Tag Archives: Mitch McConnell

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.

 

Can We Ditch Mitch?

I love Gail Collins, the columnist for the New York Times. Hell, I want to be Gail Collins when I grow up (assuming I ever do).

A couple of days ago, her column was titled “Let’s Ditch Mitch!” It’s a sentiment with which I ardently agree.

She began:

O.K., throwing this one at you without warning: What’s your opinion of Mitch McConnell?

A) Spawn of Satan.

B) Sort of pitiful, what with having Donald Trump on his back.

C) Can we talk about how he looks like a turtle?

Definitely not the last one. It’s true that many Americans think of McConnell as turtle-like, due to his lack of anything resembling a chin.

But this is wrong on two counts. First, you shouldn’t tackle people you disagree with by making fun of their looks. Second, it gives turtles a bad name. Turtles are great for the environment and everybody likes them. They sing to their children. You are never going to see a turtle killing gun control legislation.

Collins proceeds to remind readers of McConnell’s longstanding alliance with the NRA, evidenced by $1.3 million in financial support. As a result, the NRA gets its way; among the bills Mitch has obligingly killed is reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is “moldering away in a corner because the NRA doesn’t want authorities taking guns away from domestic abusers.”

A bill on strengthening background checks is moldering along with it, despite the fact that several Republican Senators have indicated that they would support it– if McConnell would allow it to come to the floor.

This goes on a lot. McConnell, who has near total control over what comes up for a vote, sits on things he doesn’t like until they smother. Farewell, immigration reform, Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, lowering prescription drug prices, protecting election security, restoring net neutrality.

To which we can now add this week’s burial of the bill the House just passed to protect “Dreamers” from deportation.

As Collins notes, you can’t explain away Mitch’s actions by saying he’s simply doing what Trump wants him to do, since Trump hasn’t the foggiest notion what’s happening in Congress (or, I would add, the foggiest notion what Congress does.)

There are well over 100 House-passed bills sitting around gathering mildew in Mitch’s limbo. What do you think that place looks like? A very depressing bus station waiting room? A hospital ward packed with comatose patients? Or maybe just a dimly lit storage bin where little bills sit around drinking juice and playing video games until the end of time?

All of them in the thrall of Mitch McConnell. Before we move on, can we mention that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is the nation’s secretary of transportation, and possibly on her way to serious contention for Worst Cabinet Member?

Those of you who read the New York Times have probably seen the recent expose of Chao; in a collection of totally corrupt cabinet secretaries, she has managed to out-corrupt most of them. But then, she is married to Mitch, so she’s learned from a master…

And of course, as Collins reminds us, there was that unprecedented, norm-destroying theft of a Supreme Court seat–the “high point” of Mitch’s career-long fixation on filling the federal courts with right-wing ideologues.

A man who has never gotten a single vote from anyone living outside the state of Kentucky decreed that a man twice elected president of the United States had no right to have his nominee for Supreme Court considered in the Senate. McConnell told Charles Homans of The Times it was “the most consequential thing” he’d ever done. He was extremely proud.

McConnell’s argument was that Obama was too close to the end of his term to make a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. But now he’s saying that if there’s a vacancy before the 2020 election, he’ll of course get Trump’s choice for a successor a confirmation vote. “Oh, we’d fill it,” the senator chortled at a Chamber of Commerce lunch back home in Kentucky.

I know you’re not surprised, but isn’t it sort of awful that McConnell’s so proud of himself? You’d hope that, at least in public, he’d murmur something vague and look a tad sheepish.

No self-respecting turtle would ever behave like that.

Donald Trump is an embarrassing and incompetent buffoon–a bull in the governmental china shop who is doing a lot of damage. But he can’t hold a candle to Mitch McConnell. McConnell has singlehandedly broken American government.