YOU JUST CAN’T TRUST MITCH!
Don’t let MITCH’S ELECTION YEAR “Dog & Pony Show” of okaying $250M in some requested monies to the states fool you into thinking MITCH did anything to improve election security against Russia or others as explained by Sen. Coons below:
Why MITCH? Why should you DONATE to defeat HIM when there are other 2020 Senate elections? Why of all the candidates for election is MITCH MCCONNELL THE TOP PRIORITY TO DEFEAT? The main reason, of course, is if MITCH IS DEFEATED, the Democrats WIN back SENATE CONTROL! But, there are so many other CRITICAL reasons why you MUST DONATE to DEFEAT MITCH!
MITCH MCCONNELL’S ACHIEVEMENTS ARE DEFINED BY HIS OBSTRUCTION
NO great pieces of legislation or anything that was a rewarding accomplishment for the people! Just YEARS of BLOCKAGE of things! Including things, the people overwhelming wanted in particular, but not limited to — campaign finance reform, gun reform, election security, lower prescription prices, minimum wage increase, and overall passage of hundreds of even bipartisan bills! MITCH’S achievement of POWER to control that NOTHING GETS DONE! He’s said his GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT was holding up the SCOTUS nomination of Merrick Garland by destroying century-old Senate standards. Now that something to be proud of!
We did an internet search on “Mitch McConnells Achievements” and you would expect a long list of notable things but McConnell summed the search up himself in an interview with NBC News, where he cited taxes, deregulation, court appointments and opening up the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Isn’t that what every voter wants their Senator to accomplish for their state?
Mitch’s TRUE PRIDE though comes from his many election WINS and HOW he wins! His ability to raise “GOBS and GOBS” of money from anyone that will give it to him including his tens of millions in DARK MONEY, by undisclosed donors to his “NONPROFIT”, One Nation, and COUNTLESS PACS for what unknown favors in return. And, his ability to PRODUCE and AIR ENDLESS NEGATIVE, DECEITFUL campaign advertisements AGAINST his challengers running them down to the point that MITCH becomes the reluctant choice. MITCH also FORMS numerous ISSUE GROUPS and MAILS countless FLYERS on issues to ALL registered Kentucky voters making it APPEAR there are these many groups OPPOSING his challenger when in reality it is only MITCH the puppet master PULLING ALL THE STRINGS!
MITCH’S CHALLENGERS never have access to those kinds of LIMITLESS RESOURCES to COUNTER all those ATTACKS! Mitch got $14M from two PACS just to run those ads for his last election getting $22 MILLION from OUTSIDE GROUPS. Plus, his campaign has OUTSPENT each of his challengers by more than $10 MILLION DOLLARS EACH in his last two elections! His challenger, as a first-time candidate, will just never be able to raise the AMOUNT of FUNDS to COUNTER Mitch’s, the incumbent, ATTACKS or fund the extra staff to PRODUCE their own COUNTER CAMPAIGN! The Kentucky primary is 05/19/2020, giving MITCH’S CHALLENGER only a little over FIVE months to set-up and run their entire CAMPAIGN! MITCH started running election ads in 2018!
Moscow Mitch McConnell is revealed by YOU JUST CANT TRUST HIM PAC, news articles, and an extraordinary, in-depth article from Rolling Stone exposing MITCH MCCONNELL’S crooked and morally bankrupt political life!
MITCH MCCONNELL IS A GREATER THREAT THAN TRUMP!
The longtime senior Senator from Kentucky has served in the Senate since 1985 and has wielded considerable political power for some time. As early as 1994, McConnell was called out for his tactics in a campaign finance battle by then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D) as “the worst case of obstruction by filibuster by any party that I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in Congress.”
Perhaps the best way to understand McConnell is to take a peek at the room which holds his archives as his alma mater, the University of Louisville. It doesn’t highlight any legislative or governing accomplishments, how he’s helped people, or stirring speeches he’s delivered; instead, it is a shrine to “winning elections and rising in the leadership ranks, achieving power for power’s sake.” McConnell only cares about these two things–winning elections and building power–and is unconcerned about policy.
And when those are your only goals, the pursuit of them leaves victims. The primary victim has been American democracy. (emphasis by website)
(Political Charge – 21 Reasons to Boot Mitch McConnell from the Senate BY: TOKYOSAND on September 20, 2019)
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In a completely unsurprising display of hypocrisy and brazenness, Mitch McConnell was just caught on new video telling campaign donors that he’s going to do everything he can to stop Donald Trump from being impeached – and that he needs their help (and money).
Just days before, Mitch McConnell was publicly telling reporters that he would have “no choice” but to hold a trial on whether or not to remove Trump from office. But behind closed doors, he’s singing a different tune to his special interest donors.
This is straight out of McConnell’s playbook: When Republicans are in power, he rams everything through; and when Democrats get even a tiny bit of control, Mitch McConnell stops at nothing to block and obstruct. It’s no different than when he said in 2010 that his single greatest priority was to make President Obama a one-term president. Or when he blocked a bill reopening the government during Trump’s month-long shutdown. Or to release Mueller’s unredacted report. Or to pass climate change legislation or gun reform.
And no, we didn’t forget about Merrick Garland. No one will ever forget what Mitch McConnell did to Merrick Garland or how he rammed through Brett Kavanaugh.
McConnell is determined to prevent Democrats from impeaching Donald Trump. And if Republicans keep control of the Senate and Mitch McConnell stays majority leader, he will make sure that Democrats get nothing done. But here’s the thing: Even if Democrats do take back the Senate and the White House, McConnell will do everything possible to block and obstruct in the minority. Mitch McConnell doesn’t care about rules or norms. He’ll break the Senate even more than he already has until Republicans can take back control again.
There’s only one solution: In 2020, Mitch McConnell is up for reelection, and we MUST defeat him once and for all.
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He was a consultant to Priorities USA Action, which was a pro-Obama super PAC before it was a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN) Once in a while, a politician becomes so powerful and yet so destructive that he or she does real damage to the branch of government in which she or he serves. Obviously, Richard Nixon damaged the presidency, Newt Gingrich turned the House of Representatives into a mixed martial arts arena, and Roger Taney forever stained the Supreme Court with the Dred Scott decision. But it takes someone special, someone rare, someone spectacularly Machiavellian and malevolent, to screw up all three branches of government. Ladies and gentlemen: Mitch McConnell. The soft-spoken Kentuckian has, in just a few short years, done lasting damage to the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court: the hat trick of democracy destruction. To wit:
The presidency. American intelligence knew Vladimir Putin’s henchmen were attacking America, using cyberwarfare tactics to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Yet when the nonpartisan leaders of our intelligence community briefed McConnell, his reply — according to a new book by Washington Post reporter Greg Miller — was purely partisan: “You’re trying to screw the Republican nominee.” McConnell not only refused to condemn the Russians, Miller writes, he threatened to attack the US intelligence community, labeling its call to defend America an act of partisan politics. By helping hobble our defense against the dark arts of Putin, McConnell has tainted Donald Trump’s presidency. The noted media scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson has carefully examined the Russian effort, and has concluded that without Russia’s help, Trump would not be President.
