The old saying goes something like “Hang separately or hang together.” And boy, oh boy, are we ever getting a full length feature film on that principle right now. And if “elections have consequences,” those consequences are pounding the GOP into the ground right now.
To say that the GOP controlled congress of the last two years was useless would stretch the definition of “understatement,” 1,000 monkeys pounding away on 1,000 typewriters could actually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare before the GOP congress could rename a lousy post office.
But there was a necessary and comforting symbiosis there for the Republican congress. The GOP House was useless The GOP Senate, confirming judges, which is a purely Senate function excluded, was useless. There was no light between the two, and their joint uselessness gave each individual branch cover.
But then the equation changed. The Democrats picked up 40 seats in November, Nancy Pelosi took over the Speakership, and all of a sudden one of the legislative branches is functioning again. This was no bueno for the GOP, because it set a bar, and it also provided a comparison point. Which is going to be terrible news for McConnell.
Because he’s now a man on an island of uselessness. When you have double digit numbers of GOP House members voting with the Democrats to reopen the government, you’ve got a problem. I heard an interesting take on McConnell’s reticence to bring the House bills to the floor for a vote that may have some merit. The theory was that McConnell was “taking one for the team” in refusing to bring the bills to the floor, sparing his 2020 incumbents from a no-win vote, piss off the voters, or piss off the Trump base. This has some political sense, but I find it more likely that Yertl the Turtle is nothing more than a craven toady.
But the pressure is now squarely on the Senate. And I think that people may be looking at the wrong kind of pressure. Right now, everybody is keying on the pressure that Pelosi, the Democratic led House, and the public at large is putting on McConnell and the GOP Senate to end the Trump shutdown. But I think that there;s another, as yet unspoken pressure point that may have just as much effect.
Shame. Yep, plain old, everyday shame. If you listen closely, you’re starting to hear it from Democratic lawmakers in both chambers. They are highlighting the fact that while Trump may have shut down the government, McConnell is underwriting it. They point out that the US Senate is a co equal branch of government. By refusing to bring bills to the floor that he thinks that Trump won’t sign, McConnell is abrogating his constitutional responsibility to legislate. Shame on Mitch! How dare you not do your job to save His Lowness from having to do his? Shame on you Mitch!
This can be effective. As you should all know by now, Senators think that their shit don’t stink. They proudly call themselves “the club of 100,” and hearing themselves referred to as the “greatest deliberative body in the world” gives them nocturnal emissions. An yet here they are, unable to stand in front of a lectern and deliberate, make pompous sounds and spew important sounding word salad, while looking imperious and ponderous. With an election coming up no less.
Don’t underestimate the power of shame. There are 22 GOP Senators up for reelection in 2020, and the seas are not going to get any calmer. One of the major complaints in 2018, as in previous cycles, was the gridlock in Washington. There is a Democratic led House, solving pressing problems and passing bills, and there is the US Senate, with Mitch McConnell standing there with his fingers in his ears and singing “La-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you.” The House Democrats won in 2018 by running on issues, and profligate GOP incompetence was one of those issues. And here’s Mitch McConnell, shining a bright spotlight on it.
So yes, the Trump shutdown will end at some point. And that point will be when enough GOP Senators crack that they can override a Presidential veto. When that happens, it will present a direct challenge to McConnell’s leadership. The increasing horror stories of the effects of the shutdown on hard working civil servants will pile on the shame. But so will near constant reminders that Mitch McConnell is abrogating his constitutional duties, and making the US Senate a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump organization. And I hope like hell that the democrats keep pounding away at this. #MIA Mitch
Follow me on Twitter at @RealMurfster35