The past eight months of massive and avoidable failures have delivered such a devastating blow to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reputation for political savvy, it’s a wonder it ever existed at all.
So how did the Myth of McConnell get started in the first place? The story is one of cynicism, self-promotion and credulousness, born out of desperation for bipartisanship and craving for familiar roles in an era when American politics veered into uncharted territory.
For the uninitiated, the Myth goes something like this: A calculating Kentuckian, he sees three steps ahead while playing eight-dimensional chess on his solved Rubik’s cube with one hand, while using the other to hold an inside straight close to his vest, which is embroidered with Masonic secrets that only he can read and that unlock true mastery of the Senate, along with eternal enlightenment, for good measure.
In the Myth of McConnell, grand achievements are conjured out of last-minute, crisis-driven exercises in can-kicking—like extending the U.S. borrowing authority and government funding—all things that used to happen routinely before McConnell became leader of the Republican Caucus and unleashed his unique brand of unprecedented obstructionism on the Senate, manufacturing the very crises that made the last-minute deals necessary. Meanwhile, humdrum political events, like winning reelection in a deep red state in a strong year for Republicans—as McConnell did in 2014—are recast as achievements of Machiavellian brilliance.
If any believers in the Myth remain after the brutal week McConnell just endured, which capped off an unbelievably brutal eight months, they should take this challenge: Name one major legislative accomplishment to McConnell’s credit over the more than 30 years he has been in the Senate. (Last minute deals don’t count.)
You can’t do it: Unlike former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (my former boss) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, McConnell has never authored a single piece of major legislation that became law, nor has he successfully shepherded a single major bill to passage as leader. Reid, Pelosi and former President Barack Obama were all party to the last-minute deals, but they all have a trove of historic accomplishments to show for their leadership: insuring millions of Americans through the Affordable Care Act, reforming the post-crash financial system with Dodd-Frank and ending the Iraq war, for starters. McConnell has nothing.
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