Mitch McConnell Poses a Threat to Democracy

The Mueller report exhaustively documented how the Russian government engaged in a “sweeping and systematic attack” on the 2016 election. Both the attorney general and a bipartisan group of legislators have suggested that this country must work to protect our electoral systems from a repeat performance. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, recently told Congress that “the threats just keep escalating,” adding that he viewed the 2018 midterms as a “dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020.”

In the midst of all of that comes this report from Nicholas Fandos at the New York Times.

A raft of legislation intended to better secure United States election systems after what the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, called a “sweeping and systematic” Russian attack in 2016 is running into a one-man roadblock in the form of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky…

Mr. McConnell, long the Senate’s leading ideological opponent to federal regulation of elections, has told colleagues in recent months that he has no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on the matter this term…

Like so many of the majority leader’s actions over the years, this one should be prompting an outcry from the American public. McConnell is thumbing his nose at protecting the very basis on which our democracy is built. But then, he’s been doing that for a while now.

It is helpful to remember that McConnell took on forces within his own party to fight for the right of the wealthy to utilize massive amounts of dark money to undermine our democratic processes. He is also the one who mocked attempts to reform our electoral system as nothing more than a “power grab” by Democrats. When it comes to Russia’s attempt to interfere, it was McConnell who refused to cooperate with the Obama administration in making a bipartisan statement about the need to protect our voting systems in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

In commenting on McConnell’s refusal to bring legislation to the Senate floor to protect our elections, Jonathan Chait writes that it is impossible to say why the majority leader is so blasé about this threat. But he nails it by saying that “the next time McConnell takes some action that sacrifices his partisan interests for the greater good will be the first.”

It has been clear for a while now that McConnell’s partisan interests don’t align with our democratic processes. As Zachary Roth documented almost three years ago, the majority leader and some of his Republican colleagues saw their minority status as a party beginning to develop years ago. Their strategy to deal with that was basically to forgo democracy and demonstrate that “being outnumbered doesn’t have to mean losing.”

When it comes to elections, the strategy adopted by Republican leadership has been fourfold: (1) suppress the Democratic vote, (2) gerrymander districts to favor the GOP, (3) infuse our politics with the influence of dark money, and (4) allow foreign (and perhaps domestic) interference.

Demonstrating that almost all political lies are a matter of projection, those four strategies are the actual “power grab” that McConnell is implementing. It not only protects the monied interests to which he is dedicated, it also provides both he and his Republican colleagues with job security.

The only way to stop that power grab and begin the process of restoring our democracy is for Mitch McConnell to lose his reelection and for Republicans to lose their Senate majority. As Barack Obama was fond of saying in 2016, “democracy is on the ballot” in 2020.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.