Mitch McConnell essentially admits Republicans can only win if elections aren't fair
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made himself scarce in recent weeks as he blocks any consideration of funding bills to reopen the government, leaving federal workers to suffer.
But while he seems to have no time to deal with this crucial task, he somehow had the time to craft a Washington Post op-ed attacking H.R. 1, House Democrats' flagship voting rights and election reform bill. Derisively branding it the "Democrat Politician Protection Act," McConnell cast the bill as a means of Democrats tilting elections in their favor — but his argument ultimately just reveals how our current state of broken elections is a structural advantage for the GOP:
It would also empower that newly partisan FEC to track and catalogue more of what you say. It would broaden the type of speech the commission can define as "campaign-related" and thus regulate. Many more Americans would have to notify the feds when spending even small amounts of money on speech or else be penalized. That partisan FEC would also get wide latitude to determine when a nonprofit's speech has crossed that fuzzy "campaign-related" line and then forcibly publicize the group's private supporters.
Apparently the Democrats define "democracy" as giving Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate and leaving citizens more vulnerable to public harassment over private views. Under this bill, you'd keep your right to free association as long as your private associations were broadcast to everyone. You’d keep your right to speak freely so long as you notified a distant bureaucracy likely run by the same people you criticized. The bill goes so far as to suggest that the Constitution needs an amendment to override First Amendment protections.
The Majority Leader is referring to the provision of the bill that calls for a constitutional amendment that would nullify the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the controversial and broadly-despised ruling giving billionaires unlimited right to funnel campaign money through shell nonprofits, and to a separate provision that would require all money going through these nonprofits to be disclosed to the public.
But McConnell's argument that this would strip people of the right to "free association" makes no sense, as "Washington" doesn't have any power to intimidate people for political views. What he really means is, if the billionaires secretly financing shadow campaigns and AstroTurf groups had their contributions known, people might start protesting or boycotting their businesses. Which would be their right under freedom of association.
McConnell also sneered at the public financing provision, which would give people a taxpayer-funded match for their campaign contributions and help working people have a more equal role in campaign finance. "Maybe that's why every Democrat opposed our tax cuts for middle-class families and small businesses. They'd rather use your money to enrich campaign consultants." Actually, 83 percent of those tax cuts went to the top 1 percent of income earners — McConnell makes clear with this line that he opposes the whole concept of lower-income people getting public money for anything.
Another thing the bill would do is make Election Day a federal holiday, which polls say is broadly popular and which would allow millions of people easier access to the polls. But McConnell is against that too, dismissing it as "extra taxpayer-funded vacation for bureaucrats to hover around while Americans cast their ballots." Perhaps it isn't the best idea for the Senate Majority Leader to be mocking the idea of paid time off for federal workers at the same time he is keeping the government closed and denying paychecks to 800,000 of them.
Lastly, McConnell goes after the provisions to enact automatic voter registration and ban states from using unforwardable letters to purge voter rolls, complaining that "It would make it harder for states to fix inaccurate data in their voter rolls." Actually, it would make it harder for states to block eligible voters, particularly people of color, from the polls — which GOP-controlled states have done again and again and again. Notably, McConnell doesn't even try to criticize the provision of the bill that outlaws partisan gerrymandering — possibly because he knows there is overwhelming cross-partisan support for doing so.
"Upending the FEC, squeezing taxpayers, attacking privacy and jeopardizing our elections are a price they'll happily pay for this partisan power grab." McConnell concludes.
But what he calls a "partisan power grab" is actually fully transparent, fair, and accessible elections — once again reflecting his apparent fear that Republicans cannot won elections that are any of those things.