Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Ironic Cherry Reads... The Cynic

The Cynic: 
The Political Education of
Mitch McConnell

by Alec MacGillis

I was one of those with my mouth hanging open when Mitch McConnell announced that he would not bring to the floor President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.  We should not have been surprised.  If we had been paying attention, and we had, we knew that there was no depth to which the republican Congress would not sink in order to win.  The Obama administration began with McConnell's announcement that his most important goal was to make this Democrat a one-term president.

In retrospect, I believe we don't give Mitch McConnell enough credit, because of his looks and demeanor.  His deer-caught-in-the-headlight, tortoise-y, stiff appearance leads one to imagine that he is, well, doofy.  And late night comedians have made the most of this, doing hilarious imitations.  The media has had no lack of material pointing out his conflicting statements over the years.  As though that would horrify, or even embarrass, McConnell.  It doesn't.

McConnell was the high school nerd that wasn't all that popular, but was drawn to politics.  He had a single-mindedness that no number of losses could derail.  Like the tortoise to which he is so often compared, he continued to plow ahead, setting goals and working at them, all the way back to vice president of his junior high student council.  The other thing he did was observe, and learn.  And he was fearless when it came to attempting to persuade people to his side.

What I did not know is that McConnell began his career as a moderate to liberal republican:  pro-choice, pro-union, pro-civil rights.  Along the way, though, he learned that going negative was the way to win.  And he learned where the money was.

McConnell knows how to get what he wants.  And what he wants is the power he now wields in the Senate.  He may not be likable, but that doesn't matter to him.  His colleagues know that he is the best power broker there is.  Trump thinks he knows how to make a deal?  McConnell is like a card-counter.  He is like a chess champion.  And the goal is winning.  He has no scruples, no guiding ideals.  He will do anything to win.

In his early years he hired Roger Ailes to create ads for his campaign and he hasn't looked back.  There is no dirty trick he will not be delighted to run if it will get him closer to winning, and indeed he takes great pleasure from crushing his opponents.  There have been many races in McConnell's life when he nearly lost.  But he is willing to say and do anything to best his opponent.  He has no scruples.  There is no line he won't cross.  And he is always willing to try something new and egregious.  He plays the odds very, very well.

In the Senate, he knows everything that is going on.  He keeps fellow senators close, and strategizes everything.  He is the master of procedural tricks.  And he doesn't give a damn what anybody thinks of him.  Those republican senators that don't like him nonetheless know he knows what he is doing, and they had better play his game.  AND YET, when the Tea Party came to Washington, people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz who came to government like gunslingers, aiming to take it down, McConnell figured out how to work with them and around them.  He knew how to act like he wanted to get government moving while not opposing tactics like shutting down the government.  He knows when to stay in the background and when to be heard.

We owe as much to Mitch McConnell for the dysfunction in our government as we do to the Tea Party.  He has been the mastermind.  His only goal is to stay in power, and anybody running against him or anyone else in his party needs to be ready for a dirty fight.

He is truly a strange bird in that he thrives on fund raising, as though getting money out of donors proves his self-worth.  He is good at it.  He gets the best -- in other words, the dirtiest -- people to manage his campaigns.  His ads are going to be plentiful, and as ugly as they come.  And, as we saw in the recent Georgia 6th Special Election, that is politics in 2017.

I have said recently that when they go low, we don't have to roll in the mud with them.  But we do have to educate voters that dirty tricks and ugly accusations will be out there.  We have to let them know about the kind of people who are paying to spread the lies, and what they have to gain, and what the voters have to lose.

We also have to learn to stick together.  One of the worst mistakes that Alison Lundergan Grimes made in her run against McConnell in 2014 was to back away from President Obama.  The moment she waffled on that question, McConnell's gang came in for the kill.  That's what he does.  So don't give him, or any other republican, the opportunity to pit us against each other.  We are far better than they are, and we need to be confident when we tell that to voters.

And we need to hit, and hit back, and then do it again, each time republicans are wrong.  That should give us lots of material, right?  Then I wonder why we haven't seen, all over the country, on every television station, ads about the republican health care plan.  And tax cuts for the wealthy.  And how about job losses?  We let Trump and Pence get away with claiming to save jobs at Carrier, but how about the massive layoffs that are beginning at Carrier next week?

And speaking of jobs, South Carolina's Boeing plant, paid for by Nikki Haley with our own tax dollars, celebrated with great fanfare and a visit by the liar-in-chief a few months ago the rollout of the 787 Dreamliner.  All the doting local news stations played the video of Trump promising great jobs blah, blah, blah.  Earlier, Boeing had put out a small -- actually what to most of us would be a rather large -- fortune in advertising, blanketing the media with anti-union ads.  Now they have announced layoffs.  If voters, workers, citizens don't hear us shouting about this from the rooftops, how will they know the promise of jobs was a lie?

I saw a crawl on CNN a week or so ago that announced that gas prices were now the lowest they had been in twelve years.  Really?  I keep a pretty close watch on gas prices and I know here in Charleston, before the election, I was paying somewhere under $1.60.  I also know that shortly after the election, the price jumped up by some twenty cents.  Since then they have jumped up and then crawled down, with them finally holding steady for a while around $2.00.  Check it out at SC Gas Buddy.  When the media swallows false information, we need to get in their faces.  Campaign managers, party officials and we citizens need to make sure the news is accurate.

The Cynic is a slim book, but an awfully important political education.  Mitch McConnell, incredible as it is to believe, was determined to become a force in politics, and he has indeed.  He has set the standard for political warfare.  If we are going to win against a cheater, we need to understand the cheater and the system.  This is a good place to start.


  1. Scary and useful. I just tweeted this. Are you on Twitter? My twitter name is @JAVSimson

  2. Thank you for that excellent -- and alarming summary about Mitch McConnell. One wonders how human beings become so very dark and destructive to their fellow-men, as he and so many of his fellow-Republicans are?