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A premature obituary for the career of Mitch McConnell

Goodbye (hopefully) to the Senate Majority Leader who has all the grace of a toddler inhaling Cheetos from a Ziploc bag

Lauren Duca
New York
Thursday 14 November 2019 21:50 GMT
Mitch McConnell hits back at 'modern-day McCarthyism' amid row over election security and Russia

There are many promising agendas on display in the Democratic primary, but few policy solutions that can currently be put into practice so long as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in office. McConnell currently has a stronghold on the Senate, preserved via ruthless wielding of the 60-vote legislative filibuster. He’s explicitly stated that he will use this stronghold to block an impeachment attempt, too: in a recent campaign ad, McConnell says, “The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader.”

He must be stopped. The following is an obituary for McConnell’s legislative career, as we might look back upon it, when — I hope — he loses his seat in 2020. You will note the writer’s bias toward democracy.

Mitch McConnell, who has been blocking public will since before anyone in the United States owned a Nintendo console, saw his career in the Senate die on November 8th, 2020. The self-proclaimed “grim reaper” lost his seat when Kentucky voted to replace him with retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath. His obstruction of democracy was 35 years old.

McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1984. He would go on to become the singular most destructive legislative force in modern history. His desire to block public will was already manifest in the signature issue he focused on during his freshman term in office: opposing campaign finance reform. At the time, as now, public opinion was in favor of campaign finance reform, but McConnell determined that it wasn’t an issue people would vote on, and so he began advocating for the influence of money in politics. In work such as this, McConnnell seemingly embraced his role as a villain, quickly earning the nickname Darth Vader. Later there would be more nicknames: Moscow Mitch, Massacre Mitch, and, finally, Murder Turtle, which many feel is unfair to turtles.

McConnell earned all of these nicknames by unabashedly manipulating the Senate’s parliamentary procedures. The complex rules of order that constrain the nation’s most powerful legislative body can be wielded to extend debate and block bills from becoming law — tools for obstruction that made McConnell at times the most powerful person in the country. Indeed, he used his power for evil in its most essential form: as a void for creation. The man spent the better part of the past three decades sucking away at the potential of our nation by stopping policy that would benefit the country. Perhaps the nickname Darth Vader is also an unfair comparison, because at least Luke Skywalker’s dad has a tragic origin story. McConnell grew up dreaming of one day joining the Senate, and he began the work of undermining democracy as soon as he got there.

So it is a victory for not only for Kentuckians, but the whole of America, that McConnell’s Senate seat will now be laid to rest. Perhaps we can find a nice spot for it in the back corner of his legislative graveyard. There are other bodies buried there, including policies to prevent the mass shootings of the gun violence crisis ,which McConnell has singularly blocked. That McConnell was one of the major players of the Republican Party and that the National Rifle Association is among the biggest donors for the Republican Party speaks for itself.

There were exceptions to McConnell’s tireless work of obstructing policy solutions. He would allow the Senate to function properly if his Republican colleagues rallied around an issue. (Moscow Mitch worked tirelessly to block electoral protections, even when our intelligence agencies discovered that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and posed a threat in the lead-up to 2020. He ceded ground only in September of 2019, when the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a $250 million spending package to safeguard voting systems.)

In short, remedies for political problems were only on offer to McConnell’s tribe. And he demonstrated his allegiance to party over country most profoundly during the impeachment of Donald Trump. Instead of holding our Commander-in-Chief accountable through the system of checks and balances that defines the American experiment, the Majority Leader ran the Senate as if its entire function were to cover the President’s ass. There has hardly been a bad guy so into the black-and-white reading of his role since the release of the Die Hard franchise.

McConnell saw his place in government not as a representative of the American people, but as the team captain in a game in which winning was all that mattered. He spoke plainly in these terms, especially in regard to his monomaniacal goal of reshaping the judiciary. As McConnell once put it, “If you’re someone like me and most of my colleagues who would rather see America right of center than left of center, at the top of the list, if you want to have a long-term impact, would be lifetime appointments to the courts.”

Through his reign, McConnell wielded the filibuster as a lethal weapon. It ought to be noted that this practice does not only refer to a long-winded speech. The filibuster is any action intended to obstruct. These can be marathon monologues, of the sort seen in the movie Mr Smith Goes to Washington, or simply the refusal to vote for any given proposal. McConnell hung his own legislative career on that effort when he blocked Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In a move he called “the most consequential thing” he has ever done, McConnell denied President Obama’s ability to appoint a judge to the highest level of the judiciary, suppressing the will of the public, and holding that space for a Republican president’s discretion. Next, of course, came his skillful efforts to put Judge Brett Kavanaugh in power, in the face of public protest, and without commanding a full and complete investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct.

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In this, the stunning hypocrisy of McConnell revealed itself in spectacular shamelessness. After years of using the filibuster with brute force, he showed a willingness to abandon it in the effort of appointing over 100 judges to the federal court system. As Senate Majority Leader, the dark lord of obstruction proved himself to be a master enabler, shepherding nominees through the confirmation process with all the grace of a toddler inhaling Cheerios from a Ziploc bag.

It is difficult to say whether McConnell did more damage to our great nation through the things he accomplished, or because of all the progress he blocked. The former Senate Majority Leader will forever be remembered for knee-capping the advancement of policy solutions on climate change, gun reform, and healthcare, at once blocking proposals for remedy and refusing to offer alternatives. In the end, he can be credited with using his voice to routinely silence the American people, ultimately decimating even the pretense of democratic values at the highest level of US government.

The death of McConnell’s career was almost immediately followed by the death of the filibuster, said to have been crushed by news of McConnell’s career’s passing. Neither will be missed.

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