By Douglas Bloomfield
What do Republicans stand for? Nothing. What are they against? Everything. That’s the word from the highest-ranking elected Republican official in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” he told reporters in his home state of Kentucky. If that sounds familiar, it was essentially the same approach he took during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, “He wants Biden to fail. Everything he does, he wants Biden to fail.”
As his scuttling of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attempted coup demonstrates, McConnell and his fellow GOP leaders are also not interested in preserving the American democratic system, something that should scare the kippot off of American Jews.
“Just Say No”
McConnell, who offers no constructive program, takes pride in calling himself the “grim reaper” whose role is to kill Democratic proposals. Instead of dealing with issues like race relations, environment, the pandemic, health care, trade and taxes, Republicans have decided to wage culture wars over critical matters like Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, a ban on hamburgers and getting more guns into people’s hands.
Historically, the role of the opposition leader has been to offer alternative policies or craft compromises, but McConnell prefers to emulate Nancy Reagan’s drug policy: Just say no. He showed he wasn’t interested in bipartisanship when he blocked creation of a nonpartisan January 6 investigation. McConnell called it “a political distraction” that might help Democrats in next year’s congressional elections. He also wants to avoid incurring the wrath of the disgraced former president, as much as they despise each other, and Donald Trump’s legion of would-be insurrectionists.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer chided his opposite number. “Are you afraid Donald Trump’s big lie will be dispelled? Are you afraid that all of the misinformation that has poured out will be rebutted by a bipartisan, down the middle commission?” the New York Democrat asked.
The commission was actually the result of a bipartisan deal negotiated by Republican Rep. John Katko acting on instructions from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But at the last minute, McCarthy pulled the plug, fearful of a tsunami of effluent from Mar-a-Lago.
Michael Steele, the former Republican national chairman, called McCarthy a “sucker” for thinking that, by killing the commission, Trump might support him for speaker if Republicans win back the House next year.
The outcome is likely to be a select committee established by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, unlike the rejected compromise, Democrats will control the process and the power to issue subpoenas.
Refusal To See!
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) attacked McConnell’s “decision for the short-term political gain at the expense of understanding and acknowledging what was in front of us on Jan. 6.” She said the focus should be on getting the truth, not mollifying Trump.
McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible,” for January 6, but didn’t have the courage to vote to remove the former president; in fact, he engineered Trump’s rescue from conviction twice. The ever gracious and grateful former president must have seen that as a sign of weakness, calling the Republican leader “a dumb son of a bitch,” a “stone cold loser” and a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack.”
Creating Election Obstacles
McConnell is also blocking the House-passed For the People voting rights and election reform bill, a top Democratic priority. If there is one thing that strikes fear in Republican hearts— besides the temperamental Trump—it is free and fair elections. Republican-led states across the country are resurrecting and updating Jim Crow laws and erecting extensive obstacles to voting, especially for minorities.
President Joe Biden has called it an “assault on democracy” that is “disproportionately targeting black and brown Americans.” He said, “we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”
When Republicans say they are only trying to make voting free, safe and easy, they mean for white Christian Republicans.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said Republicans “want to make it harder to vote and easier to steal an election.”
Minorities In Back
Republicans like to call themselves a Big Tent party. The tent is white with a big yellow stripe down the back. There’s a big opening for white folks, the less education the better, judging from recent elections, and a smaller one in the rear for blacks, Jews, immigrants and other minorities.
The GOP, aka the WPP, White People’s Party by some, is devoid of diversity. In the current 117th Congress, according to a CNN tally, there are three black Republicans, two in the House, compared to 55 black Democrats. There are two Jewish Republicans, both in the House, and 23 Jewish Democrats in the House and nine more in the Senate. Three Republicans (all in the House) are of Asian, South Asian or Pacific Island ancestry, and 19 others are Democrats, including two senators. There are 45 Latinos in this Congress, of whom 11 are Republicans, including two senators. No Republican identifies as LGBQT; 11 Democrats do.
This disparity is generally reflected in voting patterns. In last year’s presidential election 90 percent of blacks, 75 percent of Jews, 67 percent of Asians and 63 percent of Latinos voted Democratic, according to most exit polls.
That may help explain McConnell’s vehement opposition to not only to election reform but also to schools teaching about slavery in America. Specifically, he opposes the 1619 Project, which traces the history of slavery here, branding it “divisive, radical propaganda.”
The Trump Specter
McConnell intends to use all his skills to make sure few, if any, Biden programs become law; in that way he and Republicans will go to voters next hear to attack the do-nothing Congress and failed president who broke his promise of bipartisanship.
Fear is a major force in Republican politics on the Hill these days. Privately many GOP lawmakers confide they loathe Trump and wish that he’d disappear, but they are terrified to say anything publicly because they know how vicious and vindictive he can be, even without his Twitter account.
Former Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock said on Meet the Press on Sunday, May 30, that if Trump went missing, “I don’t think you’d have many Republicans in the search party.”
For decades, Jewish Republicans have predicted a mass exodus of their co-religionists to the GOP side of the aisle. It hasn’t happened, and the shocking Republican turn to anti-democracy demagogues will ensure that the party will be even less attractive to a Jewish community that depends for its security on a vibrant American democracy and a political leadership— in both parties — that grasps its critical importance.