The Gravedigger Of American Democracy

This post is a plea to my Indiana readers.

When those of you who haven’t already voted go to the polls, vote for Joe Donnelly.

Am I enthusiastic about Donnelly? No. His television ads are insulting (although not quite as despicable as the spots supporting his opponent, Braun.) Those ads repel rather than motivate the Democratic base and they infuriate even moderate Democrats. His support for Trump’s wall is an obvious play for the sizable and embarrassing contingent of Hoosiers who oppose immigration and fear immigrants.(News flash, wall enthusiasts: the great majority of “illegal” immigrants fly to the U.S. and then overstay a visa. A wall–even if building it on the border were feasible–would do exactly nothing to deter them. But don’t let logic interfere with your bigotry.)

There’s more, but it’s all irrelevant, because a vote for Donnelly is a vote against Mitch McConnell. And that makes it really, really important.

In a review of a book on the rise of Hitler that drew parallels between the 30s in Germany and the contemporary U.S., ( the book title is The Suffocation of Democracy), the New York Review of Books included a perfect characterization of McConnell:

If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more.

As one of my sons noted, in a Facebook exchange with a Democrat unhappy with Donnelly,

As most of us (sadly) recognize, we don’t have a choice on the ballot between “perfect”and not perfect; we only have a choice between “decent” (Donnelly) and “horrible” (Braun/McConnell). Let’s go for decent.

Donnelly will vote for Democratic priorities about half of the time. Braun will vote for right-wing Republican priorities and continue to demonstrate his fidelity to Trump and Trumpism all of the time.

A Republican friend has come to the same conclusion. Commenting on the Donnelly/Braun race, he wrote that Braun, in his view, had violated one of Indiana’s most important values by running explicitly as a “Christian.”

Does that not make it appropriate to ask which biblical verses he adheres to and which he does not? Which he elevates and which he dismisses? Perhaps candidates will need on a scale of 1 to 10 to rate their conviction in various tenets of Christian faith, so we know who to trust.

How are these questions not appropriate if Braun runs as if Christianity is a qualification for office, when in Indiana, it explicitly is not.

I’m not being clever. Braun’s kind of campaigning is so outrageous that our Ancestors here saw through it…. Recognized the danger and the nonsense…and banned religion as a qualification for government. I don’t think anybody who doesn’t understand that has any business near the levers of power.

I agree. But even if Braun weren’t so obviously an eager participant in the Trumpist assault on American and Hoosier values, even if he wasn’t touting his Christian credentials at a time when Trump is demonizing immigrants and engaging in rhetoric that encouraged a rightwing fanatic to mow down eleven Jews, a vote for Donnelly would still be important.

Why? Because Donnelly’s first vote will be against Mitch McConnell, and McConnell–aka the most evil man in America–is the gravedigger of American Democracy. And a vote for Donnelly–warts and all– is an opportunity to cast a vote against Mitch McConnell.

And any vote against Mitch McConnell is a vote to be proud of.


  1. We have lots of democracy gravediggers in the USA. McConnell is definitely one of them. He is one of the most obvious sociopaths in the Senate. His skill at lying makes you wonder about his personal life. The propagandists on Twitter admonished the “violence on the left” for tossing McConnell’s take-home bag from the diner into the street.

    This happened before the Jewish murders in Pittsburg and the pipe bombs from a Trump zealot.

    Political theater has consequences and the bozos running this country know exactly what they are doing. Don’t you think Rupert Murdoch is a smart guy? He knows exactly what the purpose is of his propagandized Fox News.

    One of the results is to get an educated woman like Sheila to write, “Donnelly will vote for Democratic priorities about half of the time.”

    While this is true in context, our reality makes this laughable. Voting for Donnelly is the lesser of two evils once again but just don’t expect evil to do anything for you once elected.

    Even Hillary Clinton said she’ll make a decision about running for POTUS after the midterms.


    The young people are showing up in droves for progressive candidates when they are offered, progressive candidates. Look what happened over in Bloomington when nearly a thousand students marched with Bernie to an early voting site to vote for their progressive candidate.

