Thursday, April 18, 2019

McTurtle Is Gambling His Entire Reelection Campaign On Trump... And Fake News About Pot Legalization

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Above is McTurtle's announcement ad for his 2020 reelection campaign. Pretty ugly, huh? But I have a feeling he knows better than we do about what sells in rural Kentucky. He sure isn't going to get elected by voters in Louisville or Lexington.

In his last reelection campaign, 2014, his opponent was Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. She ran a good campaign and won 10 of the state's 120 counties. He beat her 806,787 (56.2%) to 584,698 (40.7%) despite quite a bit of voter apathy. Six years earlier he had beaten Democrat Bruce Lunsford 953,816 (53%) to 847,005 (47%). Two years later Hillary, who won just 2 counties-- Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington)-- was pulverized in Kentucky, where Trump beat her 1,202,942 (62.5%) to 628,834 (32.7%). Trump is far more popular in Kentucky than McTurtle is.

McTurtle is the most disliked political figure in America-- and has been for years. In the latest polling from The Economist/YouGov (April 13-16), pollsters asked about the favorability of American politicians. All of them are underwater with the public, but McConnell way more so than anyone else:
McTurtle -22
Trump -13
Schumer -12
Pelosi -9
Pence -7
Those numbers are arrived at by subtracting their favorability score from their unfavorably score. In McTurtle's case, is favorability is 26%, the lowest of any American political leader and his unfavorability is 48%, worse than anyone other than Trump.

It's unclear when the Kentucky primary even is, but right now there is no heavy favorite among Democrats considering running against McTurtle. Popular sports talk radio host (and attorney) Matt Jones appears to have an edge, but Democrats are also excited about Louisville mayor Greg Fischer, former Lexington mayor Jim Gray and former congressional candidate Amy McGrath. Other than the untested Jones, none of them look like especially good prospects against McTurtle-- unless voters-- who haven't done so previously-- decide that anyone would be better than he is. In his piece for the New Republic last month, Alex Pareene made the case for why Kentucky voters ought to.




In the midst of this January’s historic, senselessly protracted government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided it was time to put forward his vision of how government should properly function. So he took to the Washington Post op-ed section to deride a modest set of Democratic proposals to institute election and voting rights reform. Instead of doing the right thing and bowing to President Donald Trump’s demand for the partial funding for a wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico, McConnell complained, congressional Democrats were trying to game America’s electoral system to their own permanent advantage.

McConnell’s litany of complaints spun off into labored assaults on proposals to reorganize the Federal Elections Commission (a bid to give “Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate”) and to make Election Day a national holiday for federal workers, together with six days of paid leave for such employees to work in their local precincts to help get out the vote (or, in McConnell-ese, “extra taxpayer-funded vacation for bureaucrats to hover around while Americans cast their ballots”).

For actually existing ordinary Americans—including the 800,000 or so federal employees plunged into desperate economic uncertainty by the shutdown—this was a singularly bizarre spectacle to behold: The man in Washington arguably most responsible for prolonging the ordeal of the shutdown was now pronouncing that an effort to enlarge the sphere of democratic participation was a venal, bureaucratic power grab, and a brazen affront to the sacred liberty of big-money political donors and their legislative mouthpieces.

Just pan back a moment to savor the larger power dynamics in play here: As he was lecturing Democratic reformers on the folly of voting rights expansion, McConnell was crippling the basic operations of government to assuage the bigoted vanity of the Republican president. Recall that the continuing resolution to finance the government without wall funding at the end of the 115th Congress passed overwhelmingly in the chamber he leads, and that he vigilantly squelched successive House versions of the same funding plan throughout the monthlong shutdown drama for no reason except that he didn’t want to be the person to end it. This isn’t mere lefty hyperbole: At one critical juncture in the shutdown negotiations, Lindsey Graham, the Trump White House’s key Senate liaison, left a conference with the Senate majority leader to blurt the quiet part out loud to CNBC producer Karen James Sloan. Leader McConnell, Graham explained, is “going to let the White House figure out what move they want to make... The Leader is waiting... to see what the White House wants to do.”

So much, in other words, for all the sonorous talk of the United States Senate as the world’s most august deliberative body: Its most powerful majority leader over the past decade is an errand boy for both an errant billionaire class of campaign donors, and an errant billionaire president.

