On August 9th of this year, a stirring tribute was written to one of the most controversial figures of our lifetime – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. ‘This moment does not cry out for Mitch McConnell’, penned in the midst of congressional gridlock and extreme polarization, could not have been more apt.
For years, McConnell has been a lightning rod of criticism, both for his partisan stances and his failure to craft bipartisan consensus. His consequentialist approach to politics, coupled with his refusal to negotiate or compromise on major issues, has drawn disdain from both sides of the aisle. At the same time, his influence and record of successes over the decades have left an indelible mark on American politics.
It’s easy enough to cite heated rhetoric and demonize the individual, but this misses the point. The truth is that for better or worse, McConnell is a unique figure in the United States Senate. He is an embodiment of extreme partisanship, of political maneuvering, and of masterful pragmatism. McConnell’s tenure as Majority Leader has featured historic successes and major defeats. Additionally, in his tenure as Senator he has cast a large shadow and reshaped many of political norms.
This is not to say that McConnell and his policies should be respected or even tolerated. Policies like the removal of consumer protections, the redrawing of congressional district lines to favor the GOP, and the delay of judicial confirmations are hardly admirable. Though as sloppy and undignified as McConnell’s legacy sometimes is, it still represents a momentous arc of politics in America.
At the conclusion of the tribute, the author wrote ‘this is the moment that things start to change’. While McConnell has not been the changemaker hoped for by many, it’s clear that he has irrevocably shaped the political landscape in the United States. It’s up to citizens and lawmakers alike to take the lessons of McConnell’s tenure and expand upon them, utilizing his successes and learning from his mistakes in order to craft a healthy political future.