McConnell as the Last Man Standing


            Heerlen           On the train from Amsterdam to Heerlen, I saw the alert.  Super-duper Republican conservative and US Senate tactician, Mitch McConnell from Kentucky will step down at the of this term as Republican Majority leader, the longest serving in history.  Normally, there would be dancing in the streets back in the US of A, but there was an ominous note to this resignation.  McConnell is stepping down because he says he can understand the politics within his party and his caucus, and he’s out of step.  This is a bit like Attila the Hun saying he doesn’t get along with barbarians.  Our celebration has to be tempered by a recognition that “then comes the deluge.”  As bad as McConnell has been, is it possible that we could have worse in store?  Simple answer:  yes!

Let’s not forget that the current horror of the US Supreme Court and its hard right majority is McConnell’s court more than Trump’s or anyone else who would take credit for conservatives.  McConnell broke all precedent when he refused to schedule hearings for a year on approving President Obama’s nomination of now Attorney General Merrick Garland to the court to replace Antonin Scalia after his death, allowing Trump to make the appointment.  Raw, iron-fisted partisan politics was a McConnell specialty and the examples are legion.

Weirdly, what McConnell seems to be saying is that he’s out of step on international issues.  He has joined Democrats in supporting funding for Ukraine, as well as Israel, even as the US House and some of his own caucus seem to be returning to the isolationist tendencies of their party one-hundred years ago.  Trump has been quoted recently as threatening NATO, even as it adds members and steps up against Russian encroachment.  Trump continues to not criticize Putin and is now planning to meet with the arch-conservative authoritarian leader of Hungary as well.  The ability to fashion bipartisan agreements on national security, even for those of us who rail against the military budget, seems to be crumbling as McConnell refuses to be the last man standing in the way.

What all Americans need to worry about, especially as control of the House and Senate are on the ballot this November along with the Biden-Trump race, is that the Senate could become as chaotic and unproductive as the House.  Narrow majorities empower single dissidents and their ability to block consensus from the majorities.  The lockstep control that McConnell had on his caucus won’t exist and a new leader more in synch with Trump, who has never been McConnell’s favorite, will make any legislation or efforts at good governance a slog and a struggle, if the Republicans are in charge.