    I’ll be holding my breath when casting a ballot for Donnelly because he didn’t earn it. As Sheila notes, it’s a vote against the other guy…

    That’s not really a Democratic vote, is it??

    Students around the country are organizing to march out of class next Tuesday and go vote. You want them to stay home in 2020, run Hillary Clinton.

    She lost to the Libertarian candidate with voters younger than 35. 😉

    When we’ve devolved into the lesser of two evils, don’t expect much from our government. Plato’s truism has already prevailed…we have a Kakistocracy until we have better options. Donnelly won’t improve the Kakistocracy in Washington…he’s a symptom of it.

  2. My sentiments exactly. McConnell is sure to be in charge of the Senate AGAIN if Donnelly loses. That alone would be sufficient reason to vote for Donnelly.

    Donnelly votes with his fellow Democrats more than half the time and especially on some critical issues. He opposed separation of children from their immigrant parents at our southern border. He opposed the tax cuts concentrated on our wealthiest corporations and individuals in part because he knew McConnell wanted a larger deficit to justify cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    In the debate, Braun repeatedly declined to say how he would vote on important issues by saying he had ‘real world’ experience. I wanted to know how he would VOTE. He did say he would protect pre-existing conditions, but he dismissed an employee 2 weeks after the employee’s heart surgery. If that’s Braun’s ‘real world’, PLEASE spare us and vote for Joe Donnelly who voted to keep the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and coverage of pre-existing conditions in place. Obamacare also prevent caps on coverage. I have to wonder if capping coverage was the reason Braun fired his employee with the recovering heart. I don’t want to risk Braun treating the rest of America that way.

  3. I don’t understand why voters in Indiana don’t understand that we have ONE Democratic Senator representing us at the top level. 1 – 1 = 0 DO THE MATH.

    President Obama, being well aware of the quality of some of the Democratic candidates across this country is not what we hoped for which is why he said; “Don’t be looking for a Messiah.” Keep this in mind; it is the Republican party claiming to be this nation’s representative of the Messiah through their evangelical Bible thumping.

    There is another mathematical equation being repeated in the media which I don’t understand; it is regarding the Trump presidential win. Only mentioned is the 2 million plus popular votes more than Trump which Hillary received; the more than 7 million votes for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson were also against Trump, totaling more than 10 MILLION votes against him. That is a more impressive number to me and we are currently in a numbers came as we try to recoup some Democratic seats at all levels.

    I keep hoping that the loud and ridiculous campaigning by Trump is a sign that we are in a “Tortoise and Hare Race” and the Democratic party is quietly moving ahead as the tortoise did in that parable, never losing sight of the goal at stake. I have the same hopes for Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.


  4. I will be voting for Donnelly for the very reasons you outlined above, but at some point the Democratic party should realize that they need some new blood to motivate Millennials (and Gen Y and Gen X). The whole Hillary/Bernie drama fueled by a clearly biased DNC soured many on the Democratic party and fed the feeling that establishment politicians should be avoided no matter their political affiliation. Pelosi, Schumer, et all need to step aside so newer voices can be heard and can motivate newer voters.

    Constantly marketing conservative democrats—or Republican light—
    doesn’t represent what the vast majority of young voters—who outnumber Boomers by a huge margin— want. They would like to see true liberals (I won’t use the dreaded “S” word: socialist), on the ballot. The tired excuse that a liberal will not win in red states isn’t playing to the next generation of voters who will not see choosing the “lesser of two evils” as any kind of choice at all. They will simply disengage from the system, a system they don’t believe represents them. And before we add “failure to vote” as another Millennial flaw, we had better have some viable options on the ballot. For many, Donnelly is no different that Braun.

  5. Another mea culpa regarding my poor editing skills; that should of course read “numbers GAME”, not “came”.

    A return to a comment I made yesterday; my granddaughter said people from the Flat Rock Christian Church came to her after the election earlier this year and told her “her vote didn’t go through”. They asked if she had pressed the right button; she assured them she had. How and why would a church have that information on a voter?

