Opinion: Mitch McConnell is going to turn me into a socialist


I’ve admired Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ focus on trying to level the economic playing field but have never considered voting for him — I thought him to be too radical. I’ve long gotten New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s blue collar appeal but have vehemently disagreed with her on policies, believing some of them would be taking us too far to the left. I’m among the small minority of Black voters who chose former President George W. Bush in 2000 and have voted for well-known Republicans such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

As much as I thought Obama earned a second term after guiding us through an economic calamity during his first, I would not have cried had Mitt Romney won in 2012. I’m among the most pragmatic voters in the nation, one who’s long craved the day that Black voters would be courted by both parties the way we were up through the mid-20th century.

The push-and-pull, the constant re-centering of our politics, is what I’ve long believed was our strength, even when I did not get my way politically. I see no other way to hold fast to that truth without becoming as radical as McConnell and his cheerleaders have become.

The Senate Majority Leader wasted almost no time in announcing that he would try to push through a new justice on the Supreme Court less than two months before an election. He doesn’t care about the blatant hypocrisy, doesn’t care about the political upheaval he’s creating in a country already on an emotional knife’s edge during a pandemic and a racial reckoning — it seems he only cares about maintaining conservative power in the court.
It matters not that he robbed Obama of an opportunity to appoint a new justice — nearly nine months before the 2016 election — after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and supposedly set a new standard of not allowing the Senate to fill an empty Supreme Court seat before an election. And there’s every reason to believe nearly every Republican senator will go along with McConnell’s plan, because all they care about is maintaining power no matter how much it tears the country asunder. Their willfulness simply can’t stand. (So far, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Susan Collins are among the few Republican Senators firmly standing on principle, saying they won’t support a quick confirmation before the election.)

Pragmatism can’t balance their GOP extremism.

If they go through with this, I’m willing to sign up for whatever political extreme necessary to undo their damage. The thought of Democrats increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court if they retake power once turned my stomach. Not anymore. That should be the first thing on their agenda if they maintain the House and retake the Senate and White House. You can’t defeat your enemies by becoming like the enemy, we’ve long been told. But it’s nonsensical to allow McConnell and those of like mind to pervert this democracy without a bare-knuckle fight, especially because we’ve already accepted too much.

We should have screamed when a Senate report confirmed that McConnell was one of the factors that stood in the way of the Obama administration’s desire to better alert the public to an attack on our elections by Russia. In the past, McConnell had denied that he stopped the Obama administration from speaking out about Russia’s meddling, and the report said that the Obama administration moved too slowly in responding to the threat of election meddling.
Every now and again I’d remind myself of the way things should be, the way they could be, the way the Al Gore campaign returned a stolen video of George W. Bush’s debate prep instead of using it against Bush in a race so tight any small advantage could have tipped the scales in his favor. Just recently, I spoke to one of my classes about it, about how the Gore camp called the FBI rather than accept that ill-gotten bounty. It was a prime example of good-faith democracy, the kind we say we want.
How RBG would have powered through this crisis
And yet, we’ve come to accept President Donald Trump used the power of his office to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless the Ukrainian president agreed to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over unsubstantiated claims (Trump denies there was any quid pro quo).
It doesn’t seem to matter that with ample evidence, Trump was impeached by a Democratically-led House over the Ukraine scandal for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and then McConnell quickly pledged to work in “total coordination” with the White House on impeachment — giving Trump and his actions a stamp of approval with an acquittal.
The extremism we see from the GOP today didn’t begin in the Trump era. We’ve also accepted a John Roberts-led Supreme Court coming up with what had been an unimaginable legal rationale to undercut a portion of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, leaving the choice to expand Medicaid solely up to the states and removing the threat of the federal government taking away existing Medicaid funding from states that don’t participate in the expansion. The move led 12 states to not adopt the expansion, which prevented millions of poor Americans from receiving health insurance coverage. The court also gutted the venerable Voting Rights Act in 2013, making way for a flood of laws by the Republican Party to implement voting laws that harken back to the darkest days of Jim Crow, making it more difficult for Black and poor people to exercise their constitutional rights. For example, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina tried to enact voter ID laws and other restrictions after the ruling. In 2017, federal judges ruled that the North Carolina laws were racially discriminatory.
Things have gotten so bad that although Trump is trailing Biden in the polls, some believe that Trump has a decent shot of being reelected. It’s not a totaldemocracy if the person who receives fewer votes is routinely declared the winner, which is what happened with Bush in 2000, Trump in 2016 and in states such as North Carolina where even if Democrats get the most votes Republicans retain the majority of seats (in 2019 the state court ruled that North Carolina’s legislative map was unconstitutional and it was redrawn).

That’s dangerous. That can’t stand for long. If the Electoral College threatens to cement minority rule — a nearly all-White party gaining outsized political power in a diversifying nation — then it, too, must be abandoned.

This isn’t a clarion call for greater allegiance to the Democratic Party. I’m not a Democrat. My voting record makes that clear. But I’ve grown increasingly convinced that America is upon a precipice, and that pretending each side is equally flawed is not a luxury we can afford. Ginsburg saw it, too. Things had gotten so bad that days before she died, she told her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Ginsburg understood well what her death would mean during a time like this. She knew McConnell and his cheerleaders would exploit it like they’ve done on so many other issues, damn the repercussions for the country as a whole.

That simply can’t stand. And I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t.