Rich Gotshall: McConnell to blame for ‘democracide’

Decades from now, when historians examine the death of American-style democracy, they will be able to pinpoint the exact moment our system of government was sent into its death spiral and they also will be able to name the person most responsible.

The date won’t be Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in several deaths and tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

It won’t be Nov. 3, 2020, when Joe Biden soundly defeated Trump’s re-election bid, prompting Trump to launch a campaign to discredit the election — an effort that continues today. It won’t even be Nov. 8, 2016, when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton for the presidency, even though he didn’t receive a majority of the popular vote.

The date that marked the beginning of the end for America’s noble experiment in democracy and a freely elected republican form of government is Nov. 4, 2008, the election of Barack Obama as president.

But Obama is not at fault. Obama’s historic election victory so incensed one person that he has spent the ensuing years undermining the legitimacy of America’s democratic processes. The person to blame is Mitch McConnell.

As Republican leader in the Senate, the Kentuckian used his entire arsenal of political and parliamentary tools to block any action by President Obama that might be seen in a positive light historically. Then, after Republicans took control of the Senate in the midterm elections of 2014, McConnell vowed to make Obama a “one-term president.” While he failed in that regard, he was able to more effectively thwart whatever initiatives Obama sought.

The issue came to a head on March 16, 2016, when Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill an open seat on the Supreme Court. McConnell chose to defy all precedent and refused even to consider the nomination. The seat remained empty for the next 10 months. After Trump was elected and Republicans retained control of the Senate, Trump’s nominee flew through the approval process and took a seat on the High Court bench.

McConnell continued to undermine democracy throughout the Trump presidency. He refused to call out Trump’s flagrant lies and un-presidential behavior. When the House voted to impeach Trump for pushing a foreign government to help in his re-election effort, McConnell announced before the trial even began that he would vote to acquit. This came despite the fact that, as a juror in the trial, he took an oath to make his decision based on the evidence alone.

Finally, we come to the 2020 election. Trump refused to accept the verdict of the voters, claiming again and again without evidence that the election was stolen and that he actually won. On Jan. 6, he energized supporters at a Washington, D.C., rally to march on the Capitol and see that the election was called in his favor. The result was the riot.

The newly elected House voted for a second time to impeach Trump, this time with some support from Republicans. But in the Senate, McConnell refused to conduct a trial. Yet when the trial was conducted a short time later and following Biden’s inauguration, McConnell voted for acquittal, falsely saying you couldn’t convict a former president, conveniently ignoring the fact that he was directly responsible for making sure the trial wasn’t conducted while Trump was the sitting president.

Following Trump’s acquittal, McConnell delivered a floor speech excoriating the president and his behavior. However, barely a month later, the Kentucky senator said he would “absolutely” support Trump if the former president is the GOP candidate for president in 2024.

That height of political arrogance and cynicism is emblematic of McConnell’s entire tenure as Republican leader. What’s good for the country is never a factor in his political calculus, only what’s good for the party.

McConnell will be long gone from political life when the American system of government collapses, but he will bear a major role in its downfall. The political science autopsy will render him guilty of democracide.