    And again, VOTE BLUE!

  6. I voted for a write-in candidate, because Joe Donnelly is a conservative with a (D) behind his name, and if he’d rather have moderate Republican votes, he can forget the progressive, leftist, and socialist voters, as far as I’m concerned. Furthermore, while you might see voting for the disgrace of Donnelly as a vote against McConnell, that means it’s also a vote for Chuck Schumer, the Israel-supporting, Wall Street owned corporatist Democrat, and that’s not exactly a good selling point. I voted for a write-in candidate absentee, and would advise all leftists to not support centrist, conservative, Wall-supporting, pro-ICE Democrats like Donnelly, because they are as much an enemt of leftist principles as the Republicans are.

  7. I voted for a write-in candidate, because Joe Donnelly is a conservative with a (D) behind his name, and if he’d rather have moderate Republican votes, he can forget the progressive, leftist, and socialist voters, as far as I’m concerned. Furthermore, while you might see voting for the disgrace of Donnelly as a vote against McConnell, that means it’s also a vote for Chuck Schumer, the Israel-supporting, Wall Street owned corporatist Democrat, and that’s not exactly a good selling point. I voted for a write-in candidate absentee, and would advise all leftists to not support centrist, conservative, Wall-supporting, pro-ICE Democrats like Donnelly, because they are as much an enemy of leftist principles as the Republicans are.

  8. Sheila – Perfect, just perfect. Thank you.

    Todd – In Donnelly’s latest ads, he pretty much declares himself an Independent and not a Democrat. I will note that this is also the ad where he equates yelling at Sarah Sanders with inciting the murder of Jews, but he was clearly advised to sound more Trump-like in order to win. Maybe he will be primaried in six years if he wins.

    Andy – As a Boomer, who was called a communist by his congresswoman for supporting an anti-war (Vietnam) primary challenger when he was 16, I came across some old party slates from the days. It had a picture of FDR in the logo. The current Democratic Party should properly have one of Reagan. I am counting on the newer generations to bring us back. I will be with them at the barricades, so to speak.

  9. I, too, would like to move the millennials. I want to move them to the voting booth. We see their response to candidates like Beto. They come for the good time, partying with their friends, but then they go home and forget that what this is all about is the election. The election is not a good time. It is not a party. It is an obligation of citizenship. Too few of them understand that. If Beto loses, it will be because they couldn’t be bothered to take a couple of hours and show up when and where it counts.

    I have said this before, but it is worth repeating. Local Democratic parties are ripe for takeover. They are generally moribund. Some of them, as Todd has noted, are corrupt. If you want a better party, you can make it a better party. Until then:


    Our democracy may depend on it.

  10. If Braun wants to tout his status as a Christian, is it not reasonable to ask him if he believes in complete immersion for baptism or only “sprinkles”? (i.e. – yes, this is all absurd, and there are people who get riled over that aspect of their religion.) VOTE BLUE!

  11. The contrast in advertising between Donnelly and Braun is vivid. The Braun commercials, funded by Mitch McConnell’s PAC, are slanderous at least, maybe worse. I keep waiting for them to say that Donnelly “shamelessly matriculated when he entered college” to paraphrase an old attack. Donnelly ‘s commercials at least make some contact with reality. Braun’s campaign is looking desperate but I worry that the loyal Indiana Republican farmers will be convinced that Donnelly is a “liberal that votes with Pelosi and Schumer” and will vote for Braun in spite of the many unanswered questions about his policies and his “performance” in the “debates”.

  12. Good morning Sheila,

    No worries regarding me. I will vote for Donnelly for all the reasons you listed. Anything that I personally can do to bring Mitch McConnell down I will gleefully do. He is indeed the gravedigger of American democracy and has been for a long, long time. Thank you for using that expression in describing him since it helps me avoid using the profanity that I learned in the Navy serving with the Marines when I was a kid. I’d rather not have the error in my home deep navy blue via the vocabulary I use to describe this man. I should’ve studied abnormal psychology along with political science so that I could get a handle on how people end up like him, espousing such a radically vile zero sum political philosophy that he has to know will hurt millions of his fellow citizens and hurt them badly. His are not the actions of a credible Senate Majority Leader and I wish our system had a little bit more of the British influence via the parliamentary system where at some point a vote of no confidence could be taken on him and he would be sent packing with a big boot kicking him right out the front door in the process.

