Mitch McConnell finally has the power he's longed for since he was a 22-year-old intern for Sen. John Sherman Cooper, but his ruthless march to become Senate majority leader has seen him abandon almost all of his stated principles -- and earned him a lot of enemies.
The Kentucky Republican has been unpopular in his home state for years, but this summer has seen his approval rating plunge to 18 percent after MSNBC's Joe Scarborough tarred and feathered him with the nickname "Moscow Mitch," and he's increasingly seen as "the man who sold America," reported Rolling Stone.
"For so many years, McConnell has seemed maddeningly invincible," wrote Bob Moser in a lengthy magazine profile. "But now, just a few years after achieving his lifelong goal of becoming Senate majority leader, it appears that every political sin the man has committed on his relentless march to power is coming back to haunt him at once."
"He has welcomed infamy, and now it has arrived on its own terms, bringing with it a previously unthinkable possibility," he added. "Could 40 years’ worth of devil’s bargains finally be catching up with Mitch McConnell?"
Moser catalogs the Senate majority leader's political sins, dating back to his swiftly broken campaign promises to back abortion and collective bargaining rights in a 1977 race for Jefferson County judge executive, up to the shady deal earlier this year to lift sanctions on a Russian oligarch whose company Rusal announced a $200 million investment in Kentucky.
"For all the damage he’s inflicted on American democracy, for all the political corpses he’s left in his wake, Mitch McConnell has never betrayed an ounce of shame. To the contrary, like the president he now so faithfully serves, McConnell has always exuded a sense of pride in the lengths to which he’s gone to achieve his ambitions and infuriate his enemies."
But those machinations seem to be wearing thin with voters, who don't see how McConnell's power has translated to any meaningful benefits for their state.
“When I was first able to vote, in 1996, I voted for Mitch," said Jen Thompson, a 47-year-old artist and farmer from Paducah. "He was already getting powerful in Washington, and I bought into the idea that he could do a lot of good for us."
"But eventually it dawned on me, like a lot of people, this guy really doesn’t give a crap about us," she added. "He’s all about stockpiling his own squirrel-nut factory for his winter. Public records are public records, and you can see how his trajectory has gone toward wealth. Back home, I’m still making the same amount of money I was making! I think he’s got a real good chance of being booted this time.”
Thompson had come to the annual Fancy Farm picnic where Kentucky politicians hobnob with voters, lob insults at their opponents and brush back hecklers -- who drowned out an ashen McConnell with jeers and insults.
“I’d say the crowd is pretty evenly divided the way Kentucky is," said Bennie J. Smith, a civil-rights activist and jazz musician running a long-shot Democratic campaign against McConnell. "Some don’t like him, and some hate him.”