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Mitch McConnell leaves as the Senate’s longest-serving coward

President George W Bush Senate leader Mitch McConnell Vice President Dick Cheney three henchmen next to Mitch McConnell smirk during former president donald trump speech
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images; Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

McConnell will be spending his remaining years as a prisoner to his own cowardice and with a wife whose honor he did not defend.

When I tell people that the first guy I dated when I was on Capitol Hill worked for Mitch McConnell, the standard response is “Are you serious?” It wasn’t like we were walking around holding hands and going to Mitch and his wife Elaine’s house for dinner.

We were very secretive, almost cowardly, about our relationship, but back then we had to be. It was 30 years ago. It was a different time, and in those 30 years, McConnell went from being a coward to…well, a bigger coward.

And as the longest-serving Republican leader in the history of the Senate, the Kentucky senator is perhaps the vaunted institution's biggest coward.

Wrongly, pundits and people have lauded all sorts of praise on McConnell. They say he was an amazing tactician. He wasn’t. They say he revered the institution of the Senate. He crapped on its rules. They say he was smarter than the rest. He stupidly left former President Donald Trump off the hook. They say he was instinctive. Roe v. Wade was a win for Republicans? They say he was brazen. OK, that’s probably the only attribute that’s correct.

What he did to Merrick Garland was brazenly shameless and disrespectful, not only to the institution of the Senate, whose values he claims to uphold, but the process of selecting a justice. In March of 2016, President Obama nominated Garland to succeed Antonin Scalia, who had died one month earlier. The Senate, which was under Majority Leader McConnell, never held hearings or a vote on him, with McConnell claiming it was too close to the November presidential election. It was a travesty of justice. If the Robert Bork nomination created a domino effect about how a potential justice should be treated, McConnell’s flippancy toward Garland destroyed all decorum.

It also demonstrated McConnell’s glaring hypocrisy and deceitfulness. He rammed Amy Coney-Barrett’s nomination through the Senate weeks before the 2020 election. Garland was nominated by Obama eight months before the 2016 election. And for McConnell, shoving Coney-Barrett through got him what he wanted — a conservative supermajority on the court.

Be careful what you wish for Mitch.

McConnell’s dream of a supermajority dissolved and disputed the idea that he was some sort of a prophetic and brilliant master planner. The court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, another of McConnell’s dreams, created chaos, confusion, and disdain for Republicans. McConnell’s brazenness has come back to haunt him.

And so did his vote not to convict Trump when he was impeached. He reasoned that criminal courts should — and would — do the job, not the Senate, even though it was the Senate’s job to rule on the insurrectionist president. Talking out of both sides of his mealy mouth, as he normally did, the brave-less McConnell said Trump did cause the Capitol riot and it was a “disgraceful dereliction of duty.” Trying to have it both ways, McConnell did a proverbial face plant, voting against punishment for dereliction of duty, and by doing so, he made a deadly mistake, not only for Republicans but maybe this country.

His prophecy that the courts would rid the Republican Party of Trump was as ill-fated as his dream of an anti-abortion society. He folded to Trump, and he’s paying the price for his cowardice. Trump is stronger than he’s ever been. What was once McConnell’s party is now firmly Trump’s party, and rather than stay in the fight, McConnell is choosing to leave. The destruction that is Trump lays at the doddering feet of McConnell, and he’s shuffling away.

Even with his exit, McConnell is being a coward. A headline in The New Republic this week roared, “Will Mitch McConnell Cave to Trump Again?” It was referencing a New York Times piece about Trump and McConnell aides back-channeling in order to get McConnell’s endorsement. Trump hates McConnell and McConnell hates Trump, and one reason Trump hates McConnell is that Trump thinks McConnell is “an absolute loser.” Which raises the question, why would you want to be endorsed by a loser?

Now McConnell has slithered his way out of an endorsement for the twice-impeached, four times indicted Trump by announcing his exit from the leadership stage. McConnell is off the hook, and even if he is true to character and shamelessly backs Trump, no one will care. McConnell is history. Trump steamrolled over him, and now McConnell is right where Trump wants him, in the rearview mirror.

It’s been said that McConnell is one of the last “normal Republicans” who is in the way of stopping Trump if he goes too far. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When McConnell went against his better judgment – which would usually be a win for him – and endorsed Trump in 2016, it allowed a demon to take over the party. And by refusing to convict the Antichrist, McConnell was implicit in the rise and rise of a wanna-be autocrat.

If anything, McConnell’s greatest tactical maneuver was creating the monster of Trump that would eat democracy. And he did that despite all of the nasty names Trump called McConnell and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — “Coco Chow” or McConnell’s “China-loving wife,” for starters. When asked for a response to these racist monikers, McConnell said, “No comment.” The wimpy Senate minority leader didn’t defend his wife’s honor. What kind of a coward is that?

These are only recent examples because time and space prevent me from diving deeper. But to know McConnell is to know the very definition of cowardice.

McConnell has been the leader of the Senate Republican Conference since 2007 and is the longest-serving Senate party leader in U.S. history. Ostensibly, he has been the leader of the party for 13 years, sans the four years Trump was president. And look what’s happened to the party during that time.

It lost the presidency thrice, twice to Obama and to Biden in 2020. When it did elect a Republican it was Trump, and no need to say more. Under McConnell’s superintendence, the party went from compassionate conservatism to “absolute losers” to fealty to a felon, to absolute losers, to a rabidly hateful anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ party beholden to a dictator.

Does that sound like a trajectory of success? Since 2007, 17 years of failure have passed through the Republican Party under McConnell’s watchful blind eye. I wrote in July of last year that McConnell’s biggest problem was that the world and times have changed and passed him by. He ran away from change, from progress, and from freedom.

McConnell will be spending his remaining years being a prisoner to his own cowardice.

John Casey is a senior editor for The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.