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Against The Dark Lord

For some time now, I’ve been a critic of the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

I gave an extended account of why on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

I gave a more animated account of why when I had the honor of awarding McConnell the Motherf*cker Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

But the “why” should be obvious. Of all the bad that is Washington, DC, Mitch McConnell is the worst. Not because he’s lazy — he’s not lazy, in the least. Not because he’s stupid — to the contrary, Mitch McConnell is brilliant. McConnell is the worst because he practices the worst of Washington politics — exclusively partisan, aiming to stop government from acting sensibly, or when it acts, acting only to help those who help him fund right-wing campaigns.

McConnell is the reason there’s been no further COVID relief since Congress acted in the spring. Not because he has some principled (if wrongheaded) belief in fiscal conservativism, but because he has insisted that any relief include immunity for corporations that create unsafe COVID-related work conditions. People can’t eat — literally—so that corporations can sleep better, knowing not that they did the right thing, but that they can’t be sued if they do the wrong thing.

McConnell is the reason there has been no voting or democracy reform passed by Congress. He has called HR1 a “Democrat political power-grab” — which of course it is, if you remove the capital “D” and replace it with the small “d”, adjectival: HR1 would radically increase the small-d-democratic capacity of ordinary Americans to influence their government while reducing the ability of big money and rich donors to do the same.

McConnell is more responsible than anyone else for the corrupt system of campaign finance that we have. He’s packed the FEC with commissioners who don’t even believe in the law (for much of the past 4 years, there hasn’t even been a quorum because McConnell refuses to move appointees through the Senate). He celebrates Citizens United v. FEC (2010) as one of the greatest decisions of the Supreme Court, curing the “saddest day” in his life as a Senator, as he reports it: When President Bush signed the McCain/Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which offered important if modest reforms to a corrupt campaign finance system. McConnell fought hard to stop that law from passing. He refused to even acknowledge that you could have a corrupt system without having corrupted individuals inside that system.

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Excuse the detour — because this part drives me nuts:

Here’s McCain explaining that the target of campaign finance reform is a corrupt “system,” not necessarily corrupt individuals:

McConnell pretends he doesn’t understand the point:

McCain replies, with impatience, because he knows McConnell is not stupid.

That inspired the great Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) (RIP) to school Senator McConnell about the “systemic corruption” that is DC:

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And McConnell is the reason that a man who didn’t even win the popular vote was able to pack one-third of the Supreme Court. When Justice Scalia died nine months before an election, McConnell explained that it was a democratic “principle” (he actually used that word) that required the Senate to wait for a new election. When Justice Ginsburg died less than 9 weeks before an election, democratic principles magically vanished, as President Trump has promised would happen with COVID.

When McConnell was asked in 2010 what he wanted to accomplish as Majority Leader, he replied:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

That reply captures McConnell perfectly: partisan über alles — including over the truth: It astonishes me still that we allow a Senator, let alone the Majority Leader, to commit clear perjury on the floor of the United States Senate (which is what swearing a false oath is) without so much as a gasp from anyone.

All this is important now because, on January 5th, Georgia will decide whether Mitch McConnell will remain as Majority Leader. That choice is not obvious on the Georgia ballot. It is obvious when you count up the votes in the United States Senate.

If Georgia elects even just one Republican, then McConnell will remain as Majority Leader. But if Georgia elects two Democrats — Warnock and Ossoff — then the Democrats will have 50 in the Senate, and with the vote of the VP, will be able to control the agenda of that body.

Fifty +1 is a very small majority. McConnell has channeled millions in SuperPAC dollars to Georgia to convince voters that if the Democrats control the Senate, then “radical liberals” (the most practiced phrase in Kelly Loeffler’s vocabulary) will control our government.

But that’s obviously nonsense. If Democrats have a 50+1 majority, obviously the most powerful person in the United States Senate would be the most conservative Democrat — Joe Manchin. America’s government won’t move radically to the left if the Democrats control the Senate. America’s government will just be able to move — finally.

Ending McConnell’s control doesn’t empower the “radical liberals.” Ending McConnell’s control would simply give Joe Biden a chance: a chance to get his ideas considered and debated; a chance to nominate and confirm members of his administration and the courts; and a chance to accomplish something for all of America — rather than us witnessing four years of congressional gridlock.

It is for this reason that we’re launching a campaign to rally reformers to help the fight in Georgia. Today we launch a website — GiveJoeAChance.US—that we hope will (1) drive reformers to support the candidates in Georgia, (2) help reformers recruit friends in Georgia to vote on January 5th, and (3) if we’re lucky, help us do a timely remix of “all we are saying is give p̶e̶a̶c̶e̶/Joe a chance.”

We’ll add more projects and content as they make sense. But the most important content is a simple idea:

If we don’t stop Mitch McConnell, Mitch McConnell will stop Joe Biden.

In the middle of a pandemic, when more are dying each day than died on 9/11, we can’t let this happen.

Here are three videos from me launched today. Please go to our site and help if you can. And whether or not you do that, please do whatever you can to support Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff. They are great candidates, each of them. Warnock has inspired many for many years; Ossoff has inspired many —including me in a podcast I did with him.

© Lessig, CC-BY (link)
© Lessig, CC-BY (link)
© Lessig, CC-BY (link)

These last four years have been an incredible struggle. I get it. And I know, it was the election in November that was supposed to be the “most important election in our lives.”

But if that election is to have meaning — if Joe Biden is going to have any chance to govern — Georgia must not elect McConnell to the post of Gridlock-maker-in-Chief. Georgia must go Blue.

Please do whatever you can.

Written by

law professor, activist.

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