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Mitch McConnell: The Man Who Broke The Senate

“The measure of a man is what he does with power.” Pittacus of Mytilene

Chronicled by Diogenes Laërtius. Laërtius, Diogenes (1925). “The Seven Sages: Pittacus” . Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Vol. 1:1. Translated by Hicks, Robert Drew (Two volume ed.). Loeb Classical Library.


Pittacus’ age-old reflection serves as a poignant lens through which we can view those who seemingly prioritize personal power above all else. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stands as a case in point.

His political journey, though filled with shrewd stratagems and cunning gambits, presents a revealing canvas of an individual whose motives often appear detached from the broader ideals of democracy and communal well-being. Through Pittacus’ profound wisdom, we find ourselves compelled to scrutinize the deeper machinations behind McConnell’s leadership.

In this article, we traverse the multifaceted corridors of McConnell’s tenure. We aim to dissect the nature of his actions, the fervor of his pursuits, and the subsequent implications on the U.S. political stage. McConnell’s calculated maneuvers—viewed by some as a testament to political savviness, and by others as unabashedly cynical ploys—cast a stark light on the intricate dance between personal ambition, power, and historical imprint.

McConnell’s Approach to Power and Partisanship

The trajectory of Mitch McConnell’s rise to prominence in the U.S. Senate had been characterized by a relentless pursuit of power, often perceived as prioritizing personal and party gains over the broader interests of the American public. While McConnell held various positions throughout his tenure, including that of Majority Leader, the consistent theme of amassing power for himself and his party remained evident.

The New Republic had spotlighted McConnell’s adeptness at manipulating Senate norms to his political advantage. A notable change during his tenure was the decline in the use of the filibuster for presidential nominations. By limiting this age-old tradition, McConnell had expedited nominations in a manner that significantly reduced the influence of the minority party. Rather than championing Senate traditions, it appeared McConnell’s maneuvers were more intent on meeting partisan ends and strengthening his individual authority.

Moreover, as pointed out by Vox, McConnell’s tactics weren’t confined to dominating the Senate’s proceedings but also involved deliberately obstructing the legislative agendas of perceived adversaries. His early declaration to make then-President Barack Obama a one-term president materialized through various obstructionist methods, especially when blocking Obama’s court nominations. This led to an unprecedented number of court vacancies, transforming what should have been standard processes into intricate political chess, with the judiciary’s control as the coveted prize.

Perhaps one of the most emblematic instances of McConnell’s steadfast pursuit of power was during the Merrick Garland nomination saga. Eschewing the Senate’s long standing practice of allowing nominated justices their respective hearings, McConnell chose to halt Garland’s nomination. His justification, that the American people should have a voice in the subsequent Supreme Court Justice selection, was seen by many as a camouflaged effort to secure the seat for a nominee aligned with his political goals.

Though undeniably successful in accomplishing his goals, such maneuvers had altered the Senate from a venerable deliberative body to a theater of heightened partisanship. This metamorphosis, critics contended, bore McConnell’s indelible mark. His liberal employment of filibusters, impediments on nominations, and legislative obstructions became emblematic of the Senate’s operations, constituting a significant deviation from its traditional ethos.

McConnell’s aspirations for dominance were also prominently displayed during pivotal electoral periods. In the 2014 mid-term elections, he skillfully orchestrated political strategies, aiding the Republicans in regaining the Senate majority. His approach wasn’t restricted to legislative tactics; he aimed to control the overarching narrative, often diminishing opposing perspectives.

Portrayed by The Guardian as executing “subtle, chess-like moves,” McConnell’s strategies, although efficacious, spurred concerns regarding their ramifications on U.S. democratic values. His style of leadership leaned more towards covert operations and a sustained, unwavering push for ascendancy. Through strategic acumen and tenacity, he had directed the Senate’s course, optimizing benefits for himself and the Republican Party.

McConnell’s impact on the Senate and wider American political spectrum had been profound. Regarded by many as a master tactician fueled by personal aspirations, his legacy prompted intense reflection on the interplay of authority and partisanship within the nation’s supreme legislative body.

McConnell and the U.S. Supreme Court

The trajectory of Mitch McConnell’s involvement with the U.S. Supreme Court, notably concerning nominations, elicited both acclaim and criticism. This dual response highlighted his purported ambition of amplifying power via astute, and occasionally contentious, political tactics.

A defining moment that starkly illuminated McConnell’s methodology concerning the Court was the unexpected demise of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

The New Republic underscored how McConnell promptly declared that the Senate wouldn’t entertain any nominee forwarded by President Obama. By postponing the nomination to the following president, he ensured the Court’s vacant seat lingered past the 2016 election. To numerous observers, this maneuver transcended mere electoral considerations. Instead, it was perceived as a tactical coup, tailored to preserve the Supreme Court’s conservative orientation.

