Tag Archives: Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell Issues A Threat

This morning, I’ve created a theoretical exercise. it’s intended to put you in the proper frame of mind to consider the latest outrage from Mitch McConnell–aka the most dangerous man in America.

Assume we are watching a TV western. The sheriff–having won a hard-fought election in his scruffy border town by promising to keep the residents safe from (unspecified) “bad guys”–issues a proclamation promising to deal severely with law-breakers. Well, maybe not all law-breakers. He’ll deal severely with any law-breakers who supported his opponent in the election.

If someone who supported him breaks the rules, however, he says he’ll look the other way.

If we encountered  a show with that plot device, we’d be incredulous–not only is that not what we mean when we champion law and order, we’d turn the TV off while muttering about the ridiculous premise–after all, when TV bad guys decide to engage in nefarious acts, they don’t typically broadcast that intention. If that storyline did appear in our fictional TV episode, we’d expect the local folks–including those who’d supported the sheriff– to rise up and run him and his co-conspirators out of town, thereby reinforcing the primacy of justice over partisanship.

Which brings us to Mitch McConnell.

After the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Jackson, a Black female jurist, will replace Merrick Garland), McConnell reacted with a threat.

In an interview with the conservative radio commentator Hugh Hewitt, Mr. McConnell said Republicans would most likely block any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Mr. Biden in 2024 if Republicans regained control of the Senate in next year’s elections and a seat came open.

Along with most lawyers, I was astonished and infuriated in 2016 when McConnell brazenly refused even to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, piously intoning that it was “too close to the presidential election,” although that election was months away and nominees had previously been confirmed to the Court during similar timeframes..

As we all saw, that excuse was shown to be the partisan hogwash it was when Trump nominated, and McConnell pushed through,  Amy Coney Barrett a mere six weeks before the November election.

Republicans who had banded together in 2016 at Mr. McConnell’s urging and declared that it was not appropriate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee during an election year had remarkable conversions in the case of Judge Barrett. The Republican leader insisted that he had not changed his position, arguing that because Mr. Obama was a Democrat, it was entirely appropriate for members of his party to block his nominee.

“What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” Mr. McConnell told Mr. Hewitt. “And that’s why we went ahead with it.”

Partisan misuse of power, in McConnell-land, is “entirely appropriate.”

America without the rule of law would not be America. As far short of our aspirations and stated beliefs as this country has often fallen, it still seems absolutely incomprehensible that a high-ranking, powerful political figure would publicly–proudly!– trumpet his intention to ignore so foundational a principle.

I often refer to the rule of law, assuming readers understand its importance. The shorthand we all hear is: the same rules apply to everyone. Maybe that’s too abstract.

As an educational site maintained by the US Courts defines the concept:

Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: Publicly promulgated, Equally enforced, Independently adjudicated; and consistent with international human rights principles.

The Trump administration waged an unrelenting attack on the rule of law, culminating with Trump’s pardons of some of its sleaziest transgressors. But even Trumpers as morally and ethically compromised as Bill Barr drew the line at publicly announcing their disdain for fair and equal application of the rules.

McConnell is the sheriff from my mythical TV show–the guy who publicly announces that the rules don’t matter–that whenever possible, he will ignore fundamental fairness and the national interest, and exercise power solely to privilege his partisans.

In a very real sense, he has promised  a coup. 

Michael Flynn must be so pleased.

 

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

There’s an old saying to the effect that karma is a bitch. A decade or more after Citizens United and Mitt Romney’s pious declaration that “corporations are people too,” we may be seeing an example.

My friend Mike Leppert has a weekly blog, and last week he considered the current state of corporate-GOP relations.He pointed to emerging policy differences between some of America’s largest corporations and the Republican Party that has for many years reflexively relied on their money and support.

Leppert–and a significant number of other pundits–focused on a statement made by Mitch McConnell in the wake of corporate criticisms of GOP efforts at vote suppression.  McConnell warned corporate America  “to stay out of politics.” He hastily added that he wasn’t  talking about political contributions. Those, evidently, should keep coming.

As Leppert noted,  it was tantamount to telling the business community to pay up and shut up.

On Wednesday, McConnell admitted he had not spoken “artfully” the day before, but continued to warn against “economic blackmail,” which is his description for the corporate responses in Georgia to its recently enacted voter suppression law.

