Last week, on November 13, I sat in the gallery above the U.S. Senate and watched Mitch McConnell shuffle across the Senate floor, stooped in age, to cast his vote in favor of yet another judicial candidate deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association (but, no doubt, put forward by the very Republican/Libertarian Federalist Society). McConnell looked self-satisfied, a man making good on his commitment to cement a Republican majority not just in the Supreme Court, but in the lower courts as well, a man who pretended fealty to Senate procedure, but only until he sensed the time was right to pitch out Senate tradition and reach for the brass ring of minority domination of the federal government. (This President and the numerical Senate majority represent a minority of American voters.)
As I watched McConnell in the flesh, I remembered how he stiff-armed the nomination of Merrick Garland, Obama’s moderate nominee to the Supreme Court, for more than a year and then smugly announced that, of course, he would replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg right up to the last moment of the Trump presidency if given the chance.
Mitch McConnell is among those I struggle not to despise. Once I believed McConnell at least respected Senate tradition. Now I believe his sole purpose in life is the pursuit of power. McConnelI is 77 years old. He has served as the U.S. Senator from Kentucky since 1985 and as the leader of Senate Republicans since 2006, establishing a record in both positions. Despite his drabness he is arguably the most powerful politician in Washington. He is singlehandedly responsible for blocking moderate nominees to the federal court system, then filling them with Federalist Society approved ideologues. Meanwhile he has blocked votes on nearly all legislation coming from the House.
As I observed his shuffling frailty on the Senate floor I found encouragement that his grip on power might end: First, McConnell has a very credible candidate running against him in Kentucky for his Senate seat in 2020, Retired Lt. Col Amy McGrath. She is gathering a lot of backing, both moral and financial. Second, the incumbent governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin (R), having just lost to Democrat Andy Beshear, is making an ass out of himself and his Republican backers by claiming voter fraud on the basis of no evidence (Trump playbook?). Beshear (D) was elected by an energized Democratic electorate. The turnout was 42.16 percent compared to the 31 percent turnout when Bevin (R) was elected in 2015. This time Bevin (R) got more raw votes than in 2015–and still lost. Hope is in the air.
But back to McConnell. Song has often been used as a political tool. With that in mind, I invite you to spend five minutes listening to an ingenious composition by two musicians of my acquaintance entitled “Song for McConnell.” Share widely. They’ve adapted an old Irish ballad to a new situation with soberly amusing results.
Keep to the high ground,