Upon President Trump’s ascension to office, Neil Gorsuch was tabled as the nominee for the seat, as chronicled by The Guardian. Gorsuch’s swift confirmation in April 2017 symbolized more than a mere seating; it epitomized McConnell’s expansive ambition to mold the judiciary in a manner that resonated with conservative ideals for years to come.

Another nomination that commanded widespread focus was that of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. As depicted by The New York Times Magazine, in an environment saturated with allegations and pronounced dissent against Kavanaugh, McConnell showcased his signature political resilience. By reinforcing party unity, he adeptly steered through the tumultuous nomination phase, cementing Kavanaugh’s position and further solidifying the Court’s conservative bias.

The Brookings Institute shed light on how McConnell’s determinations regarding the Supreme Court weren’t sporadic but interwoven with his broader aim of perpetuating and broadening conservative sway.

The piece elaborated on McConnell’s rebuttals to propositions of altering the Supreme Court’s composition. While a surge of progressive proponents championed the Court’s expansion to offset its discerned conservative tilt, McConnell, in his recognizable manner, dismissed such proposals, labeling them as detrimental to the Court’s sanctity.

The depth of McConnell’s influence on the nomination procedures indisputably entrenched him as an unparalleled political tactician. Yet, it simultaneously ignited deliberations about the purpose and ramifications of his strategies. Detractors contend, as emphasized by The New Republic, that such maneuvers could inadvertently recast the Supreme Court from a pillar of unbiased justice into another partisan entity.

Should the nation’s paramount court be viewed as susceptible to partisan tactics, it challenges the core principles of checks and balances intrinsic to the U.S. democratic construct.

The Guardian distilled this notion, postulating that McConnell’s tactical deployments regarding the Supreme Court could have enduring implications for the U.S. democratic framework. By possibly impairing the Court’s objectivity, there’s an impending risk of the nation’s most revered institutions being construed as mere extensions of partisan designs.

While McConnell’s tactics vis-à-vis the U.S. Supreme Court had undeniably entrenched conservative hegemony, they concurrently posed questions regarding the resilience of America’s foundational pillars. His interactions with the Court didn’t just exemplify his individual political acumen but also resonated with broader apprehensions about the potential diminution of institutional standards and the judiciary’s revered stature. The delicate equilibrium between political stratagems and upholding the Supreme Court’s innate respectability continues to be a fervent discourse, with McConnell’s maneuvers centrally positioned.

Handling of Election Security and Foreign Interference

During his time as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s political maneuvers were often characterized by moments of high-stakes strategizing, but none perhaps as contentious as his approach towards election security and allegations of foreign interference.

Accusations have been hurled in his direction, with many asserting that he risked the integrity of the American electoral process to further partisan objectives.

The political atmosphere surrounding the 2016 presidential elections was charged with concerns about potential foreign interference, notably from Russia. As revelations about possible external tampering emerged, a disclosure by then-Vice President Joe Biden to NPR underscored McConnell’s decision not to back a bipartisan statement addressing this Russian interference. For numerous observers, such a stance seemed to underscore a worrying inclination to place party politics over the defense of American democratic values.

A comprehensive investigation by The Washington Post during that period detailed the covert efforts by the Obama administration to thwart Russia’s attempts at electoral disruption. Amid these secret endeavors, McConnell’s seeming hesitancy to address or publicly recognize this looming threat was markedly evident. To many, his reluctance seemed less rooted in genuine skepticism and more in a perceived cynical gambit to shield partisan advantages, potentially at the cost of national security.

Further accentuating these apprehensions was McConnell’s approach to election security legislation in the Senate. Another account from The Washington Post highlighted the then-Majority Leader’s apparent resistance to passing these bills. The perceived hesitancy to bolster the U.S. against external electoral threats was startling for many. This raised questions: Was McConnell genuinely acting in the nation’s interest, or were his decisions more about preserving the Republican Party’s stronghold?

Following the 2020 elections, The New York Times spotlighted a surge in criticism targeting McConnell. His handling of the Russian interference matter was widely viewed as overtly partisan, painting a picture of a political figure perhaps more engrossed in strategic gameplay than in upholding his constitutional duty to the country.

An analysis by The Guardian proposed a wider lens, hinting that McConnell’s decisions related to election security were indicative of his broader modus operandi: an unwavering chase for political dominance, potentially at the expense of democratic traditions.

Detractors posited that such maneuvers were not only rooted in political cynicism but fundamentally eroded the bedrock principles upon which American democracy stands.

In retrospect, McConnell’s tactics regarding election security and the challenge of foreign interference serve as a vivid illustration of the tension between political expedience and constitutional duty.