It wasn’t all that long ago that local Chambers of Commerce were functionally an arm of the GOP.  Their interests were the same; as Leppert says,  both loved low taxes, small government, little to no regulation–“money-making stuff.” But demographics really can be destiny. Those white male Country Club Republicans can no longer count on running things.

There is less and less money in alienating black and brown people. Women and LGBT people generally don’t think much of voter suppression either. And all of these groups of Americans represent customers, talent, and yes, even investors in companies of which the GOP used to rely. The country club members just aren’t as enamored with where the Republican Party has been heading lately, and since I brought it up, country clubs aren’t as desirable as they used to be either.

Add to that observation the fact that the GOP has changed rather dramatically since the heyday of country-club Republicanism. It’s no longer a business-friendly interest group; it has devolved into a White Supremicist cult waging culture war. Whatever one’s differences with those bygone country club Republicans, a significant portion of them described themselves as “fiscally conservative but socially liberal,” and they have been horrified by the current iteration of the GOP. Tax cuts can only go so far in insuring partisan fidelity.

The disenchantment of Corporate America with the GOP may have been exacerbated by efforts in Georgia and Texas to suppress minority votes, but it has been building over time. In January, following the insurrection at the Capitol, the New York Times reported on a survey of corporate executives.

To better understand this moment it is worth considering the results of an informal poll of 40 top executives conducted by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management. Mr. Sonnenfeld regularly gathers C.E.O.s to gauge their views on the most important issues facing their companies, and he did so virtually this week amid increasing alarm in the business community at what they witnessed in Washington. The results are revealing. Here’s a selection:

Did President Trump help incite last week’s violent attack on Congress?

Yes: 100 percent
No: 0 percent

Should President Trump be impeached and removed from office?

Yes: 96 percent
No: 4 percent

Was it right for the social network tech firms to block President Trump from their platforms?

Yes: 85 percent
No: 15 percent

Should business PACs and trade associations cut off donations to legislators who aided sedition?

Yes: 100 percent
No: 0 percent

Should business halt all political donations?

Yes: 42 percent
No: 58 percent

There was more, but these responses and several others should have served as a warning to McConnell and his ilk not to take the relationship between Republicans and Corporate America for granted.

The short-sighted folks who cheered the decision in Citizens United said they wanted free speech for business. Evidently, it didn’t occur to them that the interests of the business community and the Republican Party might diverge, and that those free speech rights might be exercised to express disapproval of the GOP.

Karma is a bitch.

Excuse me while I experience a bit of schadenfreude.

 

Contemplating The Mob

It’s difficult–no, impossible–to describe my reaction to what happened at the nation’s capitol on Wednesday. I gave myself an extra day to process it, but I’m still unable to adequately convey my reaction.

Earlier in the day, my husband listened to the disconnected, angry “speech” delivered by soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump, so I couldn’t help hearing most of it–despite the fact that the sound of his voice makes me physically ill. If I had to characterize what I heard, I would use words like “incoherent” “self-pitying” and “delusional.” 

Trump’s interminable rant finally ended just before 1 p.m.,with his offer to lead a march to the Capitol, where Congress was assembled for the entirely ceremonial acceptance of Electoral College votes. He didn’t lead the march, of course–he went back to the White House–but a large number of those in his audience proceeded to march to the Capitol, where they toppled the barricades that had been erected, broke windows and breached the Capitol building.

Speaking of those barricades, there were fewer than usual, raising some ugly questions made even more concerning by the scarcity and restraint–and in some cases, what looked like participation– of Capitol police. Numerous people have noted that the slim police presence was in stark contrast to security during Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year, when more than 5,000 officers were deployed. There were only 115 on duty at any one time on Wednesday–even though police had ample warning; right-wingers had been engaged in online planning for weeks.

For the next four hours, as my husband and I switched between C-SPAN, NBC and CBS, we saw an attempted coup–and not a bloodless one. One person was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died. Three others apparently died as well.

From what the television cameras showed, the mob was composed of Trump’s typical supporters– Proud Boys, QAnon conspirators, “good old boys” waving Confederate and Trump flags and toting guns, Neo-Nazis in MAGA hats. One shirtless thug displayed a Ku Klux Klan tattoo on his abdomen, another wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt. We watched, astonished, as they took selfies and ransacked Congressional offices.

