Mitch McConnell declares war on 21st century America

Mitch McConnell declares war on 21st century America
Gage Skidmore

Mitch McConnell is leading the Republican effort to take voting rights—the very fundamentals of our democracy—and turn the issue into "woke" "cancel culture" fodder, spinning desperate gossamer threads of disinformation to try to scare corporate America back into the Republican fold. The problem for McConnell—for the whole GOP—is that while corporate America loves the tax breaks they get from Republicans, they live in the 21st century along with 21st century Americans who have money to spend on their products. And more and more of those Americans spending money are LGBTQ, Black, Indigenous, and people of color. All you have to do is turn on broadcast television and see how advertisers are selling their wares. Even pharmaceutical ads have rainbow casts of characters.

So here comes McConnell, issuing a broadside against corporate America and defending White Supremacy—all the while trying to keep on their good side by arguing from the other side of his mouth that corporate taxes can't be raised to pay for infrastructure. "We are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people," says McConnell, who stood by completely mute for months while Donald Trump and congressional Republicans pushed the Big Lie of election fraud.

McConnell promises "serious consequences" if corporate America continues acting like "a woke parallel government." In total outrage, he declares "Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex." That would be the "complex" that adheres to the whole idea of letting everyone who is eligible vote without throwing huge roadblocks in their way. "The President has claimed repeatedly that state-level debates over voting procedures are worse than Jim Crow or 'Jim Crow on steroids.' Nobody actually believes this," McConnell says, ignoring the multitudes of voting rights advocates, historians, good government types who are saying, "yeah, this is Jim Crow all over again."

"Nobody really thinks this current dispute comes anywhere near the horrific racist brutality of segregation. But there's an old cynical saying that 'history is just the set of lies agreed upon.' And a host of powerful people and institutions apparently think they stand to benefit from parroting this big lie." Get that? The "big lie"? Like the Big Lie that Republicans are using to justify all this voter suppression, the one that says that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. This is astoundingly dishonest even for McConnell.

McConnell is really blasting Major League Baseball here, and its decision to take the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's sweeping new voter suppression laws. The new "big lie" McConnell is trying out is the one that says this new law isn't voter suppression. Which it very much is, as this analysis from The New York Times details: it imposes a number of new limits on vote by mail, it substantially reduces drop boxes and mobile voting units, and bans groups from providing food and water to people in voting lines. The Times says it will make "absentee voting harder," as well as create "restrictions and complications" that will "hamper the right to vote."

And if you want to talk about cancel culture, it gives the state's Republican lawmakers the ability to cancel county elections administrators and rig the vote. As horrifying as the rest of the new Georgia law is, this is the part that is profoundly undemocratic. The Republican state legislator appoints a five-person State Election Board and the law gives that Board the power to remove elections administrators in Democratic counties and replace them with administrators who will be more likely to, say for example, "find 11,780 votes" for Trump.

Though we are pretty used to radical historical and hysterical revisionism from him. After all, he's the guy who said out loud, on camera that the filibuster has "no racial history at all. None. There's no dispute among historians." Historians, of course, immediately disputed that statement en masse.

"From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government," McConnell wrote. "Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box." The last time I looked, what got rejected at the ballot box most recently was McConnell's leadership of the Senate. Oh, and Donald Trump.

Business in America is looking at the people who buy its products. There wouldn't be such a concerted effort for companies to go green (or to see the upside of greenwashing their enterprise) if the bulk of American consumers were not asking for it. We see more people of color on our televisions—often sharing households—because that's where the market is. We see LGBTQ couples and families on our televisions because, again, American society has moved into the 21st century enough to understand all that as normal. And American society as a whole remains absolutely horrified at gun violence and wants government do do something about it.

That's what corporate America is responding to; an American marketplace that is firmly established in the 21st century.

But because of the exploitation of one political party—the Republicans—of the levers of power established in the previous two centuries, we keep getting dragged back. For example, the institution of the Senate, where "the Democratic half of the Senate will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half" but the Republican half can still veto most policy efforts by the Democrats using the Jim Crow filibuster.

Likewise in the House, Democrats received more than 4.7 million more votes than Republicans. Because of Republican gerrymandering—carving up congressional districts to benefit their own party—in 2018, Democrats won 200,000 more votes than Republicans in Wisconsin, but just three out of the state's eight U.S. House seats. Likewise, in Texas Democrats won 47% of the vote, but just 13 of the state's 36 seats. In North Carolina in 2018, Democrats got 50% of the vote for House seats, but gained just 23% of them.

Society has left Republicans in the dust, culturally, and it's only those structural inequities that has allowed Republicans to have the power they wield. McConnell knows that, which is why he's fighting so hard to preserve the filibuster—without it Democrats can enact the election reforms that doom Republicans at the federal level.

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