    Regarding these ads, the ones for Braun in particular, the money must be good for those that do the voice tracks for them because when I hear or see them I wonder about the people that do those voice tracks. Were they trained to be liars and as a result reading disingenuous commentary comes easy for them? I find myself wondering how much they get paid to lie or twist the truth inside out.

    All of this crud has to be stopped and hopefully next Tuesday it will be all on its way out the door with the next goal being bringing the 71 year old infant that occupies the White House down as soon as it’s possible to do so. As bad as he is you have identified the real legislative monster in the mash – Mitch McConnell. Sometimes I wish that I knew voodoo since his voodoo doll would look like a porcupine.

  13. Something is better than nothing, and as an old friend of mine used to say in this context > “and I oughta know; I’ve tried both.” If you think Joe Donnelly is bad, try Mitch, or Grassley, or. . . . Yes, I know all about the liberal arguments for not voting for Donnelly, being a liberal, but when I survey the alternatives, I do the best I can with my vote given the reality of the situation, and the reality is that the alternative is a vote for Trump, an idea I find totally abhorrent. Sheila’s concern has to do with the vote on Senate leadership after the election, and rightly so, and if Donnelly should lose and if one vote made the difference, we will have endorsed Trumpism, and that’s a nay, no, nyet, never! Considering the awful alternative and even though we may feel our principles have taken a hit, let’s do our duty Tuesday in the hope that in so doing we will remove Mitch from his tax and judge making perch and in so doing perhaps also save our democracy.

  14. I agree wholeheartedly! And have voted straight Blue. Political ads need to be held to a higher standard. Media companies win financially but as public licensed entities they must defend the public trust. All the hyperbolic BS has done much to demoralize citizens and make them cynical non voting USA inhabitants.

  15. Unfortunately, in many local Indiana races there was only one choice on the ballot – a Republican candidate, almost overwhelmingly an incumbent. Agree that “Voting Blue”, even though imperfect, is better and the only way to go. Our country’s future depends on it.

  16. Peggy @ 8:36 am: “I, too, would like to move the millennials. I want to move them to the voting booth. We see their response to candidates like Beto. They come for the good time, partying with their friends, but then they go home and forget that what this is all about is the election. The election is not a good time. It is not a party. It is an obligation of citizenship. Too few of them understand that. If Beto loses, it will be because they couldn’t be bothered to take a couple of hours and show up when and where it counts.”
    What a hatchet job on the millennial’s. You have really pulled out all the stereotypes out insulting the millennial’s as a whole.

  17. During my time working and living in Jerusalem for three years, the separation Wall was still under construction. The political intent for the Wall was to
    protect the occupiers from the occupied. But guess who the majority laborers were and where a good portion of their wages went to their families on which side? If the President’s fear mongering comes to fruition to build that Wall across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, precisely where will the labor force come from to work in 112 F weather? Maybe that is what the President meant after all during his campaign except you and I are going to pay for it? What Donnelly said in his ad is that it will take a bi-partisan Congress to support the wall. I did not interpret that as having HIS support.

  18. May I recommend a second candidate for the title “Gravedigger of American Democracy?” An October 17 Atlantic Magazine article refers to Newt Gingrich as “The Man Who Broke Politics” and claims he “turned partisan battles into bloodsport, wrecked Congress, and paved the way for Trump’s rise.” It would be a close contest to select the greater evil, but Gingrich’s bona fides are indisputable. For example, in rationalizing his misogyny (he hates women almost as much as Trump does) he tells the following story: “The male lion procreates, protects the pride, and sleeps. The females hunt, and as soon as they find something, the male knocks them over and takes the best portion. It’s the opposite of every American feminist vision of the world—but it’s a fact!”