The Governors of Virginia and Maryland belatedly activated their National Guard units–reportedly, Trump had earlier refused a request to do so– and the Mayor of DC imposed a 6:00 pm curfew. 

An hour or more into the mayhem, in response to pleas from several Senators, Trump issued a statement that the mob should “go home”–but only after repeating his election falsehoods, telling them that he “loved them” and assuring them that he considered them “very special.” 

This riot (on behalf of the “law and order” party) can be directly attributed to Trump and the cynical and deeply dishonorable members of the House and Senate–including Indiana Senator Mike Braun– who had announced their intent to “object” to the receipt of Electoral College votes. Their unprecedented betrayal of their oaths of office finally drew bipartisan condemnation.

I was no fan of former President George W. Bush, but I applaud his statement that he had been “appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election.” Even Mitch McConnell–aka Mr. Evil–excoriated those who participated in what can only be considered a frontal attack on American democracy. And for the first time in four years, Mike Pence (reluctantly) declined to enable and defend one of Donald Trump’s multiple assaults on the Constitution.

As for Hawley, Cruz (and Braun), conservative columnist George Will said it best:

The Trump-Hawley-Cruz insurrection against constitutional government will be an indelible stain on the nation. They, however, will not be so permanent. In 14 days, one of them will be removed from office by the constitutional processes he neither fathoms nor favors. It will take longer to scrub the other two from public life. Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished, from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet “S” as a seditionist.

It’s too soon to predict what the ultimate fallout from this appalling insurrection will be. For now, I’ll just share a message posted to Facebook by my friend Kevin Osborn–a message with which I entirely agree:

As the sun sets on this momentous day, I am thankful for Stacey Abrams and others in Georgia for their phenomenal work in getting out the vote. I refuse to let the actions of a relatively small group of treasonous domestic terrorists and their addled, unfit leader ruin the historic event that took place last night and that so many have fought and died for over many years. We will move forward from this treachery and those that cannot will be left behind in history’s trash bin.

Amen to that.

 

 

 

 

For And Against

It’s a political truism that turnout improves when voters are motivated by negativity. In other words, the impulse to vote against a candidate, party or issue is stronger than the desire to register support for those of whom we approve.

We’ve certainly seen that play out in the Presidential election. I happen to be one of those people who really, really likes Joe Biden, for reasons not relevant to this post, but it has been clear for some time that hostility to Donald Trump and his enablers is driving many more people to the polls than warm feelings for Joe.

Anger and disgust are also playing a major role in contests for the Senate, and  eye-popping fundraising totals have been one result. Friends of mine who never appear on lists of big donors–and who rarely give financial support to candidates outside their own districts–have been sending multiple small-dollar donations to Democrats around the country who are running against Republicans they find particularly odious.

I doubt that all the money going to Amy McGrath will allow her to edge out Mitch McConnell–it is, after all, Kentucky. I hope I’m wrong. I can think of no individual who has done more harm to America than “the turtle,” and I would love to see McGrath wipe that smarmy smirk off McConnell’s face. Whatever the result, the enormous success of McGrath’s fundraising testifies to the extent to which McConnell is a hated figure.

I do have hopes for Jaime Harrison, who is polling dead even with “Miss Lindsey” Graham. Harrison is a truly impressive candidate, but the astonishing success of his fundraising  is more attributable to the number of Americans who detest Graham than it is to his considerable virtues.

Frank Bruni recently wrote that the Harrison-Graham contest has become a “national obsession.”

It was a bit of news that came and went quickly amid the fury of political developments these days, but last weekend Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina Democrat who is fighting to unseat Lindsey Graham, announced that he had not merely broken the record for fund-raising for a Senate candidate in a single quarter. He had shattered it.

From July through September, Harrison took in about $57 million. That was nearly $20 million more than Beto O’Rourke, the previous record-holder, collected during the same span two years ago, when he waged his ultimately unsuccessful battle against Ted Cruz in Texas.

As Bruni observed, Harrison is the recipient of so much money because he’s the vessel of so much hope.

No other political contest in 2020 offers quite the same referendum on the ugliness of Donald Trump’s presidency. No victory would rebut Trump’s vision of America as emphatically and powerfully as Harrison’s would.

