How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

On occasion, I share with you the work of Robert Reich.  Mr. Reich has served under three U.S. presidents of both parties and is a wise man who sees things as they are and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.  In the following essay, he analyzes the ways in which McConnell is changing not only the Senate, but the whole of the U.S. system.  I think his words are worth sharing …

 

Robert Reich-4How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

by Robert Reich

Congress has recessed for two weeks without passing a desperately-needed disaster relief bill. Why not? Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t want to anger Donald Trump by adding money for Puerto Rico that Democrats have sought but Trump doesn’t want.

America used to have a Senate. But under McConnell, what was once known as the world’s greatest deliberative body has become a partisan lap dog.

Recently McConnell used his Republican majority to cut the time for debating Trump’s court appointees from 30 hours to two – thereby enabling Republicans to ram through even more Trump judges.

In truth, McConnell doesn’t give a fig about the Senate, or about democracy. He cares only about partisan wins.

On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections he famously declared that his top priority was for Barack Obama “to be a one-term president.”

Between 2009 and 2013, McConnell’s Senate Republicans blocked 79 Obama nominees. In the entire history of the United States until that point, only 68 presidential nominees had been blocked.

This unprecedented use of the filibuster finally led Senate Democrats in 2013 to change the rules on some presidential nominees (but not the Supreme Court) to require simple majorities.

In response, McConnell fumed that “breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American.” If so, McConnell is about as un-American as they come. Once back in control of the Senate he buried Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court by refusing even to hold hearings.

Then, in 2017, McConnell and his Republicans changed the rules again, ending the use of the filibuster even for Supreme Court nominees and clearing the way for Senate confirmation of Trump’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Step by step, McConnell has sacrificed the Senate as an institution to partisan political victories.

There is a vast difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms of our democracy, and winning by subverting those norms.

To Abraham Lincoln, democracy was a covenant linking past and future. Political institutions, in his view, were “the legacy bequeathed to us.”

On the eve of the Senate’s final vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, the late John McCain returned to Washington from his home in Arizona, where he was being treated for brain cancer, to cast the deciding vote against repeal.

Knowing he would be criticized by other Republicans, McCain noted that over his career he had known senators who seriously disagreed with each other but nonetheless understood “they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”

In words that have even greater relevance today, McCain added that “it is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning’.”

In politics, success should never be measured solely by partisan victories. It must also be judged by the institutional legacy passed onward. The purpose of political leadership is not merely to win. It is to serve.

In any social or political system it’s always possible to extract benefits by being among the first to break widely accepted norms. In a small town where people don’t lock their doors or windows, the first thief can effortlessly get into anyone’s house. But once broken, the system is never the same. Everyone has to buy locks. Trust deteriorates.

Those, like Mitch McConnell, who break institutional norms for selfish or partisan gains are bequeathing future generations a weakened democracy.

The difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms and rules of our democracy, and winning by subverting them, could not be greater. Political victories that undermine the integrity of our system are net losses for society.

Great athletes play by the rules because the rules make the game. Unprincipled athletes cheat or change the rules in order to win. Their victories ultimately destroy the game.

In terms of shaping the federal courts, McConnell has played “the long game”, which, incidentally, is the title of his 2016 memoir. Decades from now, McConnell will still be shaping the nation through judges he rammed through the Senate.

But McConnell’s long game is destroying the Senate.

He is longest-serving leader of Senate Republicans in history but Mitch McConnell is no leader. He is the epitome of unprincipled power. History will not treat him kindly.

43 thoughts on “How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

  1. This is just one of many reasons I disapprove of democracy: Unscrupulous politicians can overwhelm the ones with scruples, and justice does not always prevail in the end. The principaled are at the mercy of those without principals. As long as those running for power believe they can tell others how they should live, they will be acting against the good of the people, and only for themselves. ONLY THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT POWER SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE IT! And even they must be guarded against lest that unwanted power corrupts them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ‘Twould seem that the wise, intelligent and compassionate people are too smart to go into politics … they likely know it would kill them. It’s a shell game anymore, and it’s all about money … nothing else.