What’s more, that’s just how Mitch McConnell wants it. Something of a journalistic cottage industry has sprung up around the recondite question of just what makes Mitch tick, but the uninspiring, mundane answer is hiding in plain sight. Mitch McConnell is the great avatar of the decades-long enclosure of our public life by money. He does not offer a stirring vision of conservative national greatness or even ends-justify-the-means rationales for Senate horse-trading that depart from the disheartening transactional version of our politics that reigns in the Citizens United age. In Mitchworld, you simply pay-- and pay, and pay-- to play.


This brute fact accounts for a host of lesser paradoxes of McConnell’s career, beginning with this: The genuine tactical brilliance of his parliamentary career only gets appreciated by the loyal opposition of the left. Leftist critics of the plutocratic drift of conservative ideology-- which is to say, American politics these days-- appreciate the materialist candor of McConnell’s thug agenda in a way that the true-believing right never has. The fabled small-government, evangelical base of Republican national politics has always distrusted-- and indeed, often hated-- Mitch McConnell. This was brought home to me forcefully at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, as I watched, from the press seats, Reince Priebus introduce the Senate majority leader as the temporary chairman of the convention. From the floor, the boos outweighed the cheers.

And the Mitch McConnell they were booing was pretty much peak Mitch McConnell. At that moment, he was in the middle of the greatest stand of his career: refusing to allow a Democratic president to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, based on an obscurantist reading of Senate appointment protocols that he was all but making up as he went along. The man nominated for the presidency at that convention would, with McConnell’s considerable help, go on to give the conservative movement a Supreme Court majority that looks poised to last a generation. Back in July 2016, that victory seemed exceedingly unlikely, hinging, as it did, on the election of a widely hated and transparently ridiculous man as president. But McConnell was the only person with the power and audacity to get any sort of court victory out of the last year of the Obama presidency. They still booed him.

They know, on the right, that McConnell isn’t really part of their movement. He’s got no core. What they haven’t seemed to grasp—though this may finally be changing—is that he’s the primary reason their politics have had any success at all in the twenty-first century. Indeed, this unlikely conservative culture hero might go down in history as the man who saved their movement from the utter destruction of its electoral vehicle, the GOP. But that’s also the source of the profound distrust that Trumpist ideologues hold out for brazenly transactional leadership figures like McConnell, or Paul Ryan, or John Boehner; the Republican Party they’ve all been trying to shore up at the institutional level is the same structure that die-hard movement conservatives are dead set on immolating. Mitch McConnell’s version of success, in other words, seems at most like a prophetic exile in the wilderness to the folks who have seized conservative power to wage the culture war as opposed to the workaday Republican business of plutocratic looting.

...After his long career in the Senate, it may be impossible now to convince anyone he’s a Tea Party conservative or a MAGA Republican, but he’ll be perfectly comfortable working with members of both factions so long as they don’t harm his fundraising hauls or reelection chances... Read enough about Mitch McConnell and you come to see him as a man of pure ambition and little else... [O]nce you realize McConnell has already achieved his life’s dream, and ascended to the limits of his ambition, his behavior suddenly starts to make more sense. He’s not trying to cap off his career with a legislative masterstroke, because he doesn’t care about legislation. He already won. He’s the Senate majority leader, his parliamentary prowess is regularly feted, and he has already left his legacy indelibly inscribed on the highest court in the land.

Being a Senate majority leader who doesn’t care about almost any particular outcome to any particular political issue not directly related to making sure your funders can fund you actually seems to take quite a bit of pressure off, job performance–wise. Why go to bat to try to end a government shutdown when you don’t actually care if the government is shut down?



It’s also worth noting, as one wades through the brackish capitulations to plutocratic power that Mitch McConnell has always loudly and forcefully embraced as a vindication of his first principles, that his is a case in which the personal is very much political. When you spend so much of your time asking rich people for money, it does help to have a lot of it yourself, so you have something in common. Curiously, McConnell’s own personal fortunes are frequently left out of his profiles, perhaps because it appears vaguely unseemly for reporters or editors to just come out and say the plain truth: He married into money, which had enormous political benefits. This is not to make any unsavory insinuation about the nature of his relationship with Elaine Chao-- it is, however, to note that she was a wealthy shipping heiress when they married, and he was effectively a lifelong politician who’d barely sniffed the private sector. Even before the marriage, Chao’s wealthy father had been a large Mitch McConnell donor; after, he became an even more enthusiastic one. He also gave the couple at least one reported gift of millions of dollars. In 2016, Mitch McConnell was estimated to be worth around $27 million.