Gergen: McConnell cares about getting it done. Trump’s legitimacy is questionable — in part because McConnell refused to defend our presidential electoral system when it came under foreign attack. The Senate. McConnell has broken the Senate. By refusing even to meet with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and by blocking hearings on his nomination, McConnell deeply harmed the comity on which the Senate is supposed to run. I am amused by the notion that, somehow, former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is the one who broke the Senate when he eliminated the filibuster for lower court judgeships. Right. If only Reid had been nicer to sweet ol’ Mitch, then he wouldn’t have been so doggone mean when he got power. In truth, Reid had no choice but to limit the filibuster on lower court nominations, given McConnell’s abuse of it. McConnell invoked the 60-vote rule to block Obama’s nominees nearly as often as it had been used in all previous US history. Under all the presidents before Obama, 86 nominations had been blocked by filibuster. In just the Obama presidency alone, McConnell used the filibuster to block 82. McConnell’s naked partisanship has crippled the Senate. One wonders how it will ever recover.The Supreme Court. Which brings us to the high court. Not content with simply stealing Garland’s seat for Trump, McConnell rammed through the nomination of the profoundly unpopular Brett Kavanaugh. The court now has four justices appointed by Presidents who originally came into office after losing the popular vote.Follow CNN Opinion
Join us on Twitter and Facebook (To be fair, George W. Bush nominated Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito in his second term after winning the 2004 election fair and square. But does anyone think he would have had a second term if the court had not installed him despite the will of the voters in 2000?)The McConnell court is now every bit as partisan as one of the panels on my old show, “Crossfire.” Except on “Crossfire,” we didn’t wear robes and pretend we were somehow above the fray. For decades to come, American citizens upset about any erosion of their constitutional rights — civil rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, consumer rights, environmental protections — can thank McConnell.Legacies are often hard to predict when a politician is still in office. Not this time. When you see bitter, hateful, vengeful hyperpartisanship infecting our national life — from the White House to the Senate to the marble palace of the Supreme Court — you can thank the “Gentleman from Kentucky.”
Even if the Democrats win the Presidency but still have MITCH MCCONNELL as Senate Majority Leader, he will simply OBSTRUCT every single piece of new legislation! He’s already bragged, “He’s the Grim Reaper and the Senate is his graveyard,” promising that he WON’T bring up one single Democratic bill. The country won’t be able to progress on gun reform. climate change, health insurance, infrastructure or any other critical issue. IT WILL BE GRIDLOCK!
And, Mitch McConnell will still control SCOTUS nominations, with two Justice’s in their 80’s, MITCH has the power to hold or not hold SCOTUS hearings and nominations and we ALL know how disastrous that turned out last time. When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away during President Obama’s second term, Mitch McConnell conjured the ridiculous excuse that Supreme Court vacancies shouldn’t be filled in an election year and refused to allow Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a single hearing. The unprecedented obstruction succeeded in leaving the seat open for almost a year and is generally considered to be one of the factors that turned out Republicans to vote for Trump in the 2016 election. Mitch’s said, that blocking Merrick Garland is the proudest accomplishment of his political career! No telling what he’d pull this time if he’s still there! WE JUST CAN’T LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN!
Furthermore, even if Democrats win the PRESIDENCY AND THE SENATE (keeping the House) but MITCH MCCONNELL IS STILL THERE, MITCH will still be the Senate WHIP! MITCH MCCONNELL will abuse every rule and procedure slowing down the process just like he did in Obama’s term permitting only half of the new President’s agenda to get passed. The Republican Senators stuck together as a bloc and used parliamentary maneuvers to filibuster, or at least delay, every major piece of legislation the president proposed. Mitch McConnell’s mad dash to confirm Trump’s judicial nominees is also in stark contrast to the years under President Obama. During that time, he only confirmed one-fourth of Obama’s picks leaving over 100 openings for Trump to fill. Mitch required 30 hours of debate for each judicial nominee now he’s lowered it to only two hours. With so much that needs to get done in our country, we can’t settle for half! Mitch McConnell, STILL in the Senate, will essentially turn a normal four-year Presidency term into an only actionable two years! And, believe us, MITCH MCCONNELL is already making plans for what he’s going to do IF WE DON’T STOP HIM!!!
If TRUMP WINS but MITCH MCCONNELL’S NOT REELECTED, the most abusive, destructive leader to ever hold the position of Majority or Minority Leader will be gone! We’d break the powerful, one man stranglehold MITCH MCCONNELL’S held on all of our government and our country. Without corrupt Mitch McConnell, Trump will lose his power to flood the Judiciary with overwhelming numbers of right-wing federal judges set to overrule hard-earned rights and TRUMP won’t get ANY legislation passed. SO, ANY WAY THE ELECTION WORKS OUT, THE TOP PRIORITY IS THAT OF ALL THE ELECTIONS NATIONALLY, MITCH MCCONNELL HAS GOT TO BE DEFEATED IN KENTUCKY! If you’re limited to the number of CANDIDATES you can support (aren’t we all) then along with Trump’s challenger, EVERY AMERICAN HAS TO SUPPORT DEFEATING MITCH MCCONNELL!
PLUS, If MITCH MCCONNELL IS DEFEATED the Democrats are GUARANTEED CONTROL OF THE SENATE! So, ALL your resources should GO to DEFEATING MITCH MCCONNELL IN KENTUCKY by DONATING HERE NOW! He’s the horse to put ALL your money on as we say in Kentucky! A GUARANTEED WINNER for the DEMOCRATS! And, even if you’re a Republican don’t you want a Senator who will be working on getting power for your state and the nation as a whole NOT for himself/herself? Independent voters are smart and will make an informed decision!
MITCH MCCONNELL’S lack of classic leadership traits is compensated for with money. Not only did he raise the money for other Republicans reelections, controls the purse-strings of the Republican National Committee (RNC) but he also led the fight on rejecting campaign finance and leading the lawsuit against the FEC and ultimately, the Citizens United ruling in the Supreme Court. Furthermore, he pushed through donors not disclosing who or how much they give. The Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment to overrule, Citizens United. With MITCH MCCONNELL’S power in the Senate even in the minority, it would be an epic, procedural fight. He would filibuster it. During Obama’s 2013-14 term, Democrats called 252 cloture votes, which are motions used to prevent or end filibusters — double the previous record. MITCH MCCONNELL CANNOT BE REELECTED TO THE SENATE!
