How Mitch McConnell became a bigger villain in first Democratic Debate than Trump
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Google searches for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spiked over 2,000 percent during Wednesday's first Democratic Debate, causing him to be the top trending search out of all of the people and issues in the second half of the debate.


As the Daily Beast points out, McConnell "loomed" over the debate like the Grim Reaper he admits he is.

One of the debate questions was about how all of these amazing plans could possibly be passed if McConnell is the head of the Senate. McConnell has vowed that he won't allow any legislation to come to a vote that he doesn't like. It has brought the Senate to a near standstill, a contrast as the House passes bill after bill.

MSNBC host Chuck Todd asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is campaigning on the fact that she has a plan for nearly everything and more being written each day, if she has a plan for dealing with McConnell.

"I do," she said simply.

“It starts in the White House and it means that everybody we energize in 2020 stays on the frontlines come January 2021,” Warren said. “We have to push from the outside and have leadership from the inside and make this Congress reflect the will of the people.”

Politics editor Sam Stein said that this wasn't a real plan. Indeed, activism isn't a plan, but officials can do little else given McConnell's obstructionism. As former President Barack Obama can attest, McConnell's official declaration to "make Obama a one-term president," kept the pressure on Republicans to hold the line.

In the past, Warren has said that it comes down to making sure Democrats are elected to the Senate to simply get rid of McConnell's power. But as comedian Jon Stewart showed, McConnell can be moved with enough public pressure.

What Obama didn't do is take the fight to McConnell the way Stewart did. Obama didn't travel to key places in states where Republicans were in difficult elections. There was no micro-targeting with digital ad buys to zip codes that would be impacted by policies. Obama helped campaign for Democratic candidates, but there was no effort made to campaign for a piece of legislation specifically citing McConnell and his obstruction. Obama never went to Kentucky to speak to McConnell's voters about why their senator is part of the problem in Washington. No other senator has tried it either.

Stein said that Warren's reliance on the "same script" shows that while Democratic candidates have big plans for laws and legislation, they don't have a plan for making it happen. He's right, most Democrats are making big promises because being honest about the political realities are not how politicians get elected. President Donald Trump is running into the same problem now, as he launches his reelection claiming he kept his promises when the reality is he's failed on nearly all of them. Unfortunately, the reality is that if a Democrat is elected in 2020, they'll likely spend the majority of their presidency trying to fix the previous four years.

Little can be done with McConnell other than Warren's "activism" plan. It was Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) who proposed eliminating the legislative filibuster to allow bills to pass on a simple majority. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said it's time to defeat McConnell in the election. However, others agreed with the Warren tract. Sen. Cory Booker talked about campaigning in traditionally Republican districts and states to take back the Senate.

“There’s no question that he’s an obstacle, but I thought some of the folks that spoke had good points about how we can work on that,” said Castro. “The only way that we can work on that is to go and find a great candidate in Kentucky that can beat him.”

Regardless of who becomes president, Democrats will be forced to contend with McConnell's obstructionism unless they develop a party-wide plan to campaign for legislation in the way they'd campaign for candidates.

Read Stein's full report at The Daily Beast.