Robert Reich: Goodbye, Mitch, You Were The Worst – OpEd


He will be remembered as one of the most dangerous politicians in living memory. He helped transform the Republican Party into a cult, worshiping at the altar of authoritarianism. He’s damaged our country in ways that may take a generation to undo. 

No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. The politician I’m referring to is Mitch McConnell, who yesterday announced he will step down as Republican leader in November. Who’s worse — Trump or McConnell? 

Like Trump, McConnell hasn’t been just a garden-variety bad public official. He’s been a truly awful public official. McConnell has always put party above America. Remember when he said his most important goal as Senate leader was to make Barack Obama a one-term president? The fact that he hasn’t always kissed Trump’s backside has infuriated the former furor-in-chief.

Despite his opposition to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — admitting publicly that Trump “provoked” the attack on the U.S. Capitol — McConnell voted to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection on January 6, 2021. 

So who’s worse? It’s a tough call. Trump defaced and defiled the presidency, but no person has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of the U.S. government than McConnell.

Remember, this is the man who refused for almost a year to allow the Senate to consider President Obama’s moderate Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland.

Then, when Trump became president, this is the man who got rid of the age-old Senate rule requiring 60 senators to agree on a Supreme Court nomination so he could ram through not one but two Supreme Court justices, including one with a likely history of sexual assault.

This is the man who rushed through the Senate, without a single hearing, a $2 trillion tax cut for big corporations and wealthy Americans — a tax cut that raised the government debt by almost the same amount, generated no new investment, and failed to raise wages, but gave the stock market a temporary sugar high because most corporations used the tax savings to buy back their own shares of stock.

McConnell earned the nickname “Moscow Mitch” because he has done almost everything Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump wanted him to do, except abandon Ukraine. McConnell has refused to support what’s needed for comprehensive election security, although the U.S. intelligence community says Moscow is continuing to weaponize disinformation through social media on behalf of Trump. 

McConnell has also blocked bipartisan background-check legislation for gun sales, even after repeated mass shootings have scarred and scared the nation. He secured a right-wing takeover of the U.S. federal court system — giving conservatives power to shape the law on the climate, reproductive rights, voting rights, and other issues affecting millions of people across the country.

McConnell has consistently received low approval ratings from voters in Kentucky because he has repeatedly sacrificed Kentucky to the Republican agenda — for example, agreeing to Trump’s so-called emergency funding for a border wall, which took $63 million away from projects like a new middle school on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee.

McConnell even cut funding for black lung disease suffered by Kentucky coal miners. I know from my years as labor secretary that coal mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and the number of cases of incurable black lung disease has been on the rise. But when a group of miners took a 10-hour bus ride to Washington to ask McConnell to restore the funding, McConnell met with them for one minute and then refused to help them. 

Am I being too harsh on Mitch? I felt bad for him when he froze before the cameras because of some kind of seizure. I’m sure he loves his children. I met his current wife, Elaine Chao, when she was secretary of labor, and she seemed like a nice person. He’s a human being. 

But history will not be kind to him. 

Who will replace him? 

I’m hearing that Senators John Thune of South Dakota, John Cornyn of Texas, and John Barrasso of Wyoming will vie for the party leadership role. All three will do Trump’s bidding. All have endorsed Trump in the 2024 election in recent weeks. 

But Trump is more likely to want a Senate leader who’ll serve him as a fierce MAGA lapdog — someone who will further tighten Trump’s grip on the party, who’s sufficiently young and telegenic to help Trump sell his authoritarianism to the public, and so unprincipled and ambitious that he’ll flush democracy down the toilet to promote Trump and himself. 

Who fits the bill? Ohio’s Senator J.D. Vance.

PS: Here’s a video that my colleagues at Inequality Media Civic Action and I did just before the 2020 election — arguing that even if Trump were booted out of the White House, America would still be in trouble if the Senate remained in Republican hands and McConnell remained majority leader — and urging, among other things, that Georgians send two Democrats to the Senate to help flip that chamber.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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