WAPO by: Greg Sargent September 6, 2019
The diversion of military funds to pay for President Trump’s border wall obsession — which is taking money away from more than 100 military projects around the country, just as a junkie’s habit might take money from the grocery kitty — provides an opening to reconsider the extraordinary depths to which Mitch McConnell has sunk to enable Trump’s corruption.
The Senate majority leader has not only assisted and protected Trump in doing great damage to our democracy, for naked partisan purposes, though that’s a major stain. But McConnell also has in effect now prioritized the mission of enabling and defending Trump’s corruption over the interests of his own state and its constituents.
One project that will lose funding as a result of Trump’s wall — which is now being paid for out of funds diverted as part of the national emergency that Trump declared on fabricated grounds — is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
That project is a planned middle school at the Fort Campbell army base. The Pentagon has diverted $62.6 million in money slotted for construction of that school, as part of the $3.6 billion that has been shifted toward Trump’s wall.
The New York Times has a remarkable new report on the impact this will have on the military families who have eagerly awaited the school’s construction. It means more than 500 students will continue to “cram themselves in” at another school that’s already very tight on space. That entails messy arrangements that will make it harder for students to follow lessons.
The school is part of the system developed to enable children of military families in the South to attend desegregated schools. One retired officer tells the Times that Trump’s decision to “deny new school construction” to build “this artifice called a southern wall” is “crazy.”
McConnell himself had previously boasted of funding he had secured for Fort Campbell families. Yet subsequently, McConnell voted to uphold Trump’s national emergency, which will now take funding away.
So how does a McConnell spokesman justify this? By saying: “We would not be in this situation if Democrats were serious about protecting our homeland and worked with us to provide the funding needed to secure our borders during the appropriations process.”
That’s a stunning statement, once you unpack it. Democrats are to blame for the emergency taking funding away from people, because Trump responded to their refusal to fund his wall by going around Congress!
To be as clear as possible, an elected member of that body is claiming other lawmakers in that body are at fault for Trump’s corrupt circumventing of them, because they represented their own constituents’ will, rather than give Trump what he demanded, to fund something Trump himself has privately admitted is all about giving his supporters something to chant about before reelection.
What’s more, McConnell’s office — by preposterously pretending that Trump’s emergency was necessary to secure the border — is in effect declaring that using money for Trump’s wall at the cost of funding for this middle school on his home state’s border was the correct prioritization of funds.
This all becomes an even more glaring example of how McConnell enables Trump’s corruption when you review McConnell’s role in this whole affair.
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MCCONNELL’S OPTION AFTER HIS LEADERSHIP HAS INCREASED THE DEFICIT BY 77% IS TO CUT SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE & MEDICAID
Mitch McConnell led passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the ultra-wealthy. He also signed off on a record $675 billion dollar defense budget in 2017, Mitch McConnell said that he believes the only way to lower the federal deficit is to cut programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Despite the deficit having increased more than 77 percent since he became majority leader in 2015, Mitch McConnell insists that America’s rising debt is “not a Republican problem.”
“It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” Mitch told Bloomberg in October 2018. “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt… the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid… There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully, at some point here, we’ll get serious about this.”
The greatest trick McConnell ever pulled is convincing the American political system to take his behavior for granted. It is time to stop. McConnell swore the same oath to Constitution and country that Pelosi did. His refusal to take that oath seriously is a scandal and should be treated as such.
Beyond the bankruptcies, coal companies in Kentucky and other coal mining states have left behind blasted mountaintops, streams that run traffic-cone orange with acid, underground fires, clogged streams and dangerous open mine portals.
“You can’t live safely near many of these sites, much less launch a business or get a local economy going,” Eric Dixon, senior policy coordinator for Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Letcher County, told a Congressional committee in April.
In his 2016 budget proposal, President Obama included a $1 billion effort for linking economic development to reclaiming abandoned mines, which he called the Power Plus Plan, by accelerating spending from that abandoned mine fund. It went nowhere with McConnell.
Readers React: McConnell should have criticized Trump, not Obama The Morning Call 10/27/19
Mitch McConnell’s latest column is a lesson in what passes for courage in the Republican party today (“Op-ed by Mitch McConnell: Why withdrawing from Syria is a grave mistake,” The Morning Call, Oct. 20). His main theme is a criticism in Trump’s Syria policy but he doesn’t even have the guts to mention the current administration, let alone call out Trump by name.
Instead he leads with a criticism of Obama, as if his column were written by computer program (or maybe Fox or Sinclair?). He blames the rise of the Islamic State on Obama, conveniently forgetting who was president during 9/11. The rise of the Islamic State was fostered by the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq on the heels of 9/11. Obama inherited the mess in 2008, along with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the other disastrous legacy of eight years of Republican control of the White House.
Now we have a president who not only understands foreign policy less than Bush, but is willing to appease our nation’s enemies for personal and political gain. And a Republican party without the backbone to stand for what’s right.
Dave Heller – Lower Macungie Township
Mitch McConnell’s mastery
The Week Staff September 29, 2019
The Kentucky Republican could go down as one of the most influential Senate majority leaders in history. Why? Here’s everything you need to know:
What is McConnell’s strength?
As the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell controls the calendar for the upper chamber, giving him the ability to block legislation by simply refusing to schedule a vote. The Kentucky Republican has combined that authority — and intricate understanding of Senate rules and procedure — with ruthless partisanship to ensure that Republican-backed legislation and nominees are fast-tracked while all Democratic priorities are blocked. Democrats complain that McConnell has turned the Senate into a “legislative graveyard” by not allowing bills passed by the House of Representatives to even be considered on the Senate floor. During the Trump presidency, McConnell has focused on confirming judges to reshape the country through the courts. So far, the Senate has confirmed more than 150 lifetime judges appointed by President Trump. Conservative legal activist Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society says McConnell’s impact on the courts will be felt for decades to come, describing him as “the most consequential majority leader, certainly, in modern history.”
How did he get his start?
McConnell began his political career in the GOP’s once influential liberal wing. As a college student, he wrote an op-ed against segregationist politics, arguing that a “strict interpretation” of the Constitution was “inherently evil” if it was used to deny basic civil rights. He even came out in favor of “truly effective campaign finance reform.” In 1977, he won election as judge-executive for Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville, campaigning in favor of collective bargaining rights for public workers, and for abortion rights. Although not personally charismatic, McConnell showed fundraising savvy and keen political instincts. For his 1984 Senate run, he hired high-profile Republican political consultant Roger Ailes, the future founder of Fox News. Ailes created a devastatingly effective ad depicting bloodhounds searching for Democratic incumbent Walter “Dee” Huddleston, exaggerating his record of missed Senate votes. McConnell won the election by 5,000 votes, about 1 percent of the total, becoming the first Republican elected statewide since 1968.
What does he believe in?
