusal to set a hearing; could/did his refusal remove a nominee? There has to be an answer to this Constitutional issue requiring a hearing on all SCOTUS nominations.

    Of course there must also be an answer to the question; how could McConnell change the Senate hearing rules AFTER the vote and did he have the authority to appoint his party nominee?

    I’m still confused as to how Boehner had the authority to shut down the United States government – twice – while holding us hostage to control the president. I do NOT believe my confusion and lack of knowledge is due to not taking a civics class in high school. How will this be written in history books…or will it?

  16. Everyone seems to forget that Newt Gingrich started this partisanship. Mitch just ramped it up.

  17. I, too, immediately assumed that Sheila would name McConnell as the worst of the worst — an opinion I also hold. I have been fuming about him for years. Not surprisingly, my fuming (and cursing!) has had no effect. What finally occurs to me today is to ask is there anything we, collectively, can do to remove him from office? Progressives and even moderates have been energized and engaged post-November 8th. Though we’re not Kentuckians, are we a large enough and mad enough group to actually accomplish clipping his wings? Can we give money and lobby for ANY other senate candidate to defeat him? Can we find illegal or at least unethical actions of a significant enough scale to remove him from office? Are there any grounds for impeaching him? Suing him for not following the spirit of the constitution? Trying him for treason for the damage he’s done? Anything? And by the way, why didn’t anyone sue him to force him to act on Merrick Garland or any of the other purely power-grabbing actions he’s taken?

  18. Nancy: Beautiful and in very few words! I really admire that!

    Marv: You know what this is about and where the solutions lie if we are paying attention…which we aren’t.

  19. Sorry to change the subject, but it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance at the little MoveOn rally today. Thank you for your presence and thoughts

  20. Rae – Nope. Our sole means of ridding ourselves of the senior senator from Kentucky is at the polls. Suits would be dismissed on grounds of separation of powers, legislative immunity etc. Since he likes to change the rules to put people on the Supreme Court, perhaps we should agitate to change the rules and allow suits against legislators. Unfortunately, that would require a constitutional amendment and such a possibility ranges from slim to none. Alternatively, how about going in the back door and reducing these 6-year terms for senators? Nope, same problem. I have a recommendation. When he is back in Kentucky, have about 50,000 people show up on his front lawn with signs awaving and demanding his resignation. Unrealistic? Then how about putting people and money together to work against him in his next time out in the primary and, if necessary, in the general election? It will take a lot of both since he will have a lot of money thanks to libertarian tycoons such as the Kochs, Mercers, as well as the RNC et al., but it could happen. Worth a try, especially since his seat is state-wide and not subject to gerrymandering. If you start such a movement, tell me where I can send my campaign contributions.

  21. Every time Mitch McConnell’s face appears on my TV screen I feel like puking. I see from today’s blog that I’m not alone.
    Why doesn’t someone harness all this opposition energy?

  22. Excerpt from an email by Senator Joe Connelly, D-Ind:
    “As a pro-life Senator, I am committed to protecting the sanctity of life, and I have consistently supported legislation that prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions. This restriction, commonly known as the Hyde Amendment, allows for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
    I also believe we must protect women’s access to primary and preventive health care. That is why I support funding for Title X of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA, P.L. 78-410). Title X grants are used to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings, as well as sexually transmitted disease and HIV prevention education, counseling, and testing. I have also voted to ensure women have access to contraception and preventive care, and that women are not charged more than men for health insurance. ”
    That is different from the Democrat Platform:
    My issue is personal freedom and the right of the individual to choose.

  23. Does Joe Donnelly embrace this excerpt from the Democrat Party Platform copied and pasted here?

    “We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people.”

  24. Betty @ 2:12 p.m.

    “Marv: You know what this is about and where the solutions lie if we are paying attention…which we aren’t.”

    This is from Wikipedia: Theory of Multiple Intelligence.

    “The core elements of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are control of one’s bodily motions and the capacity to handle objects skilfully.[8] Gardner elaborates to say that this also includes a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses.

    People who have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence should be generally good at physical activities such as sports, dance, acting, and making things.

    Gardner believes that careers that suit those with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence include: athletes, dancers, musicians, actors, builders, police officers, and soldiers. Although these careers can be duplicated through virtual simulation, they will not produce the actual physical learning that is needed in this intelligence.[11]”

    Howard Gardner’s book is “Frames of Mind: The theory of Multiple Intelligences.”

    We both have bodily-kinethetic intelligence. You’ve been a swimming instructor. BSH also had bodily-kinetic intelligence. Her son was an All American football player. I believe Nancy also has it.

    The rest of the everyday participants in this blog are very analytically strong like Sheila. In a PERFECT DEMOCRATIC WORLD that would be enough. But that’s not the case NOW in the U.S.
    Consequently, their continuing response to my attempts to lead is usually REJECTION.

    It’s not necessarily a lack of CIVIC COURAGE. It’s a lack of being able to move forward in a very dangerous physical world.

    When I was a student at the University of Pensylvania, where Donald Trump also was a graduate, I was the top sociology student in the Wharton School of Finace as well as elected co-captain of the greatest team in Penn sports history as well as being elected #1 cadet my junior year at R.O.T.C. summer camp which included Texas A. & M. and the University of Texas.

    I don’t believe I lack BODILY-KINESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE. Without it, it is near impossible to have what Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed CIVIC COURAGE.

    We need to deal with the truth about ourselves before we lose it ALL.

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