- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
When we first traced the rise of shamelessness as a superpower in American politics, we tried to give Mitch McConnell his due. At the time, we primarily focused on the then-Senate Majority Leader's procedural shamelessness: his abuse of arcane rules and mechanisms to block popular legislation, or indeed, to block President Barack Obama from exercising his constitutional prerogative to appoint judges to the federal bench. Through sheer brassness of balls, McConnell ground the federal government into a dramatic slowdown, which happened to be in the interests of many of the people who pay his campaign bills. If the system is already working for you, you might not want government doing much of anything. The Kentucky senator was thus a loyal servant to the most powerful corporate interests and the billionaires whose fortunes were intertwined with them.
But maybe we failed to fully appreciate the shamelessness of McConnell's words, too. Because the big guy has a new statement out reacting to Major League Baseball's sanctions against Georgia following that state's Republican legislature passing a new "election reform" bill—the MLB is pulling this year's All-Star Game from Atlanta—and this scrap of parchment is something to behold.
"We are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people," says the guy who helped pioneer the modern system of ultrawealthy citizens pouring millions of dollars into our elections, often anonymously, to influence votes and policy. Democrats have now taken to Dark Money in a big way, too, but McConnell is also opposed to reform measures, like H.R. 1, that might actually do something about these problems. (Last month, McConnell's aide was recorded on a call with Koch operatives in which they admitted that H.R. 1 was broadly popular, including with Republican voters, despite their attempts to tarnish it through spin and deception. They resolved to try to kill it by working lawmakers privately.) McConnell attacked the legislation in the statement, casting it as a Democratic "power grab." And then the Mitch McConnell Corporation Bashing continued.
It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves....Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex. Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.
From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government.
All of this is just incredible from the guy who has done as much as anyone alive today—outside of Anthony Kennedy—to get large corporations as much clout as possible in our politics. The McConnellian Ideal would see corporations directly elect their senators.
But then there are the claims about actual election law. Yes, as McConnell points out, it sucks to vote in the state of New York, but New York's restrictive voter laws do not exist in the same overt context as Georgia's new provisions, which come as part of a sweeping, nationwide voter-suppression campaign following the 2020 election. The justification for these 360(!) bills is not just the decade-long Republican delusion that there are widespread problems with voter fraud—there simply are not; it's a functionally nonexistent problem—but the new, turbocharged delusion that there was specifically a sprawling scheme to Steal the 2020 election. (Often, proponents do not expressly push the conspiracy, but suggest it has raised too many Questions and Concerns to be ignored.) This began as part of Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election results (along with, apparently, scamming his supporters on a systematic basis) and quickly morphed into the ideological justification for laws that will make it harder for people to exercise their most fundamental right in a democracy. Meanwhile, the Georgia law, had it been in place for 2020, might have allowed Trump to actually steal that state.
All of which made McConnell's use of "the big lie" in his statement something like the crème de la shameless. The Big Lie refers to Trump's claim the election was stolen from him. While Joe Biden has made some false and exaggerated claims about the Georgia law—it is not, as McConnell also fiercely points out, "Jim Crow on steroids"—these are not at all comparable to Trump's completely fabricated grand conspiracy in which he really won the election he lost by 7 million votes nationwide, and which he lost in crucial states run by Republicans. Meanwhile, the Georgia law is sinister, even if some of the worst proposals didn't make it into the final version, and it is matched by legislation in states across the country whose legislatures were similarly displeased with the record turnout in 2020. Whether these policies will as effectively target Democratic voters over Republican ones now as similar policies have throughout the last decade remains to be seen, but it's hard, considering the context, to see them as anything but attempts to put obstacles between voters and the ballot box. I mean, the Georgia statute makes it illegal to give somebody some water if they're waiting on a voting line. What are we even doing here?
For McConnell, it seems to be another fear-bark situation—as in, he's barking because he's terrified, much as he has when talk of filibuster reform has ramped up. By the end of the statement, he was issuing overt threats, much like the "scorched-earth Senate" he warned of recently if the upper chamber of Congress is made to function properly.
Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order. Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box.
The idea that making it easy for each citizen to cast a vote is an agenda solely for "far-left mobs" is telling on yourself a bit. But so are these threats against corporations who exercise their freedom of choice in this uniquely free American society people like McConnell normally like to tell us about. These companies are choosing not to do business in a state because they find its assault on its own citizens' rights to be odious. This is the free market, freedom of association—unless Mitch McConnell doesn't like what you're doing, in which case it's "blackmail." Considering there have been attempts in recent years to make boycotts of Israel illegal, this shouldn't really be that big a surprise. There are no fixed principles anymore.
What's telling here is how desperate McConnell seems to be. He built his empire of obstruction in service to oligarchy on the notion that those who stood to benefit would back him, in turn, on his own political initiatives. But it's clear he and his allies do not believe they can consistently win elections if people are broadly allowed to participate. And some entities he'd normally regard as his corporate clients have turned against him on that issue, demanding that states stop constructing obstacles to voting. It's a bind that clearly has him highly concerned, even if we all ought to be concerned at how much power these massive firms have to sway things either way.
You Might Also Like