The Republican Party and winning elections. As the GOP moved right under President Ronald Reagan, so did McConnell. Political scientists tracking McConnell’s career have found that he has become more conservative with every session of Congress. His earlier support for campaign spending caps was transformed into fierce opposition to campaign finance reform, and he won the gratitude of many senators by taking the heat for blocking bills to rein in spending on elections. McConnell embraced his villain status. When pundits labeled him “Darth Vader” for opposing the McCain-Feingold reform bill in the early 2000s, he started carrying a toy lightsaber. McConnell admitted that he never would have won his first race for Senate “if there had been a limit on the amount of money I could raise and spend.”
Why is he so effective?
During his 34-year career in the Senate, McConnell has learned to work the rules to his and his party’s advantage, both in the majority and out of it. When McConnell took over leadership of the Senate Republicans in 2007, he quickly proved to be a cunning minority leader. Huddling with his shell-shocked GOP caucus in the aftermath of President Obama’s overwhelming victory in 2008, McConnell argued for a strategy of near-total obstruction to dim enthusiasm for Obama, who had campaigned as the man who could transcend Washington’s partisan divide. McConnell used the filibuster — a tactic to block action — to impede or slow-walk almost everything Democrats tried to achieve. During the 2013-14 term, Democrats called 252 cloture votes, which are motions used to prevent or end filibusters — double the previous record.
Did McConnell’s strategy work?
Arguably, yes. Disgusted by Washington’s gridlock and disappointed in Obama, voters punished the Democrats in power, handing the GOP the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. Meanwhile, McConnell blocked as many of Obama’s judicial appointments as possible. When Obama left office, he’d been unable to fill 88 district- and 17 circuit-court seat vacancies — plus the biggest vacancy of all. After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell infamously refused to hold a vote for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, holding the seat open for 10 months for the next president to fill. That vacancy proved critical in convincing many reluctant Republicans to support Donald Trump in a close election. With Trump in office, McConnell abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, allowing Republicans to confirm Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh with slim majorities. Although initially skeptical of Trump, he has long since made his peace with the president. “To expect Republican elected officials not to try to achieve as much as they possibly can out of pique over presidential behavior,” he says, “is nonsense.”
How he wins elections
Despite being the longest-serving Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell has never been beloved either in his home state or by conservatives. Activists on the Right have always been suspicious of McConnell’s transactional nature and angered by his willingness to cut limited deals with Democrats to keep the government running. He was even booed at the 2016 Republican National Convention. McConnell’s 36 percent approval rating in Kentucky makes him one of the most unpopular senators in the country, and this year he is likely to face a well-funded challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot. But McConnell has built up a massive campaign war chest, raising $10.6 million so far, more than any Republican senator — money he’s almost certain to pour into negative ads. Kentucky insiders have seen this play out before. McConnell has never lost any of the nine elections he’s run in. “All those polls you see now where he has a low approval rating? That’s because he doesn’t have a warm-and-fuzzy personality,” says veteran Kentucky political reporter Al Cross. “In those polls, he’s running against himself. When you match him up against somebody, he’s pretty good at driving them down to his level.
“The following is a great article from ROLLING STONE, you MUST READ it to fully understand just how corrupt and morally bankrupt Moscow Mitch truly is! ”
Mitch McConnell: The Man Who Sold America
BY BOB MOSER | September 17, 2019
After 40 years of scorched-earth politics and bowing to special interests, will Mitch McConnell finally pay the price?
Fittingly enough, it was hot as blazes in Kentucky when Mitch McConnell slunk back home for Congress’ annual summer recess. One week earlier, Robert Mueller had testified that Russia was meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, responded by shooting down Democrats’ efforts to bring two election-security bills to a vote — bills that McConnell, in his familiar fashion, had previously sentenced to quiet deaths after they passed the House. In the hailstorm of opprobrium that followed, McConnell had been tagged by “Morning Joe” Scarborough with the indelible nickname “Moscow Mitch.” The Washington Post’sDana Milbank called him a “Russian asset.” Twitter couldn’t decide whether he was #putinsbitch or #trumpsbitch. The Kentucky Democratic Party was selling red “Just Say Nyet to Moscow Mitch” T-shirts, emblazoned with an image of the senator’s jowly visage in a Cossack hat, as fast as they could print them up.
McConnell would undoubtedly have preferred to cool his heels in his Louisville home and let the storm subside. But he couldn’t afford that luxury. The biggest political event of the year in Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic, happens on the first Saturday every August, and McConnell knew he had to show his face and speak. Fancy Farm, a 139-year tradition in the tiny western Kentucky town (population 458) it’s named for, is simultaneously one of America’s most charming political gatherings and one of its most brutal. On the one hand, it’s a pint-size Iowa State Fair in a prettier setting with better food, raising money for the local St. Jerome’s Catholic Church. The smoke from hundreds of pounds of pit-cooked mutton and pork barbecue wafts over a small carnival with bands plunking out bluegrass and country standards. Thousands of folks mingle, waving themselves with fans provided by the local candidates who glad-hand their way around the festivities.
But the mood shifts around 2 p.m., when the day’s main entertainment — the “political speaking” — begins. Under a big corrugated shelter, hooting and hollering Republican partisans assemble on the right, Democrats on the left, and candidates for office — joined, almost always, by McConnell — enter to cheers and jeers and seat themselves on a makeshift platform while trying to remember their most cutting quips about their opponents. Speakers at Fancy Farm aren’t supposed to persuade or inform; here, they’re expected to demonstrate, in the finest tradition of old-style Southern politics, that they can deliver zingers that cut the opposition down to size. Heather Henry, the Democrats’ candidate for secretary of state this year, puts it aptly when it’s her turn to face the mob: “It is no coincidence that Fancy Farm happens during Shark Week.”
It’s McConnell’s kind of event, in other words, and he’s done his part over the years to ramp up the partisan rancor. “My favorite year was 1994,” he once told a reporter. “I took a cardboard cutout of Bill Clinton onto the stage and defied the Democrats to come over and have their picture taken with it.” When a congressman took up the challenge, the photo ended up in Republican ads. He lost in November. Last summer, after months of waving through President Trump’s judicial nominees, McConnell opened his remarks with a typically pointed jab — “Father, I’ve been preparing for my visit to the parish by performing as many confirmations as I can” — then stood back, his thin lips curling up slightly into the look of smug satisfaction that happens whenever he’s gotten one over on the liberals.
This year, it was no use. Even before “Moscow Mitch” became a thing, Kentucky Democrats were smelling blood. McConnell has been unpopular in his home state for years, but his approval rating plunged in one poll to a rock-bottom 18 percent — with a re-election campaign looming in 2020. In January, he had raised red flags among Republicans and -Democrats alike when he took a key role in lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin ally under FBI investigation for his involvement in 2016 election-meddling; three months later, Deripaska’s aluminum company, Rusal, announced a $200 million investment in Kentucky. A billboard funded by a -liberal group was subsequently erected on a busy stretch of I-75: “Russian mob money . . . really, Mitch?”
