A new analysis is breaking down how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) contributed to the slow and strategic erosion of United States democracy.
In an op-ed published by The Guardian, Gary Gerstle began with a brief overview of Republicans' brazen actions which he described as a "deadly serious attempt to upend American democracy." But while they only attempted a coup to overturn the last presidential election, Gerstle explains how McConnell managed to carry out his attack on democracy.
"Another brazen GOP action, however, has succeeded — this one engineered by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, whose chess-like skills of political strategizing put to shame Trump’s powerful but limited game of bluster and bullying," Gerstle explained.
He went on to recall what occurred ahead of the 2016 presidential election:
"The act to which I refer is McConnell’s theft of Barack Obama’s 2016 appointment to the supreme court, a radical deed that has dimmed somewhat in public consciousness even as it proved crucial to fashioning a rightwing supreme court willing to overturn Roe v Wade and to destabilize American politics and American democracy in the process."
He later added: "The tale of McConnell’s steal begins in February 2016, when Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the lion of the judicial right, suddenly and unexpectedly died. Obama had just begun the last year of his presidency, and McConnell was entering his second year as Senate majority leader. McConnell immediately declared that he would hold no hearings on a new supreme court justice, regardless of whom Obama nominated. McConnell’s ostensible justification: it was inappropriate, he declared, for a president on his way out of office to exercise so profound an influence on America’s political future. Let the next president, to be elected in November 2016, decide who the nominee should be. That way forward would, McConnell argued, be a way of letting “the people”, through their choice of president, shape the supreme court’s future."
According to Gerstle, McConnell's actions are far more subtle and strategic as he took a route that differs from former President Donald Trump's public antics. "McConnell is widely considered to be a cynic about politics, more interested in maintaining and holding power than in advancing a particular agenda," Gerstle wrote.
"This is true up to a point," he acknowledged, adding, "But it is equally true that McConnell has believed, for decades, that the federal government had grown too large and too strong, that power had to be returned to private enterprise on the one hand and the individual states on the other, and that the legislative process in Washington could not be trusted to accomplish those aims."
He wrote, "Hence the critical role of the federal courts: the federal judiciary, if sufficiently populated by conservative jurists, could constrain and dismantle the power of the federal government in ways in which Congress never would."