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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

There was a time when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was pro-civil rights, pro-union, pro-choice, and pro-voting rights. But McConnell was also known as a malleable candidate who would do or say anything to win. 

In the following excerpt from his richly researched new eBook, The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell, New Republic senior editor Alec MacGillis details McConnell’s transformation from a pragmatic local leader to a ruthless senator who has stopped at nothing to hold on to power in Washington, D.C. His rise to the top tells us what to expect from the final weeks of his current re-election battle — and reveals some hard truths about our dysfunctional political culture. 

You can purchase the book here

The pattern had been set. Every six years, McConnell would deploy pretty much the same strategy against whichever Democrat emerged to challenge him.

He would cast votes in Washington with the election foremost in mind. In 1996, running against former state attorney general and lieutenant governor Steve Beshear, he voted for an increase in the minimum wage even though it came without the business tax relief he thought any wage increase should be paired with. In 2008, he voted to override President George W. Bush’s veto of a massive farm bill—he had managed to slip a special tax provision for racehorse owners into the bill, and breaking with the deeply unpopular president would help McConnell’s reelection odds.

He would build up so massive a campaign account that it would scare off credible potential challengers who lacked the personal wealth or tolerance for the fund-raising that would be necessary to compete. In 2008, a difficult year for Republicans, McCo­nnell came into January having already raised nearly $11 million, a whopping sum for so early in the season. The best the Democrats could come up with to take that on was Bruce Lunsford, who had lost two gubernatorial primaries but had the advantage of a personal fortune made in the nursing home business. Even that only went so far—by the final weeks of the race, when Lunsford was closing in the polls following the worldwide financial collapse, McConnell had nearly $6 million of the $18 million he had raised still on hand. Lunsford had raised only a third as much and had less than a quarter as much left to use.

And with this money at this disposal, McConnell would set about countering voters’ lukewarm feelings toward him by doing what had worked so well against Harvey Sloane: He would make his opponents unacceptable. And he would make them unacceptable in the same way: he would cast them, as he had done Sloane, as elitists out of touch with working-class Kentuckians, even if it meant attacking wealth and success in business in ways that might make many Republicans uncomfortable. He mocked Beshear for his fondness for foxhunting: “Can you imagine a working-class hero who wears a hunting pink and brandishes a riding crop?” He ran an ad attacking his 2002 challenger, Lois Combs Weinberg, the daughter of a former Kentucky governor, for owning a house in the Virgin Islands. He hit Lunsford for owning homes in multiple states and for questions about his health-care companies.

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It was a remarkable strategy, year in and year out, given that McConnell was not exactly tilling the bluegrass himself. He was as citified as they come. His Kentucky home was a townhouse in Louisville a few blocks from a trendy commercial district with coffeehouses and shops that now carry “Louisville: The Gayest City in Kentucky” T-shirts. (In Washington, he lived in a Capitol Hill townhouse where neighbors saw him come out on a regular basis with a broom in hand to sweep away every last bit of leaf or twig from his stoop.) Early in his career, he had tooled around Louisville in a little sports car. And he was, by his 1996 race, a wealthy man from his marriage in 1993 to Elaine Chao, the daughter of a Taiwanese shipping magnate.

Yet the populist attacks kept coming, to the astonishment of his opponents. “He did all that shit about [Beshear] fox-hunting, about him being an elitist—Steve had two or three million dollars to McConnell’s nine!” says Jim Cauley, who’d gone on to manage Beshear’s campaign. Lunsford shrugged about the attack on his wealth and business, even if McConnell was, by 2008, himself worth as much as $13 million. “In a state as poor as Kentucky, that’s an easy target,” Lunsford said. “Why wouldn’t you do that?” Lunsford said he never thought of countering by pointing out Mc­Connell’s own fortune, because he knew that much of it had come from Chao.

Chao’s wealth was not only hard to use against McConnell, but his campaign was adept at deploying Chao, with her cheery demeanor, to humanize her dour husband. Lunsford couldn’t help but wonder if Chao was so present on the campaign trail in 2008 to highlight that he himself was single. “My initial reaction was to say, ‘He brought in the secretary of labor [Chao’s government position at that point] to keep his job.’” But he decided that “that was hard to do when a woman is as nice as she is. If she was considered a bitch, it would’ve been different.”

