McConnell revealed more than he meant to… that he thinks the Democrats will win this election.
One of my favorite pastimes of late has been to watch Trump and his Republican henchmen desperately twisting reality to somehow blame Democrats for their woes. Trump blames Democrats for his failure to repeal Obamacare (Democrats might be willing to take credit for that). For his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. For all the deaths in Puerto Rico. For his myriad of broken promises.
What makes these claims particularly absurd is that Republicans control everything. They control the House, the Senate, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, the judiciary, most State legislatures and Governorships. Democrats are completely out of power right now. If the Republicans have anything near a viable policy, they should be able to get it passed. Their failure to do so points to both the deep unpopularity of most of what they stand for as well as their galling incompetence.
One person who is not incompetent, though, is Mitch McConnell. The Senate majority leader is a true political animal. The things he really cares about have passed: tax cuts for the rich, right-wing judges. McConnell stays clear of Trump’s other craziness. The two actually aren’t close, but you never hear Trump criticize Mitch McConnell. I may hate everything he stands for, but I have to respect his skills.
So Mitch McConnell’s recent interview in which he revealed what Republicans would do if they win the midterm elections has left a lot of people scratching their heads. He admitted that Republicans would cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and take another run at repealing Obamacare.
These policy pronouncements could not be less popular. And they fly in the face of some of the lies being perpetrated by Republican candidates all over the country, like arguing that it is the Republicans who want to protect the insurance of people with preexisting conditions. Unbelievably, people who either voted for the repeal of these protections or who filed lawsuits against the Federal Government to eliminate them now claim that the Democrats are the ones seeking to take away these protections.
So why would McConnell make such a public statement that Democrats, rightly, pounced upon? McConnell rarely makes mistakes, so this one seems a doozy.
Paul Waldman of the Washington Post isn’t buying it. He argues that McConnell is positioning himself for a time when Democrats are again in power, hoping to be able to play the obstructionist again. After all, that policy worked pretty well for him in the past. Just ask Merrick Garland.
I think there’s some merit to Waldman’s argument, but I would go even further. I think McConnell wants to position himself to begin blaming Democrats again. He is not as stupid as Trump, and has therefore restrained himself from blaming Democrats for things that are clearly within the control of the Republicans. He has taken the opportunity to position the Republicans as the party of fiscal conservatism again, something they lost in the wake of their big tax cut for the rich.
Secondly, McConnell is sending a message to the Republican party funders, letting them know that the issues of concern to them are still his priorities. They want more tax cuts and to cut protections for everyone else, and that’s what McConnell and the Republicans want too. Sending this message is critical because he wants to keep his funders in line. Being concerned about this is valid given the fact that much of Wall Street seems to be supporting Democrats more than Republicans. I guess even with the gains they have experienced under Trump, they can’t stomach any more of his freakshow either.
Finally, it shows that McConnell really believes Republicans are likely to lose at least one chamber of Congress in the upcoming election. Where up until now it was unrealistic to blame Democrats for the Republicans failures, if the Democrats are in control of something, the opportunity to blame them arises again. That is the game McConnell is playing.
Thus, it is not simply some amorphous plan that McConnell is putting into action for sometime far in the future. He believes the House is too far gone for his comments to make any difference at this point. Instead, he is positioning himself for the next two years with at least partial Democratic control of Congress. McConnell is always playing his next hand. Democrats just need to start recognizing it.
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