Mitch McConnell speaking
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Don­ald Trump is renowned for unpaid legal bills and stiff­ing con­trac­tors. But he has tak­en on his own kind, refer­ring to influ­en­tial Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell a “bro­ken down crow” and a “dumb son-of-a-bitch.”

McConnell is not dumb. He is the longest serv­ing par­ty leader in U.S. Sen­ate his­to­ry, has rep­re­sent­ed Ken­tucky in the Sen­ate for forty years, and respon­si­ble for con­firm­ing three Supreme Court jus­tices who vot­ed to over­turn Roe v. Wade.

McConnell, eighty-two, is giv­ing up his lead­er­ship duties at year’s end but will stay in the Sen­ate, with his cur­rent term due to end in Jan­u­ary 2027. Don­ald Trump cost Repub­li­cans their Sen­ate major­i­ty in 2020 — the Democ­rats flipped both Geor­gia seats. The Repub­li­cans, bur­dened by the Supreme Court’s abor­tion deci­sion, failed to regain con­trol in 2022 despite many “red wave” predictions.

Yet, despite the ridicule he’s received — and the fact that he pri­vate­ly detests Trump — McConnell has stayed with Biden’s pre­de­ces­sor. He has not only endorsed Trump’s come­back bid, but can be described as Trump’s enabler.

McConnell was there for Trump when the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2019 passed its first impeach­ment res­o­lu­tion. He moved to shut down the Sen­ate tri­al almost before it began and defend­ed Trump, say­ing: “I’m not an impar­tial juror. ”This is a polit­i­cal process. There’s not any­thing judi­cial about it.”

The Sen­ate Repub­li­cans lead­er­ship, in McConnell’s words, was in “total coor­di­na­tion with the White House counsel’s office.”

In the fall of 2020, as Amer­i­cans pre­pared to elect their Pres­i­dent, U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg breathed her last. After the death of Jus­tice Antonin “Nino” Scalia, McConnell had refused to so much as hold a hear­ing on Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of fed­er­al appel­late judge (now Attor­ney Gen­er­al) Mer­rick Gar­land to fill Nino’s seat. The seat was held vacant as polit­i­cal cat­nip for evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers being wooed by Don­ald Trump’s campaign.

In 2020, how­ev­er, with Repub­li­cans still hold­ing a 52–48 major­i­ty, McConnell rushed through con­fir­ma­tion of Jus­tice Amy Coney Bar­rett in just over a month’s time It gave Trump his third Supreme Court appoint­ment and a two-to-one right major­i­ty on the high court. A lav­ish recep­tion in the White House Rose Gar­den sent numer­ous cel­e­brants away with the virus that caus­es COVID-19.

Remak­ing the fed­er­al courts was Trump’s sig­na­ture sell­ing point in lin­ing up reli­gious right sup­port. The court has tak­en into itself qua­si-leg­isla­tive duties and dis­dained prece­dent, act­ing to end affir­ma­tive action in col­lege emis­sions, rolling back fed­er­al author­i­ty under the Clean Water Act and gut­ting a key pro­vi­sion of the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act signed into law by Pres­i­dent Lyn­don Baines Johnson.

McConnell had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to play statesman.

An insti­tu­tion­al­ist, he was vis­i­bly out­raged and shak­en at the Trump-incit­ed Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion. The senator’s wife, Elaine Chao, quit her job as U.S. Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion in wake of the insurrection.

McConnell took to the Sen­ate floor, and for once was not dron­ing and bor­ing. “There is no ques­tion, none, that Pres­i­dent Trump is prac­ti­cal­ly, and moral­ly, respon­si­ble for pro­mot­ing the events of that day,” he told col­leagues and the coun­try. He added lat­er: “I feel exhil­a­rat­ed by the fact that this fel­low (Trump) final­ly, total­ly dis­cred­it­ed him­self… He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.”

But McConnell stayed his trig­ger fin­ger. The House vot­ed to impeach the depart­ing Pres­i­dent. The Sen­ate vot­ed 57–43 to con­vict: Sev­en GOP sen­a­tors vot­ed Yeah. McConnell could have fur­nished the addi­tion­al ten votes.

The result: The chance to rid Amer­i­can pol­i­tics of Trump was lost. Trump can run again, and once more endan­ger the Republic.

What is more, McConnell has endorsed him… this a man who accu­rate­ly described the events of Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021 as a “failed insurrection.”

A part of it is par­ti­san. McConnell vot­ed to con­vict Pres­i­dent Clin­ton. He played the role of chief obstruc­tion­ist dur­ing most of Barack Oba­ma’s two terms om tje White House, telling Repub­li­can col­leagues: “The sin­gle most impor­tant thing we want to achieve is for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to be a one-term president.”

All the while, Trump has kept bang­ing away. He has gone over the bound­aries of racism, mock­ing McConnel­l’s Asian Amer­i­can wife as “Coco Chao.” “I hired his wife,” Trump said of her Cab­i­net appoint­ment, “Did he ever say, ‘Thank you?’”

Lat­er this year, like­ly, col­leagues will line up on the Sen­ate floor to deliv­er McConnell trib­utes. It’s an old boy rit­u­al. It will, how­ev­er, ring hol­low. When it comes to defend­ing our Con­sti­tu­tion, and pre­serv­ing gov­ern­ment by the peo­ple, Mitch McConnell has shown he is a man who could hide in a field of stubble.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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