      Like

  2. I hear the ghost of Stalin speaking to the ghost of Brezhnev, saying.
    ‘See, all we had to do was be patient and they’d do the job for us themselves,’
    And in drifts Joe McCarthy.
    ‘Wow you guys. Stiffed by our own Right. OK ‘Uncle Joe’ you win the bet, I’ll do your next haunting shift for you,’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, Mitch McConnell demonstrates the democracy’s limitations. Democracy predicated on the idea that principled and intelligent individuals will work for the nation and the people’s common good. That doesn’t describe Mitch. He’s exactly why term limits are needed. I agree that history will not be kind about his role in this expanding era of greed, corruption, and inequality. I remain disappointed that Kentucky keeps returning him to the Senate. It speaks volumes to their voters’ ideals and the voting process.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is, indeed, the poster boy for why term limits are needed, and you have hit the nail on the head when you say “Democracy predicated on the idea that principled and intelligent individuals will work for the nation and the people’s common good.” That is what is missing in government today … intelligence and compassion. Today it is all about money … money and power, which translates back to money.

      My friend Angie lives in Kentucky and says that for one thing, voter apathy is widespread there, but for another one, he doesn’t run a fair/honest campaign, plays dirty, and few have the cojones to run against him. They were becoming disgruntled with him, but now he has just finagled a new aluminum plant for his home state in exchange for lifting sanctions on a Russian oligarch. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Exactly … the enemy you know, etc. I seriously hope this will be Mitch’s last term … I saw that he just began his 2020 campaign this week, and I hope somehow a strong candidate runs against him and knocks all the wind out of his sails. If that fails, then I hope that at least the democrats take a majority in the Senate so that McConnell loses his spot as top dawg.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the entire R party has the attitude of “let them eat cake” McConnell is the epitome of such and worse. A devious, low down, all is fair in getting the win, snake in the grass. By his hand they have stacked SCOTUS with conservative assholes who will in time set us backwards by 100 years. By his hand the R’s have backed the most deplorable effing deplorable president in the entire history of our country. By his hand they have done their damndest to gut healthcare in this country and institute the R healthcare system of “fuck em, let em die and we don’t have to pay for their living” system. They have shown the entire world they are soulless, unscrupulous, unempathetic, reality denying, slaves to the corporate.

    A democracy run as it is today is no longer a democracy. Damn near just cause for a revolution.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are quite right … the republican party is more concerned with their guns, corporate profit, and white nationalism helping people, or taking care of the environment. They have become, the ‘Party of ME’, it being all about profit, corporate greed, helping the rich get even richer and to heck with the poor. They are, for the most part, a bunch of bigots who believe that their white skin and “Christianity” make them superior to the rest of us. It’s time to bring them down a few pegs, for they have gotten above themselves, and Trump & McConnell honestly seem to believe that they are above the law.

      Welcome, by the way, and thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  5. Dear Jill,

    That Maj Ldr Senator Mitch McConnell can be said to have done more damage to US institutional norms than President Trump, is an understatement. What’s been of benefit to US peoples is that President Trump is so incompetent that much of what he does gets killed in the courts even by judges that were appointed by Republican Party presidents. Sen. McConnell doesn’t suffer from this deficiency.

    The latest scandal that will require oversight by the House is the relief of sanctions that Sen. McConnell managed to get approved for the Russian oligarch Mr. Oleg Deripaska only to have him invest in Kentucky by paying for an aluminum plant.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jill,
      Here is tweet that gives more details about McConnell getting an Aluminum plant in KY by same Russian oligarch that he helped with sanctions relief:

      @JuliaDavisNews
      Follow @JuliaDavisNews

      Rusal — Oleg Deripaska’s company that was recently granted sanctions relief by Treasury — plans to invest $200 million in a Kentucky rolling mill that would be the largest new aluminum plant built in the U.S. in nearly four decades.
      #Russia

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are quite right … McConnell has turned the Senate into his own personal playground, which means that whatever his buddy Trump wants, Trump will get. And it also means that no matter how many really beneficial bills are passed by the House, the Senate will either refuse to put them to a vote, else will vote them down. I was pleased with their vote to end U.S. participation in Yemen, but then Trump vetoed it, thus it is DOA. Sigh.