    Many who thought they had forever abandoned the emotion of hate rediscovered it when Newt came on the scene, and then collided with it again when the putrefied disease called Trumpism reared its ugly head. Were it not for Trump’s ascendancy, Newt would also be a contender for the title of “The Worst Man in the World.” He has worked hard to earn that appellation.

  19. I went to off-track betting (electing)at the library today intending to do my civic duty away from the November 6th crowds. I have known for many months that I had no choice: I would vote Straight Ticket Democrat despite that would be a vote for the self-called ‘democrat’, Joe Donnelly, whom I dubbed “GOP-Lite”. Why? Joe is Hoosier GOP-Lite. Ask him. Joe proudly proclaims in writing that he differs from maligned Democrats on certain no-brainer fairness issues such as a woman’s right to choose. He says he is “pro-Life”. Everyone is Pro Life, Joe. No one is the implied opposite, pro-death.
    Why not be pro-Fairness, Joe? Why legislate to give old men like Mitch McConnell and Louie Gohmert the power to control my daughters’ healthcare? Why enact Draco laws aimed at our women, especially at our poor women?

  20. OMG; those will be very credible questions…IF Joe Donnelly is reelected. Has anyone bothered to ask him any of those questions since he was elected 6 years ago? The Indiana Democratic Party should have been confronting him along with other Democratic Senators during his current term.

    Curtis Hill’s accusations came out a few months ago; the accusations against Brian Bosma appeared less than 2 weeks ago. He is sitting in his 32nd year in the Indiana House and now people are wanting immediate answers; this is one time “better late than never” is meaningless in this Republican state.


  21. America is caught in the historical rapids of three powerful rivers. All originate from the same origin. Entitlement to wealth/power.

    The first is the swing in focus for the Republican minority from governance to the accumulation of power. Arguably it started in the 1970s with Lee Atwater a maker of kings. It continued through several generations including Newt Gringrich, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, now Mitch McConnell.

    The second is the funding of those people and the politicians that they advised in order to make it worth their while to accumulate power in order to get wealthy. The Koch Bros led that river of money but they had plenty of help from others like Sheldon Adleson, Robert Mercer, etc.

    The third river were the entertainers who converted money from sponsors into compelling propaganda enlisting loyal voters. Certainly Rush Limabaugh pioneered that but was followed up most productively by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

    I’m pretty sure that if you asked the famous “man on the street” what defined American government when I was young the most common answer would have been democracy. Today it would be related to dirty politics mud wrestling for power.

    None of this can be attributed to anything but intention – the worship of weath/power and Lord Acton’s famous power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Trump and Pence are the culmination of that sordid history. American democracy is the victim. We the people are. The future of self rule is.

    Tues will go down in history as the start of the modern revolution or the failure of the American Dream.

  22. The Trump/Faux News death count so far is 60: 11 killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue murders and 49 in Nigeria, following Trump’s rhetoric that rock-throwers should be shot. That’s just in the last week. How many more people will actually die before the orange rodeo clown is sent packing back to his golden tower in Manhattan?

    This week, Faux News put out the false story that the migrants, 900 miles away and on foot, are carrying leprosy and smallpox, the latter of which was eradicated from the face of the earth in the 1970s. Just yesterday, I saw a post in which Trump fanatics are blaming the mysterious viral illness that attacks childrens nervous systems on migrants. Even the CDC and WHO don’t know the cause, but that doesn’t stop Trumpian fanatics from seizing on the fear of this illness and pandering to the deplorables that are their supporters. If there was even some small hint that it is coming from migrants, the CDC would say so, since Trump controls them. I worry that a family of some child coming down with this illness may go on a killing spree against migrants. His disciples don’t seem fazed by facts or science. In fact, they repudiate science. It could well be some defect in polio vaccine or simply a mutation of a known virus is responsible, but so long as people can be frightened by the prospect that migrants are to blame, Trump will pander to that fear.

    I keep asking: what does it take to stop this insanity?

  23. I have said for yrs that Mitch is the architect of evil. I think he represents a portion of the party that does not believe in democracy. He has done more damage then most.

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