McConnell’s approach of rendering the opposition unacceptable could be discerned in other political races, as well. In 1997, in his third try, he was named head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee—the campaign organ for GOP senators—thus extending his hand into races across the country. And he was also becoming active in races back home, taking it upon himself to speed the state’s shift into the Republican column (a 1994 victory he engineered in a special election for an open congressional seat in a Democratic-leaning Kentucky district was a harbinger for the GOP sweep that fall). In 1998, he encouraged state legislator Ernie Fletcher to run for Congress against a Democrat who, as a public defender, had represented a man charged with raping and shooting a woman. The victim appeared in a Fletcher ad attacking his opponents for taking the case. The Kentucky Bar Association and Lexington Herald-Leader editorialists protested, but the ad swung the polls toward Fletcher, and McConnell later said, as related by Dyche, that he found it “legitimate” to attack a lawyer in that way. “I mean, I think you make a conscious decision in picking your clientele,” he said.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, purchase the full book here.

From The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell by Alec MacGillis. Copyright © 2014 by Stefan Alexander MacGillis. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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28 responses to “Weekend Reader: ‘The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell’”

  1. Budjob says:

    I understand old Mitch is deeply involved with the save the turtles movement! Remember,marriage is between one turtle and one woman!!

    • kenndeb says:

      With the liberals in power, our country can expect that marriage will be defined as a union between a human and any other creature. We can’t discriminate against anyone, so if someone wants to marry a camel, they will be allowed to.

      • Melinda Killie says:

        Awww, what’s the matter, kenndeb? deb not allowing you to “hump” her? Too bad… LOLOLOL!

        • kenndeb says:

          I bet you own big dogs, like German shepherds. They probably keep you serviced when you are between multiple men.

          • Melinda Killie says:

            Oh, GO hump your camel, kenndeb. I am sure that deb will eventually give in.. LOLOLOL!

          • kenndeb says:

            I don’t have a camel, but I’m sure that some of the Emperors muslim buds will bring them in to our country.

          • charleo1 says:

            Really Kenndeb? The animal/human excuse? Sure,
            I’d love to marry my rubber duck. And that would
            effect you how?

          • Melinda Killie says:

            LOLOLOL! Keep whining, kenndeb.. Your pitiful, pathetic, desperate posts CONTINUE to be the laugh of the day… Knock yourself out… LOLOLOLOL!

          • kenndeb says:

            The only thing pitiful are those liberals on this site that are too blind, too stupid, too indoctrinated to know what is in front of them. It is sad to see Americans that would turn against their own country in favor of a tyrant that is bent on the destruction of this once great country.

          • Melinda Killie says:

            LOLOLOL!! Well, it looks like the republican/tea party brainwashing has worked on you, kenndeb. All those years being led around by your anus, I suppose… Keep whining.. LOLOLOL!

          • Budjob says:

            Kenny boy,You are absolutely WAS a ONCE GREAT country until the fucking TBAGS and the repulsive Repubicans fucked it all up.You could probably warm up to a lot of people if,you were cremated with them!!

          • Buffalo Bill says:

            I wish I could up vote your comment a couple of dozen times.

          • kenndeb says:

            Not the tea party, but I would agree with the comment about the republicans. Then the liberals got their hands on this mess of a country, and made things even worse. If this regime and the liberals stay in power, we won’t have a country left. That is why it is so important to remove all liberlas from any office, and never let them in government again.

          • Budjob says:

            Debby,You are so narrow minded I’ll bet if we extracted your brain and,placed it on the edge of a razor blade you would think you were on a four lane highway.Have fucked up day!!

          • Leftout says:

            Camels are ugly and should be wearing burkas as well. There are many 2 bagger women under those single burkas.

  2. charleo1 says:

    Leaders of the Grand Old Party are no longer leaders, if indeed, after Lincoln, they ever were. They take their orders from the small Plutocracy, that funds 99% of their campaigns, writes 100% of the laws they enact, or support. The judges they appoint, and the trade policies they advocate. And they know going in, that most everything they are going to say, is at it’s core, a lie. And is designed to put one form of con, or the other, over on the other 99% of us. The fact is, if we are lucky, they are truly a dead party walking. Battered by the changing demographics of the Country, and the World. Due in part, to the external forces of global economies, interconnecting different races, and cultures. And making their own exclusionary policies, against minorities, small businesses, and working families, ever more transparent, and clearly wrongheaded. Ever more apparent, in reality based World most of us live in, they have sacrificed smart policies, and responsible governance, for political convenience, in order to cobble together political coalitions that share almost no commonalities, or allow cogent positions. Often, as with immigration, no policy consensus at all. Underlying all this of course, is the unchanging agenda to empower the richest class. To do this while catering to one of the poorest, retired Seniors, is no easy feat. They blast the other poor, because they are the greatest proof that their lopsided, top down economic policies do not work. That a consumer economy requires a middle out strategy of wage supports, higher taxation at the higher income strata, to free up capital in the larger economy. To create the necessary demand, that requires the expansion that necessitates the additional. jobs. Yet, they are helpless to advocate anything but, the same Party line they’ve toed, for the last 100 years. Namely, lower taxes for the rich, less regulation, to protect the environment, and working classes, and more income, and wealth disparity. The number one causes of the current stagnant growth, deteriorating wages, under-employment, unemployment, and growing government debt. And not to perpetuate a class, or culture of entitlement, as they claim. But to necessarily take the slack in a wage, and benefit, starved economy. Insisting the Country sacrifice the necessary proper public investments in research, education, and infrastructure, to protect the corporate, and wealthy elite, from bearing the burden of their rightful share in paying for those things that enable their successful enterprise. In other words, a formula for unavoidable, and perhaps even irreversible, National decline.