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    • Agreed. People like him … they don’t even see the rest of us … we are but tools to help them get what they want, to work in their factories, build their cars, grow their food, and clean their houses, but in their eyes we are somehow ‘less’ than they. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good ole boy Mitch is the main reason I think all congress people should be allowed only 2 terms. If that’s good enough for the Prez, it is more than good enough for the men and women in congress. And Mitch began his career as our governor, as well as a Democrat, but only served a few months as governor, using that office as his stepping stone to D.C. Personally I think we should toss a few stones his way. Maybe one of them will penetrate that thick skull and get the “thing” to wise up and remember that he is supposed to be working for the people, NOT Mr. TRUNK! And that was NOT a typo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. I just told Keith that Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid (now retired) were the poster boys for why we need term limits. McConnell, I’ve come to believe, is a man without a conscience. You guys really need to make sure you don’t send him back to Washington next year! Mr. Trunk … that’s fitting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • He wouldn’t be there now if it was up to me. Most of the time he wins by default since not that many people are willing to run against him. He fights dirty. I think the only reason he is still there is that there is so much voter apathy in this state. Not to mention laziness about going to the polls. I vote here in my building, and I’ve seen a lot of the people who live here just hanging around outside the room, all down there but none of them voting. Yet they think they still have the right to complain about the outcome. Our last election showed the importance of one vote, with Jim Glenn winning by that one vote. Of course there was a nasty recount and threats of lawsuits throughout the ordeal with his Republican adversary doing a few back room conferences with the vote counters, but nothing ever happened with that one. Politics is just such a nasty game played by people who can’t seem to hold a real job. This is coming from the first cousin of one of our Speaker of the House reps. — Don Blandford. He was honest until that one time and then he could have gotten off if he had rolled over on the guv. The guy who gave him up got a “get out of jail free” card by naming him and helping the feebs corner him — and all for $50. Ach! Politics make me crazy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Politics has become … well, perhaps it was always … a dirty, nasty game where basically money rules the day. Remember the expression “He with the most toys wins”? It certainly seems to be the case. Even if you look at this year’s crop of candidates … does the media talk about what they stand for, their ideology or platform? No, they talk about how much money they have collected thus far. I would really, really like to overturn Citizens United and implement much stricter campaign regulations, taking money out of the equation. Won’t happen as long as the republicans are in office, for they are the ones with the most money. Even one of the Justices who voted for Citizens United, I think it was Anthony Kennedy, said it was one of the worst decisions the court had made and he regretted his vote.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Money took over the whole equation when Kennedy began the televised campaign. He was the first time I voted at 18 years old and it was so exciting for me. Sure wish we could go back to the days before Camelot though. It just didn’t seem as dirty back then. The good people won’t run now because they don’t want their families dragged through the mud on TV and social media. Can’t say I blame them.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’m certain politics were dirty even pre-Kennedy, but they at least had the decency to not blatantly flaunt it in front of our face, AND … at least they did remember that they were representatives of, and answerable to, the people of the nation, not foreign interests or billionaires or Boeing or the fossil fuel industry. Times have changed, for sure. Sigh.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. My god…this applies to all Western democracies!

    “In politics, success should never be measured solely by partisan victories. It must also be judged by the institutional legacy passed onward. The purpose of political leadership is not merely to win. It is to serve.”

    They are all failing the very concept of democracy. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jill, I wrote a post many moons ago that the poster children for what is wrong in Washington are Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid. Reid has since retired, so McConnell has upped his games playing. Now, with the most questionable incumbent in the White House, governance is a mere dream as the US reputation suffers. What McConnell did with Merrick Garland was shameful. Garland is such a good candidate, even Trump considered him. It is a shame we lost this voice on the Supreme Court. Keith

    Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • Right … Mitch and Harry were both poster children for why we need term limits! I first came to despise McConnell when he made it his stated goal to see that Obama was “one and done”, and then the refusal to even meet with Merrick Garland just iced the cake. He is, I believe, a man without a conscience.

      Like

  9. Great piece Jill. I’ve always respected Mr. Reich. He’s a smart man who knows our democracy is under attack by this party and this president. Oh how far they’ve fallen!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is indeed an intelligent and well-spoken, reasonable man. He does videos fairly often, too, that I always like. Yes, democracy is under attack, and not just here in the U.S., but in many other countries as well. Look at Brazil, even the UK. I’m not sure it’s fixable anymore. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

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