More recently, reports emerged that McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had set up a pipeline in her department to funnel grants to Kentucky to lift her husband’s political prospects. And as Trump’s trade war with China escalated, uncomfortable old stories began to recirculate about how McConnell “evolved” after he met his future wife in the early Nineties, going from being a fierce China hawk to a potent ally on Capitol Hill. Chao’s father, James — a Chinese American shipping magnate and close friend of former People’s Republic dictator Jiang Zemin — gave McConnell and his wife a huge gift in 2008 that boosted the senator’s net worth from less than $8 million to nearly $20 million. While “Beijing Mitch” doesn’t have quite the same ring as his new moniker, McConnell’s change of heart on Russia was hardly without precedent. (McConnell declined to comment for this story.)
Plus, McConnell made an unusual blunder in July. When a group of former coal miners suffering from black-lung disease caravaned to Washington to ask the senator for help, he met with them for only two minutes, leading to terrible headlines. As Fancy Farm got underway, coal miners in Harlan County were holding a protest that made news throughout the state. Their company had declared bankruptcy without warning and was refusing to pay their final paychecks, and the miners were blocking the tracks to prevent rail cars from shipping $1 million worth of the coal. As the protest stretched into late August, the site became a 24-hour encampment, attracting activists and food donations from around the country, and was visited by nearly every Kentucky politician except McConnell. Practically every story featured the miners cursing the senator. “He’s not pro-coal,” said miner Collin Cornette. “I don’t even think he’s pro-Kentucky.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats and progressive activists swarmed Fancy Farm this year, hopelessly outnumbering the Republicans. Even with a closely contested governor’s race in the offing, most folks came to taunt their senior senator and revel in his troubles. You can’t blame them: For almost four decades, McConnell has been ruthlessly mowing down his opponents with big-money negative campaigns and transforming the GOP into the state’s dominant party. And while many Kentuckians once took pride in having such a mighty mover-and-shaker in Washington, they’ve become increasingly appalled by what he’s done with his power: ensuring that big donors have undue influence in elections, turning Congress into a strictly partisan battlefield, and serving as the indispensable wingman for Trump. The crowd is teeming with Cossack hats and homemade signs with messages like “Putin for senator — cut out the middle man.” Before the speechifying, I run into Bennie J. Smith, a civil-rights activist and jazz musician making a long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination to unseat McConnell, and he assesses the mood: “I’d say the crowd is pretty evenly divided the way Kentucky is: Some don’t like him, and some hate him.”
When the speaking commences, people are packed 10 deep along the outskirts of the Democratic side. McConnell sits legs-crossed and expressionless on the platform, dressed down in a pair of pressed jeans, a pink button-down, and red socks. Everybody knows he’ll be the third speaker. And one tick after the emcee starts to introduce him, a clamor rises up that no human voice could pierce — the MC whoop of ancient blood battles about to commence, drowning out McConnell as he tries to speak. “After suffering under Barack Obama, we are roaring back,” he seems to be saying. “I saved the Supreme Court for a generation by blocking President Obama’s nominees, and now the Washington liberals responded by targeting me. They handpicked Amy McGaffe — I mean, McGrath,” he continues, delivering the kind of line aimed at his leading 2020 opponent that usually gets the Republicans cheering. But they can barely hear, and the “Moscow Mitch!” chant is only growing louder. As McConnell’s six allotted minutes go on, his jowls redden; his voice cracks and rasps as he gestures toward the baying Democrats, offering a preview of his 2020 campaign message. “They want to turn America into a socialist country,” he says. “Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are not going to let that happen. That’s why I call myself the ‘Grim Reaper.’ I’m killing their socialist agenda.” When he finishes, he flashes a cheeky thumbs up toward the Democrats.
In one sense, it’s vintage McConnell: defiant, sarcastically cutting, smugly self-satisfied. But the fury of the crowd has rattled him. After a few more speakers, McConnell makes a stealthy exit out the back, avoiding reporters and detractors to speed back to Louisville. But this summer, trouble follows him everywhere — and the aftermath of Fancy Farm will only add to his woes. This is the day of the El Paso massacre, and the archprotector (and benefactor) of the NRA will soon be besieged with calls to bring the Senate back into session to pass background checks and a red-flag law. His normally crack campaign team will make matters worse as the news comes in from Texas, tweeting out a photo of a graveyard they’d erected in a corner of Fancy Farm, with tombstones bearing the names of all the Democrats he’s defeated, along with McGrath and Merrick Garland, the Obama Supreme Court nominee McConnell infamously blocked. The next morning, to add injury to insult, McConnell will take a tumble and fracture his shoulder on his patio.
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For so many years, McConnell has seemed maddeningly invincible. But now, just a few years after achieving his lifelong goal of becoming Senate majority leader, it appears that every political sin the man has committed on his relentless march to power is coming back to haunt him at once. He has welcomed infamy, and now it has arrived on its own terms, bringing with it a previously unthinkable possibility: Could 40 years’ worth of devil’s bargains finally be catching up with Mitch McConnell?
For all the damage he’s inflicted on American democracy, for all the political corpses he’s left in his wake, Mitch McConnell has never betrayed an ounce of shame. To the contrary, like the president he now so faithfully serves, McConnell has always exuded a sense of pride in the lengths to which he’s gone to achieve his ambitions and infuriate his enemies. Unlike Trump, however, McConnell, 77, has always been laser-focused on politics. At age 22, when he interned for Sen. John Sherman Cooper, a genteel Republican of an era long gone, McConnell determined to not only follow his mentor’s path but to surpass him and become Senate majority leader. “It dawned on me early — let’s put it that way,” he told Jonathan Martin of The New York Times. Most senators dream of the White House; all McConnell ever wanted was that gavel, that particular form of power.
His first taste of political triumph came at an even younger age. And the way he managed it would set the tone for everything that came later. As a junior at Louisville’s Manual High School, McConnell decided to run for student-body president. The hitch, as he confessed to his mother earlier in high school, was that “I don’t have even one friend.” As he recounted in his 2016 memoir, The Long Game, McConnell set out to make his lack of popularity irrelevant — by manipulating those who had it.
“Just like Kentucky candidates today seek the endorsement of the Louisville Courier-Journal,” he wrote, “I began to seek the endorsement of the popular kids, like Janet Boyd, a well-known cheerleader; Bobby Marr, the best high school pitcher in the state; and Pete Dudgeon, an All-City Football player. I was prepared to ask for their vote using the only tool in my arsenal, the one thing teenagers most desire. Flattery.”
