Blue wave or not, expect to see a lot of Mitch McConnell in 2021
With the 2020 election less than two weeks away, many pundits are stressing that despite what the polls are showing, President Donald Trump might win a narrow Electoral College victory if he is able to outperform former Vice President Joe Biden in enough swing states. But Fox News' ultra-conservative Rupert Murdoch is predicting that Biden will win by a landslide. It remains to be seen what will happen on Tuesday, November 3, but even if 2020 sees a major blue wave — even if Biden defeats Trump and Democrats achieve a majority in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House of Representatives — one Republican name that will likely be heard a lot in 2021 is Mitch McConnell.
In fact, a blue tsunami could make the Senate majority leader the most prominent Republican in the United States.
Democrats have a chance of winning back the Senate this year, and the incumbent GOP senators who are considered vulnerable include Arizona's Martha McSally, Iowa's Joni Ernst, Maine's Susan Collins, Colorado's Cory Gardner and North Carolina's Thom Tillis. If all of them lose to Democratic opponents, Democrats will have a Senate majority in 2021 — even if Sen. Doug Jones, easily 2020's most vulnerable Democratic senator, loses to Republican Tommy Tuberville in Alabama's U.S. Senate race. But one incumbent Republican senator who doesn't appear to be in danger of being voted out of office is McConnell, who is up for reelection this year. Polls released during the second half of October have found the Senate majority leader ahead of his centrist Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, by 9% (Mason-Dixon) or 10% (Cygnal).
The 78-year-old Senate majority leader, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, has become an incredibly polarizing figure — and he would probably lose badly to McGrath if he were running against her in a blue state or even a swing state. But McConnell is seeking reelection in deep red Kentucky. While Democrats view McConnell as a mean-spirited hyper-partisan, the far-right Republican base view him as a fighter.
Assuming that McConnell is reelected, he is likely to remain the top Republican in the Senate regardless of whether or not Democrats are able to obtain a Senate minority. The Democratic National Committee, knowing how hyper-partisan McConnell is, has been warning that Biden wouldn't be able to get very much done as president if Republicans hold the Senate on November 3 — and Democratic strategists have emphasized that flipping the White House and the Senate are both high priorities for their party. If Democrats flip the Senate, Republicans would likely want to have McConnell as Senate minority leader. And in a scenario in which Democrats controlled both the White House and the Senate, McConnell would, for the GOP, become the face of the opposition and the most important Republican in Washington, D.C.
McConnell's most appalling behavior is the thing that endears him to the far-right Republican base — including his refusal to even consider Judge Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court after President Barack Obama nominated him to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. McConnell argued that according to the "McConnell Rule," it was unfair for Obama to nominate Garland during an election year. But now, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell is hypocritically trying to push Trump's nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, though the Senate is quickly as possible. The "McConnell Rule" clearly doesn't apply in 2020.
McConnell's insistence that Barrett needs to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court before Election Day is blatant hypocrisy in light of his reaction to Garland's nomination in 2016, and Democrats are rightly calling foul. But to the far-right Republican base, the fact that McConnell plays hardball is a plus rather than a minus.
During Trump's impeachment trial, McConnell was among Trump's most aggressive defenders. Trump's actions were egregious: the president, according to House Democrats, encouraged a foreign leader, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to provide opposition research against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden — and made dirt on the Bidens a condition of military aid to Ukraine. Regardless, McConnell wasn't about to turn against a Republican president who supported much of his agenda. His only loyalty was to the Republican Party, not the rule of law.
McConnell fights dirty, and that is the thing that the modern-day GOP loves about him. If Biden defeats Trump and Democrats flip the Senate while maintaining their House majority, Republicans will be dispirited but will view McConnell as the one doing the most to fight for them. And if Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court, McConnell would take some of the credit for that.
Whether November 3, 2020 brings a major blue wave or Republicans defy the polls, Washington, D.C. will likely be seeing a lot of Mitch McConnell in 2021.
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