    • kenndeb says:

      We have an Emperor that has elevated lying into an art form, and you say republicans lie?

      • charleo1 says:

        No, I said their entire premise was a con. As is their economic policy, a bought and paid for sham, against every working person in the Country. And it’s only enabled by the ignorance you display every time you post such nonsense. I’m assuming you want to do better? Get a raise, make your business more successful? Create more opportunities for your kids? Then, pick a Party that more closely represents your best interests. Not one that is lying to you about everything.

        • kenndeb says:

          If I want someone to help further this country, it certainly won’t be the liberals that are trying to turn America into a communist police state similar to the lod soviet union. Nothing good has come from the liberals for some time now.

        • dave says:

          kenndeb has his/her head shoved up their butt so far they don’t see daylight anymore.Thats the only way to explain the obama hatred and bigotry spewed by faux news and the big fat liar they all think is god. Repubs have no REAL ideas about what is ‘ good ‘ for this country, less for the poor and more for big business and the rich is their answer to EVERYTHING !!! That only works till you run out of money to pay bills.

  3. Jack Hughes says:

    It should be understood that Republicans like McConnell have no real policy agenda other than maximizing the wealth of the top 1% who fund the Republican political machine. Republicans rely on deceptive propaganda and sleazy pandering to trick the know-nothings into supporting candidates whose economic policies are reducing them to peasants.

  4. Leftout says:

    Where is the true story of of President EBolas rise to power. Has anyone ever seen him in class in Columbia or Harvard….anyone? It is true that remedial classes are generally hush hush.

    • charleo1 says:

      President Ebola is it? The one thing you Wingers have managed to a tee. Is to combine a staggering amount of ignorance, with a total lack of respect, for the institutions of this Republic. And with all of that ignorance, there comes a boastful, arrogant, disdain, for among other things, the tremendous sacrifices being made at this very minute, by people you aren’t worthy to clean their toilets. That in fact, it is the upholding of these institutions, and making possible the handing down of these good offices to you, that protect your Rights to spew your ignorance, you seem the most unaware. That they provide the freedoms you obviously take as some God given reward for being born. Is in fact, not available to the other vast billions of people on this tiny little planet. Most of whom would be shot, for your pithy little ignorant comment. Just so you know.

      • Leftout says:

        I used my pithy techniques in and the pity for volunteering
        to take blood specimens while in training

        In Dr Faucis’ Isolated wards of HIV patients. Back in the 80’s , Fauci used the first Rule of Epidemiology of Isolation and Containment in reference to potentially Infectious
        patients. Today Dr Fauci is opportunistic as ever in dealing with Ebola saying not to worry as a government official, Medicine and Politics are a bad mix.
        There is suppression of evidence on the Ill border crossers in the border states and the flu like symptoms that are suddenly popping up around the country. Dr fauci selected any Grant if you added HIV in the proposal somewhere. But overall he is a nice guy, but political.

        Yes I emptied side trays of vomit from these HIV folks, sloshed through a couple of Bed pans on the floor to reach patients.

        Those that should be strangled / beheaded perrhaps….coming soon to a mall near you…and not shot are those advocating open borders without Proper isolation and documentation of the Ill. Many of our Grandparents were allowed to continue to immigrate only after being quarantined if any potential diseases manifested themselves.

        At Least… We have to protect the Indigenous Indian Americans, we do not want to kill off those here by a POX as in earlier miscues. From these infections interlopers…..God Help the Crow, BlackFoot and Nimipuu, names with COLORFUL meanings that they called each other. ….did they not know the word “racist”…. oooops before the White man perhaps.

        You characterize others to meet your expected profiles,
        based on typical lack of information. That is Bigotry, you know.

    • Buffalo Bill says:

      You’re 12 years old, right?

  5. Frank Leshin says:

    Leftout and Charleo1 are the voice of the IDIOT element of the republican party

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