McConnell ran a relentless campaign and vanquished his well-liked opponent. And “having had my first taste of the responsibility and respect that came with holding elected office,” he wrote, “I was hooked.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Louisville, and a law student at the University of Kentucky, McConnell would further hone his skills in winning student-body presidencies. In the 1960s, he worked as an intern to Kentucky Rep. Gene Snyder, a hardcore segregationist. But McConnell’s brand of Republicanism — he’d chosen the party because his father fought under Dwight Eisenhower in World War II — was more moderate. Young Mitch was gung-ho for civil rights. In 1963, while an undergraduate, McConnell spoke at a university rally, urging students to join Martin Luther King Jr. in marching to the state capitol. That same year, he wrote an op-ed urging Republicans to eschew the “constitutional” arguments that Barry Goldwater and other conservatives cited as reasons to oppose the Civil Rights Act. “One must view the Constitution as a document adaptable to conditions of contemporary society,” McConnell wrote. Any “strict interpretation” of the founding document was “inherently evil” if it meant that “basic rights are denied to any group.”
In his first bid for office, in 1977, McConnell challenged the Democratic incumbent for Jefferson County judge-executive — basically, the official in charge of Greater Louisville’s government. He courted women’s groups by supporting abortion rights, and promised unions that he’d press for collective-bargaining rights for public workers. But for the first time, he also showed how willing he would be to cast aside principles. “Forced busing” had recently been imposed by the courts to desegregate Louisville’s public schools, and McConnell ran in opposition to it; the former civil-rights champion was now pandering to white voters’ anxieties and resentments.
In that first race, he also gave a glimpse of the kinds of campaign tactics he’d use for the next 40 years. McConnell was never much good when it came to mixing with folks on the campaign trail, but he had no compunction about asking big donors for money. They were the popular kids he’d now be using for his own ends. Raising $355,000 for the race, well beyond any amount ever spent in Jefferson County, he hired a top ad maker and pollster. With their help, McConnell zeroed in on the vulnerabilities of his opponent, Todd Hollenbach. He blew up some minor ethical lapses into darkly ominous controversies. And because Hollenbach was going through a divorce, McConnell’s ads were full of smiling family images of the Republican newcomer, his wife, and his daughters. (McConnell’s first wife, who went on to become a noted feminist scholar, divorced him in 1980.) Decades later, Hollenbach was still fuming about McConnell’s tactics, bitterly telling The New York Times Magazine, “He’s whatever he needs to be for the occasion.”
But it worked. McConnell won by six percentage points, and then proceeded to forget about his pro-labor promises once in office. “He burned them and never looked back,” says Mike Broihier, a former newspaper editor who’s running a grassroots Democratic campaign to challenge McConnell in 2020. “That’s the guy.”
It was already becoming clear that, in the political world of Mitch McConnell, convictions and campaign pledges were fungible things, easily tossed aside. Throughout his career, as the Republican Party veered right, and then further right, McConnell moved with it. “It’s always been about power, the political game, and it’s never been about the core values that drive political life,” John Yarmuth, Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressman, told Alec MacGillis, author of the 2014 McConnell biography The Cynic. “There has never been anything that interested him other than winning elections.”
McConnell, as he himself likes to point out, isn’t blessed with the usual ingredients for a successful politician: wealth, eloquence, charm. Even the young McConnell was a stiffly formal, pokerfaced presence in public. “He does not have much personal appeal,” says Kentucky political reporter Al Cross, who’s covered all of McConnell’s Senate campaigns. “But he’s a natural political thinker. He understands the mechanics of politics. All those polls you see now where he has a low approval rating? That’s because he doesn’t have a warm-and-fuzzy personality. In those polls, he’s running against himself. When you match him up against somebody, he’s pretty good at driving them down to his level.”
In 1984, when McConnell first ran for Senate, he learned the politics of destruction at the hands of a master. His challenge to Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston, a genial two-term Democrat, looked like a distant long shot. But McConnell, who’d been re-elected judge executive in 1981, used his position to build up a fat campaign war chest, and he devoted a good amount of it to hiring the most notorious political hit man in America: Roger Ailes.
The future founder and CEO of Fox News had already established his well-earned reputation for flaunting the truth and grabbing the opposition by the jugular while working for Nixon and Reagan. For McConnell, he cooked up an ad that would become a classic of the genre. Called “Hound Dog,” it featured a pack of bloodhounds trying to sniff out Huddleston, who was allegedly neglecting his Senate duties to make paid political speeches around the country. In fact, as Newsweek reported, Huddleston had made 94 percent of Senate votes. But the hound dogs caught Kentuckians’ imaginations and completely changed the race. “[McConnell] was 40 points behind,” Cross recalls, “but then they put up this ad and it made people laugh.” Most important, it was Huddleston they were snickering at.
McConnell squeaked into the Senate by the narrowest of victories — 5,000 votes statewide, a less-than-one-percent margin. He arrived in Washington as the only Republican to unseat a Democrat in the Senate that year. But he took no time to celebrate: He immediately set to work courting big donors for his re-election bid in 1990. “As I always say,” McConnell wrote in his book, “the three most important words in politics are ‘cash on hand.’ ”
McConnell cemented his reputation as a no-holds-barred campaigner in 1990, when he faced Democrat Harvey Sloane, a two-term Louisville mayor and Yale-educated doctor. McConnell rolled out a tactic he’d use again and again in future campaigns — making his opponent look like more of an outsider than the incumbent from Washington. McConnell had promised reporters he’d be running a purely positive campaign, but he broke that pledge with alacrity. At Fancy Farm (the KY annual political gathering) in 1989, he lit into Sloane as the “wimp from the East” whose “mommy left him a million dollars” and who had “come down here to save us from ourselves.” (When reporters asked McConnell afterward why he’d already gone negative, he replied, “I just couldn’t help myself.”) Running with generous backing from the NRA, McConnell also painted Sloane as a gun-grabber. McConnell’s campaign sent endless mailers and ran streams of ads turning Sloane’s support for an assault-weapons ban into further evidence that he was an uppity liberal. McConnell, among his many pernicious contributions to American politics, became one of the first to successfully turn the Second Amendment into a cultural wedge issue. (Two decades later, when public outcry for gun-control measures swelled after 20 first-graders and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, McConnell engineered a filibuster that prevented the Senate from even voting on a background-check requirement.)
With the election fast approaching, and McConnell’s lead too narrow for comfort, it was time for the coup de grâce. The senator’s campaign leaked to the press that Sloane, who hadn’t been practicing medicine for a few years, had renewed a prescription for his sleeping pills using his expired Drug Enforcement Administration credentials. Before long, Kentuckians’ airwaves were filled with ads featuring ominous images of vials and pills, with a deep-voiced narrator decrying Sloane’s habit of prescribing himself “mood-altering” “powerful depressants” at “double the safe dose without a legal permit.”