Remember the time before Trump’s Electoral College win, when Graham said the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell”? Now he’s not only Trump’s adoring golf buddy, he’s his obedient factotum. (His U-Turn on Trump was so dramatic, it raises speculation that Trump has something on him and is blackmailing him.)

Graham’s most odious, most despicable “U Turn,” of course, has been on vivid display in the frantic and unseemly haste to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

When he assisted Mitch McConnell in stealing Merrick Garland’s seat on the Supreme Court, Graham claimed that he’d never consider, let alone promote, a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of a president’s term. We’ve all seen the footage of him telling journalists to “mark his words and use them against him if the need ever arose.”

Somehow, the word “shameless” seems inadequate…

As Bruni wrote,

One of the main story lines of the Trump years has been the spectacular moral capitulation of most Republican lawmakers, who junked supposedly cherished principles to placate a president whose hold on his base and capacity for vengeance mattered more to them than honor, than patriotism, than basic decency. Graham is the poster boy of that surrender, Complicitus Maximus, in part because his 180-degree turn to Trump required that he show his back to his close friend and onetime hero John McCain.

It’s nice that Jaime Harrison is so admirable and qualified, but that $57 million dollars is a measure of how detestable most honorable Americans find Graham.

The massive early voting turnouts we are seeing would appear to confirm the political premise that more people turn out to express disgust than approval. Let’s hope that holds true even in the deep red states…

 

What Is The Remedy For A McConnell?

An article I read in Vox a month or so ago has continued to bother me. The subject-matter was summed up in the sub-head: “The political system has an answer for a threat like Donald Trump, but none for a threat like Mitch McConnell.”

If Trump often acts like he is above the law, it is only because McConnell lets him. If McConnell decided to lead Senate Republicans in investigating and curbing Trump’s corruption, abuses of power, and obstruction of justice, Trump’s options would be to reform his behavior or be ejected from office.

The article goes on to make a point that is so obvious it is often overlooked. Despite their  differences (McConnell is evil, calculating and smart, Trump is mentally disordered, undisciplined and stupid) they do have one thing in common. They are both utterly shameless.

At the core of this is McConnell’s peculiar form of political shamelessness. This is the way McConnell and Trump are more similar than is often appreciated: they have both proven that the range of political action is disciplined less by external constraint than by a politician’s sense of shame — the degree to which they turn back in the face of public criticism, media opprobrium, elite backlash.

It was shamelessness, for instance, that let McConnell refuse to hold a hearing on Merrick Garland and then, grinning, admit that he’d fill a Supreme Court seat if one came up in 2020. McConnell’s predecessors held the same power he did and none of them attempted that maneuver. They weren’t restrained by laws or rules. They were restrained by temperament and a belief that to break the system was to betray the public.

When political scientists talk about “democratic norms,” it is the restraints of temperament and fidelity to tradition and rules that they are referencing.  McConnell has demonstrated his rejection of political accountability, and the system has no mechanism for dealing with someone who acts as if the rules simply don’t apply to him.

The Founders designed our form of government with demagogues in mind. That’s why the president is checked by Congress, up to and including the threat of removal. But they believed that Congress would consider itself in competition with the president, that ambition would check ambition. They did not foresee the rise of political parties and the way that would bring parts of Congress into cooperation with the president, that ambition would protect ambition.

The political system has an answer for a threat like Donald Trump but none for a threat like Mitch McConnell.

McConnell isn’t simply ignoring duties imposed by the Constitution; he is– as the Vox article says–shameless. His actions defy our expectations of normal human behavior, not because he is breaking the rules in order to benefit himself (lots of people do that), but because he is publicly flaunting his violations and daring observers to do anything about them.

As Rochefoucauld said, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. McConnell is withholding that tribute. He doesn’t even pretend to behave honorably; his entire, smug demeanor says “I’m demolishing longstanding norms and traditions because I can and there is nothing any of you can do about it.”

The only remedies available are political: McConnell could lose his Senate race in 2020, or Democrats could take the Senate, removing his authority to do significant damage. Given that he represents Kentucky, the first is unlikely. (Possible, but unlikely.)

The second, I submit, is mandatory. Both he and Trump have to go, and only massive turnout will rid us of both of them.