McConnell knew first that unlimited fundraising was the key to his own political fortunes. He came to realize it was the best way for the Republicans to keep their power too, as unions declined and corporate power, along with income inequality, rose and rose. Republicans have a built-in advantage in a world of unlimited political spending. It took McConnell’s forceful arguments with people like John McCain to get them all to come around to his way of thinking.

...As Trump’s presidency has predictably proved to be a series of outrages and self-inflicted national crises, punctuated with periodic updates on all the crimes and should-be-crimes his friends, associates, and children have committed, McConnell has receded into the wallpaper. It’s another of his special political talents. During that historic shutdown, he simply vanished for days at a time, letting his louder, dimmer counterpart in the Democratic minority, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, make himself the face of the Senate side of the negotiations. And the thing is, with every other major player in Washington desperate to get in front of a camera, this strategy works astoundingly well at deflecting attention and blame for things that are absolutely your own fault.

...Congress attracts quite a few people whose primary ambition is having things named after them, and Mitch McConnell has always seemed clearly cut from that mold. It is only because of an unfortunate historical confluence that his career advancement coincided with the success, maturation, and eventual psychotic breakdown of the modern conservative movement. This has meant that his ultimate goal-- his name on an ugly marble Senate office building or something-- has required that he, at every step on his ascent to power, enable the worst excesses of an increasingly deranged movement of cranks, bigots, grifters, and plutocrats.

When Homans asked McConnell if he ever worries that he’s “strengthening the hand of a president who does seem, in some ways, very much inclined to do damage to institutions of American governance,” McConnell ducked responsibility for oversight by turning it over to the American people:
“Well, I mean, the ultimate check against any of this is the ballot box,” McConnell replied. “And one could argue, at least with regard to the House of Representatives last year, that there were plenty of people who wanted a midcourse correction.”
McConnell said those words as the majority leader of a deeply and intentionally undemocratic institution that exists to dilute the political power of citizens in larger and more diverse states. He said them about a president who was elected despite receiving fewer votes than his opponent, thanks to the counter-majoritarian workings of another antiquated and intentionally undemocratic institution that he, obviously, would fight any effort to reform. And, of course, he says this as a man whose political project is increasingly about reducing the power of the ballot box as much as possible-- a man who breaks any and all decorous governing traditions in his path in order to confirm judges who strike down voting rights laws, and who, during government shutdowns that he has the power to end, sits down to write op-eds bemoaning attempts to make Election Day a holiday.

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4 Comments:

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Articles like this make suppositions that there are enough sentient humans reading it to care enough to actually do something. It is a sad historical fact that this rarely works as desired. We'll be stuck with McTurtle right where he is until he expires.

 
At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is truth that the worst pieces of shit float to the top in both chambers... both parties.

the gap between the "best" and worst Nazi is about the width of a hydrogen atom.
the gap between the best and worst democrap is almost infinite.

but somehow the worst always earns the top spot. Not sure if the spot or the parties determine worstness... but Pelosi, scummer, mcturtle and McCarthy are all the worst both parties have ever produced.

Until the next time someone retires and is replaced. Then they'll SOMEHOW find someone worse. 'twas ever thus.

 
At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the worst flaws of our system is that someone who can ONLY win in 'fucking KY' can then parlay that win into influence over the lives of everyone in the whole nation. Thus, the worst citizens in the worst state can doom 320 million to suffer just because they can.



 
At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mcturtle is not gambling anything. he could get re-elected in fucking ky if he released the sex tape with him, liendsay graham and the wrestling coach ... in HD.

KY is one of several retarded, inbred Nazi shitholes. a Nazi skidmark like mcturtle will win 2 cycles after he's dead.

Ky will also give trump their electors until they have an atlantic coastline.

 

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