After throwing the kitchen sink at Sloane — whose political career never recovered — McConnell won narrowly, with just 52 percent of the vote. But with the GOP on the rise in Kentucky, and McConnell pulling the strings, he would never again come close to losing. Even so, he would always relish pummeling anyone who dared challenge him.
As longtime Democratic operative, Jim Cauley put it, “They take good people and make them bad.” (emphasis by website)
McConnell had become secure enough in Kentucky, and flush enough with big corporate donors, that he could focus more fully on his larger goal of elevating himself over his Republican colleagues in Washington. He would pursue Senate leadership the same way he’d approached winning elections from the start. He’d do whatever it took.
As a senator from a small state, graced with none of the backslapping bonhomie that traditionally led senators up the ladder to power, McConnell had to cast around for a way to rise. When he found it, it meant disavowing one of the few principles he still clung to.
Just as he’d originally run as a pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-civil-rights Republican, McConnell had a long history of calling for removing big money from politics. In 1973, not long after he was elected chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, he’d written an op-ed for the Courier-Journal calling for “truly effective campaign finance reform” — lowering contribution limits, mandating public disclosure of donors, even capping how much a candidate could spend in a race. He’d later laugh this off, claiming he’d been “playing for headlines” to distract folks from the Watergate scandal. But in 1987, midway through his first term, McConnell floated a constitutional amendment to end what he called the “millionaire’s loophole” — the ability for wealthy Americans to spend limitless money on their own campaigns. (emphasis by website)
The proposal went nowhere, and in his second term, McConnell made a 180-degree turn and set himself down a path to becoming the most outspoken and influential opponent of campaign-finance restrictions in American history. At the same time, he began to master the art of tactical obstructionism. Democratic Sens. David Boren and George Mitchell had proposed a bill that included both spending limits and public financing for campaigns. While some Republicans were hesitant to speak out against a measure designed to tamp down on corruption, McConnell took the lead, blocking the bill by reviving the use of the FILLIBUSTER, which still carried unsavory associations with segregationist efforts to block civil-rights measures in the Sixties. “Filibustering is sometimes presented as an obstructionist tactic by its opponents,” McConnell would later say, “but in my view, if legislation as awful as this bill is brought up for consideration, there is a duty to obstruct its passage.” (emphasis by website)
By 1997, McConnell’s reputation for relentless fundraising — “It’s a joy to him,” marveled Sen. Alan Simpson — had won him his first leadership post, as chairman of the Republican National Senatorial Committee. (emphasis by website)
That same year, when a bill was floated to ban “soft money” — contributions to political parties that could be funneled into particular campaigns, allowing donors to exceed legal limits on donations — McConnell steeled the nerves of his fellow Republicans in opposing it: “If we stop this thing,” he reportedly told his colleagues, “we can control this institution for the next 20 years.” The fact that McConnell had himself proposed a soft-money ban four years earlier mattered not at all. (emphasis by website)
Two years later, McConnell clinched his reputation by fighting tooth-and-nail against fellow Republican John McCain’s effort to rein in campaign money with the McCain-Feingold Act. As the Senate debated the measure in October 1999, McConnell confronted McCain on the floor, demanding that he name senators he considered to be corrupted by donors’ money. “For there to be corruption,” McConnell said, “someone must be corrupt. I just ask my friend from Arizona what he has in mind here?”
When McCain refused to say which senators he had in mind, McConnell kept needling him. Finally, McCain shot back: “A certain senator stood up and said it was OK for you not to vote for the tobacco bill because the tobacco companies will run ads in our favor.” That “certain senator,” as everyone knew, was McConnell.
Some senators might have been embarrassed. But the same sorts of scorched-earth tactics McConnell had used to win elections back home were now turning him into a national conservative antihero. McCain and the others could talk loftily about saving democracy; McConnell invited and embraced their scorn, knowing he was also winning the silent gratitude of many of his fellow senators. In a sense, he made himself a human shield for other Republicans opposed to reform. But he also got a kick out of being vilified. When U.S. News & World Report ran a headline calling McConnell the “Darth Vader” of campaign finance reform, he had it framed and hung in his office.
Lord Vader wasn’t finished. When McCain-Feingold became law, McConnell immediately lent his name to a lawsuit to block the law’s enforcement. In 2003, his suit lost on appeal in a narrow 5-4 decision in the Supreme Court. Undaunted, he then co-founded the James Madison Center for Free Speech in D.C., with archconservative lawyer James Bopp, who would bring the Citizens United case that, come 2010, would not only strike down McCain-Feingold but also legalize unlimited corporate contributions. By then, McConnell had been elected Republican leader — and was busy laying minefields in the legislative path of President Obama and the Democratic Congress.
Contrary to popular recollection, McConnell didn’t utter his infamous quote — “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” — until the eve of the 2010 midterms. In his book, McConnell insisted the reporter took the quote out of context, twisting it into something unpatriotic and cynical. But then, just a few paragraphs later, he wrote about the Tea Party revolution: “To my great delight, it seemed as if we were moving in the direction of holding Obama to one term.”
At first, McConnell’s Senate minority — with just 40 Republicans — was too small to block Obama at every turn. When his dispirited colleagues met in the weeks before Obama’s inauguration, McConnell rallied them around a strategy: Stick together as a bloc and use parliamentary maneuvers to filibuster, or at least delay, every major piece of legislation the president proposed. Some Republicans were worried about the political repercussions of obstruction, but McConnell convinced them if they could deny the president victories, his popularity would wane — the public would come to blame him, not Congress, for the failures. To show the way, McConnell led the opposition to Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, both denying him the chance to fulfill an important campaign promise and reviving questions about Democrats’ toughness on foreign policy.
McConnell wheedled and cajoled waffling senators to prevent a single Republican vote from being cast for Obama’s biggest legislative priority, the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that its passage would be seen, and debated in the future, as a strictly partisan affair. But the most enduring legacy of McConnell’s strategy would be his dramatic break with tradition on the president’s judicial nominees. While only 68 nominees had been denied confirmation over the previous 40 years, Republicans successfully filibustered 79 nominees during Obama’s first term alone.
McConnell was too much of a Washington operator to be considered a hero of the new right-wing insurrection inspired by the shock of a black man’s presidency. He privately fumed about the tea partyers who ousted establishment Republicans in primaries. But McConnell, the onetime moderate whose real ideology was now anybody’s guess, had become, in the words of The Atlantic’s James Fallows, “the most effective purely partisan figure” in modern times.
McConnell’s work finally paid off in 2014, when Republicans won the Senate and made him majority leader at last, but he could not control the broader consequences of the upheavals his quest for power had set in motion. His all-out war on Obama’s agenda, his transformation of the Senate into a hyperpartisan arena, and his devious obstructionism helped set the table for Trump — and, simultaneously, conceivably, for McConnell’s own downfall.
