Opinion: McConnell embodies erosion of American politics

Caitlynn Hauw, Staff Writer

For the past year, I’ve been riding the roller coaster that is American politics, and the neck-breaking twists and turns of the Mitch McConnell ride always leaves me disoriented. 

McConnell truly has a dark side that’s eroding American democracy. He has served as a United States senator for Kentucky since 1985. Contrary to popular belief, he hasn’t always been the extremely conservative politician we know of him today. 

In fact, as a college student, he attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech” at the 1963 March on Washington. Additionally, early in his political career he supported abortion rights and was pro-union. In 1986 and 2006 he voted for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

“From an early age, they’d [McConnell’s parents] taught me that everyone deserved equal opportunities and the right to vote,” McConnell wrote in his book “The Long Game: A Memoir.”

I question how effective the lesson his parents taught him was when he claimed former President Donald Trump “is not a racist” in response to Trump telling progressive congresswomen to “go back’’ to their country. 

In 2019-2020 McConnell received a 15% on his American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative scorecard, which determines how inline a legislator’s votes are with the ACLU’s position on certain issues. This rating is no surprise as McConnell works consistently to disenfranchise minority voters.

“There’s very little tangible evidence of this whole voter-suppression nonsense that the Democrats are promoting,” McConnell said in 2020 prior to the election. “My prediction is African-American voters will turn out in as large a percentage as whites, if not more so, all across the country.”

McConnell continues to support voter ID requirements, which according to the American Bar Association, disproportionately affects low-income minorities. Georgia’s “exact match” system, which withheld voting status if the name on one’s driver’s license or Social Security records did not match that on the voter registration form, is a prime example. In 2018, 80% of the 51,000 people who were affected by this program were Black. 

As the Senate majority leader, McConnell thwarted efforts by Senate Democrats to push legislation that would establish same-day voter registration and make the ballot casting process easier.

In addition to voter rights, the security of the 2020 U.S. elections was another concern for many lawmakers. McConnell had the same flippant stance on voting security as he did on voting rights.

“Any foreign breach of our cybersecurity measures is disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts,” said McConnell about the possibility the 2016 election was interfered with. “The Russians are not our friends.” 

Despite this, for the 2020 election even after hearing Robert Mueller’s warning, he refused to allow the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act to be heard on the Senate floor, which would have allocated $600 million to securing elections through supporting states and requiring backup paper ballots. He compromised down to $250 million. “It’s just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia,” McConnell said about the bill.

On the note of partisanship, McConnell claims to be an avid supporter of bipartisanship. However, during these past few years, the Senate under McConnell had become a graveyard for much of the Democratic legislation that passed the House. He often denied the Senate floor to left-wing lawmakers and their proposed bills.

“If I’m still the majority leader of the Senate after next year, none of those things are going to pass the Senate,” McConnell said in 2019. “They won’t even be voted on. So think of me as the Grim Reaper: the guy who is going to make sure that socialism doesn’t land on the president’s desk.”

One thing McConnell is more consistent with than his hate for socialism is his goal to fill lower and higher court seats with conservative judges. He proved his ruthless conviction in 2017 when Senate Democrats filibustered Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Trump. Republicans, led by McConnell, evoked the nuclear option which allowed debate to end on Gorsuch’s nomination without the full 60 votes in the Senate, or cloture. By changing the rules within the Senate requiring a supermajority to a simple majority to appoint Supreme Court nominees, Gorsuch was appointed to the Supreme Court in a 54-45 essentially party-line vote, which set a dangerous precedent for the future Senate.

Recently, there has been talk of Democrats considering eliminating the legislative filibuster now that they control the Senate. McConnell is strongly opposed to this idea and had a warning for his opposing party.

“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” he said in March about eliminating the filibuster. 

McConnell was shameless as he quashed Democrats’ own efforts to nominate a United States Supreme Court judge. In 2016, he refused to allow the Senate to vote on former president Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland because it was during an election year.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Despite saying this in 2016, soon after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in 2020, McConnell began to rally support for a new Supreme Court Justice 43 days before the election. He justified this rushed confirmation process by stating that because the White House and Senate chamber were headed by Republicans, the circumstances were completely different from Merrick Garland’s nomination.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement. 

His moral compass seems to have long been malfunctioning. He further emphasized this with his contradictory view on respect for women. From the perspective of a husband and father of daughters, in 2016, he was vocal about his disapproval of Trump’s derogatory comments in the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

“These comments are repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance,” McConnell said in a statement. “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”

He was not as chivalrous in 2018 when Christine Blasey Ford had accused now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her, during his Senate confirmation hearings for his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. McConnell did not show her and the other women who came forward the same ‘respect’ when his agenda to fill the seat with a conservative judge was on the line.

“My friends, keep the faith, don’t get rattled by all of this,” McConnell said before the Senate Judiciary Committee had even heard Dr. Ford’s testimony. “We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”

After those atrocious hearings, it was almost definitive to me that McConnell was like the Nigerian prince that emailed me the other day— they both promised me riches for my bitcoin and delivered nothing in return. The final scam he tricked me with, was the hope he gave me when he denounced the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that was fueled by Trump’s claims of a stolen election. 

“They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said. “And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like. But we pressed on.”

I applauded the Kentucky senator’s unexpected denouncement… but my praise began to falter when McConnell then refused an emergency session of Congress to impeach Trump on incitement of insurrection charges. He claimed the proceedings could not happen until Jan. 19, a day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. Despite this, with his critical comments about Trump before the impeachment, I held out hope he would stay true to his previous statements. On Feb. 5, I was infuriated when he voted along with 42 other senate Republicans against impeachment. 

The narrative of a McConnell I naively believed was capable of change began to unravel after the disappointing results of Trump’s impeachment hearings.

A two-faced politician is nothing to gawk at; however, the incongruencies within McConnell’s political career have not been for the sake of advancing the Republican party’s agenda—but securing his own career as a politician. He prioritizes furthering his own agenda and dismisses his duty to represent the American people. McConnell certainly isn’t the most popular elected official; however, he is one of the most influential and has left the most destruction in his wake—forever staining American politics. 

My doctor ordered pain relievers and ice to alleviate the whiplash I’ve had since McConnell took control of the Senate in 2015. My neck can finally begin to heal as the Republican majority in the Senate has come to a halt, and I’m prepared to have a much smoother ride with Chuck Schumer as the Senate majority leader.