What Trump and McConnell Have in Common: Shamelessness

There are some ways that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are very different. The Senate Majority Leader uses words very carefully and doesn’t tend to seek the limelight. Those are two things that would never be said about the president.

But there is one overriding trait that the two men have in common: they are both totally shameless.

Donald Trump lies compulsively and is obviously very aware of the fact that he’s lying. He just doesn’t care. Mitch McConnell not only refused to hold a hearing on Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, he called out the Democrats for partisanship in their opposition to Brett Kavanaugh. With publication of Greg Miller’s book, The Apprentice, we are reminded of this:

When the integrity of our elections was at stake, Mitch McConnell chose partisanship over democracy. That is why this is a true statement:

The problem is that McConnell doesn’t care. He will do what it takes to maintain power and doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it.

I’m not breaking any news with these revelations. We’ve all known this for a while. But it is important to keep in mind that this shamelessness is a shift in how our politics have worked in the past. While not necessarily demonstrating a profile in courage, politicians have typically had their finger to the wind and attempted, at least rhetorically, to align themselves with public opinion. We used to talk about “gaffes” when they embarrassed themselves. But both the president and the Republican Majority Leader are immune to embarrassment, which means that they’ll go full steam ahead no matter what.

We are now watching that play out with the Kavanaugh. Some pundits are actually wondering why the president doesn’t just pull the nomination—he has plenty of others to chose from. But this has all gone far beyond anything related to the individual nominee. It is now a power play in the eyes of Trump and McConnell…a way to show Democrats that they will shamelessly push forward and win. To hesitate even a bit would be a sign of weakness.

I suspect that Democrats waste a lot of breath attempting to shame Republicans these days. While I think it is critical to fact-check their lies for the American people, it has zero impact on the liars. I can almost imagine McConnell brushing off his shoulders in response to claims that he is being hypocritical when it comes to judicial confirmations. He is very well aware of the fact that he is being hypocritical. He just doesn’t care. Attempting to deal with men like that is similar to banging your head against a brick wall; you are the only one who walks away from the exchange with injuries.

Trump won’t be on the ballot until 2020 and McConnell is also up for re-election that year. But it is possible for voters to demote McConnell by making him the Minority Leader, while giving Trump a congress that will actually start to hold him accountable. Neither one of these men will ever be shamed into better behavior. The only recourse is to limit their positional power and eventually take it away.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.