McConnell was hardly bowled over by the idea of Trump as president. “It’s pretty obvious he doesn’t know a lot about the issues,” McConnell dryly remarked during the 2016 campaign. After Trump won, Washington reporters rubbed their hands in glee, keeping watch for signs of high-level clashes between the spectacularly ill-matched Republican leaders. The closest they came to a satisfying public “feud,” though, was in the aftermath of the failure of Republicans’ alternative to Obamacare in the summer of 2017, when Trump blamed McConnell and vice versa. But after McConnell bit his lip and declined to join the chorus of condemnation over Trump’s appalling response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, then teamed with the administration to pass the president’s first budget bill over strong conservative objections, the two began singing from the same hymnal. By 2018, at a rally in Kentucky, they were praising each other to the skies. “Aren’t we proud of President Trump?” McConnell proclaimed. Trump called McConnell “one of the most powerful men in the world,” and lauded him as “Kentucky tough” — which would become the slogan for McConnell’s 2020 campaign.
Most of all, Trump came to appreciate the “big, beautiful present” McConnell had given him by leaving scores of judicial seats open for the new president to fill, delighting Trump’s evangelical base and giving him something to brag about during his rocky first year. McConnell never stopped giving the president gifts — passing tax cuts for wealthy Americans, declaring the “case closed” on collusion with Russia in the 2016 elections while the Intelligence Committee was still investigating, and refusing to bring election-security bills up for a vote. Almost single-handedly, McConnell, while reportedly continuing to “abhor” Trump’s ignorance and lack of discipline, gave the administration legitimacy, along with a record to run on in 2020.
McConnell’s efforts have led some to liken him to Hindenburg, the German president who enabled Hitler’s rise. Asked about the comparison, McConnell scoffed, “To expect Republican elected officials not to try to achieve as much as they possibly can . . . out of pique over presidential behavior is nonsense.” (emphasis added by the website)
While McConnell’s role as Trump’s chief accomplice has made him the archvillain of Democrats nationally, he is detested back home for broader reasons. At Fancy Farm, one of the folks I meet is Jen Thompson, an artist and farmer from Paducah who’d come to holler at McConnell — but admits she’d once been a supporter. “I’m 47,” she says. “When I was first able to vote, in 1996, I voted for Mitch. He was already getting powerful in Washington, and I bought into the idea that he could do a lot of good for us. But eventually, it dawned on me, like a lot of people, this guy really doesn’t give a crap about us. He’s all about stockpiling his own squirrel-nut factory for his winter. Public records are public records, and you can see how his trajectory has gone toward wealth. Back home, I’m still making the same amount of money I was making! I think he’s got a real good chance of being booted this time.”
She was getting at something that explains McConnell’s dismal approval rating in Kentucky — and that could cause him fits in his run for re-election next year. When he last ran, defeating Secretary of State Alison Grimes by 15 points in 2014, McConnell had plenty of power in Washington, but nowhere near the national notoriety he’s achieved since becoming majority leader and handmaiden to Trump’s agenda. The more power he’s accrued, the more folks back home are inclined to wonder: How come Kentucky isn’t reaping any benefits from it?
The Democrats competing to challenge McConnell next year say they plan to pound that question home. “While McConnell has gone from being one of the poorest senators to one of the richest, he has left Kentucky behind,” says Broihier, the newspaper editor who’s running a grassroots campaign. He ticks off some grim statistics: “We’re 47th in poverty, 44th in employment, 43rd in education. We’re number five in diabetes and teen pregnancy. We’re number one in pollution from [coal] plants. If the measure is what you’ve done for your constituents, it’s a pretty easy case to make.”
The early front-runner for the nomination, Amy McGrath, plans to hammer that message home as well. “Mitch McConnell has been in office 34 years now,” she says, “and for many people in Kentucky, their lives have not only not gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. He’s let our signature industries like tobacco go away, without any plan for replacing the lost jobs. He’s known the coal industry would decline, for decades, and now we have an entire region, eastern Kentucky, where there’s not a lot of opportunity. And it’s easy to see why: You go 30 minutes outside of Lexington to the east, you lose cellphone coverage. Businesses might want to come here, but you know what? They come, they see there’s no infrastructure, and they turn right around and leave.”
McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who fell just shy of unseating a Republican in Congress last year, has raised buckets of money — $7 million in the first six weeks of her campaign, demonstrating the other challenge McConnell will be facing next year: Democrats nationally are dying to throw money at anyone who might be able to unseat him.
In his past two campaigns, McConnell outraised his opponents by $10 million and $12 million, an almost insurmountable advantage for even the most appealing candidate to overcome. It’s unlikely that he’ll enjoy that kind of edge in 2020. Ditch Mitch, a PAC founded by Ryan Aquilina, a digital strategist for progressive campaigns, has already raised $3 million to supplement the Democratic effort to oust McConnell. “We see ourselves as a necessary complement,” Aquilina says, “considering that McConnell is going to raise jumbo-jet cash and spend it all going negative.”
McConnell’s opponent in 2020 will surely make an issue of where his campaign money comes from, too — since it’s almost exclusively from corporate donors from outside Kentucky. Only nine percent of his haul in the most recent fundraising came from individual donors back home; the vast majority, as usual, derived from a roster of big corporate interests — including United Parcel Service, the Blackstone Group, Eli Lilly & Co., and the private-prison GEO Group.
“This is a winnable race, if you try to make it catered to Kentuckians,” says Matt Jones, the popular host of Kentucky Sports Radio who’s also considering a run. “This is a blue-collar, anti-establishment state. People are religious, but they’re not Bible Belters. There’s a long history of fighting for workers’ rights here. People say voters aren’t going to go for Trump and then vote for a Democrat down-ballot. But that’s misunderstanding Kentucky.” Aquilina agrees: “The reason people voted for Trump here is the same reason they hate McConnell.”
Which means McConnell won’t have the luxury of distancing himself one iota from the president between now and next November; Trump’s approval ratings in Kentucky are more than 20 points higher than his own. As demonstrated by his hasty dismissal of those election-security bills in July, the senator has no choice but to keep himself tethered to Trump and hope to ride his coattails — a situation that, for a control freak like McConnell, cannot be comforting.
That’s what it’s come to for Mitch McConnell. Four decades of clawing his way to power, by any means at his disposal, and now his political life, which is his only life, ultimately rests in the hands of the most erratic character ever to occupy the Oval Office. No one can doubt that McConnell will run a campaign, as always, that is lavishly funded and equal parts savvy and cutthroat. But the conditions, created largely by the senator himself, are ripe for a reckoning. And if it comes, it will be an ironic and fitting denouement to one of the most destructive political careers in American history.