The storyline, informed by these esteemed publications, paints a picture of a seasoned politician who might have chosen partisan advantage over the nation’s core values. As the U.S. navigates the intricate task of safeguarding election integrity amidst a multifaceted global context, McConnell’s past actions in this arena will, without doubt, remain under the magnifying glass for the foreseeable future.

Impeachment Proceedings

During the presidency of Donald Trump, the Senate’s involvement in impeachment proceedings took on an unparalleled gravity, rooted in a constitutional and venerable process that had been a part of the United States since its inception.

The behavior of Senate leaders, notably, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during this tumultuous period, became the subject of intense examination. Numerous outlets commented that McConnell’s actions throughout these proceedings appeared to prioritize the consolidation of political might over the steadfast defense of the Constitution.

One of the first signs of McConnell’s controversial role in impeachment emerged during Trump’s initial impeachment trial in December 2019.

Once the House of Representatives had made its decision to impeach the president, the responsibility fell upon the Senate to carry out the trial and, if warranted, oust the president from his position. However, even prior to the trial’s commencement, McConnell’s stance was evident. As cited by NPR, he openly professed, “I’m not impartial” regarding the impeachment. This forthright admission raised eyebrows, prompting many to speculate if the then-Senate Majority Leader had prematurely reached a conclusion, disregarding any evidence to be presented.

Fast-tracking to Trump’s subsequent impeachment in 2021 in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, The Washington Post, referencing a book excerpt, delved deeply into McConnell’s rationale behind Trump’s acquittal. The inference was that his judgment was not anchored in the trial’s constitutional validity or the evidence set forth, but rather influenced by overarching political considerations.

McConnell’s dynamic with Trump during these processes was in the spotlight, particularly given Trump’s undeniable sway over the Republican core. For McConnell, striking a balance between partisan expectations and constitutional obligations appeared daunting. Yet, many onlookers discerned that McConnell’s allegiances were skewed more towards safeguarding his influence than preserving the Senate’s sanctity in the impeachment realm. This sentiment was accentuated by a Vox article, which implied that the latitude granted to Trump’s actions could be attributed, in part, to McConnell’s calculated moves.

A discerning article in The New York Times Magazine portrayed McConnell as an adept strategist, one who methodically molded the political terrain with his astute decisions. This piece insinuated that his tactics during the impeachment episodes weren’t spontaneous, but rather aligned with his entrenched modus operandi: the pursuit of dominance, even at the expense of sidelining foundational Senate practices.

But what prompted McConnell, an accomplished political figure, to potentially court censure and tarnish his historical imprint? An analysis from The Guardian postulated that McConnell’s maneuvers during the impeachment echoed his broader strategy — a relentless quest to entrench conservative dominion. The underlying premise? By placating Trump and his fervent supporters, McConnell fortified Republican clout across diverse governmental realms.

The public’s verdict on McConnell’s participation in the impeachment trials remains polarized. Nonetheless, an irrefutable offshoot of his choices is the evolving perception of the Senate, which once stood as a paragon of justice but now seems beleaguered by partisanship. Detractors contend that this exhibited cynicism, transforming a fundamentally impartial constitutional mechanism into yet another political instrument.

Looking back, especially within Trump’s era, the impeachment endeavors laid bare profound rifts within the American political fabric. At the heart of this saga stood Mitch McConnell, whose maneuvers and resolutions during these times granted insight into a larger tableau of political machinations where the allure of power frequently overshadowed sacred constitutional commitments.

Criticisms and Ethical Concerns

Over the years, McConnell has faced numerous criticisms and ethical concerns, with many emanating from his behavior in the Senate. These critiques come from a wide range of actions, decisions, and strategies that have been perceived as prioritizing political gain over other considerations.

One of the most debated episodes was his approach to filling Supreme Court vacancies. In 2016, upon the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, many expected a relatively prompt nomination process. However, McConnell decided not to hold hearings for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing that it was an election year and the next president should make the nomination. Yet, in a contrasting move, he facilitated the rapid confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, also an election year. The Washington Post detailed how this was seen by many as an inconsistency, suggesting a prioritization of partisan politics over established Senate procedures.

McConnell’s approach to legislative stonewalling raised eyebrows as well. The New York Times reported on how numerous bills, many with bipartisan support, often found themselves halted in the Senate under his leadership.

Critics viewed this as a strategic maneuver to prevent any legislative successes for opposing parties, rather than genuinely evaluating each bill’s merit. The delay in passing pandemic relief packages, for instance, caused significant distress among Americans awaiting assistance, with many critics pointing to McConnell’s strategic negotiations as a major source of the delay.

Ethical concerns also arose in relation to campaign financing. The Guardian reported a series of incidents where large amounts of money were funneled into Super PACs that supported McConnell, sparking debates about the influence of big money in politics. Furthermore, an investigative report by The New Yorker detailed instances where McConnell allegedly used his position to benefit donors, highlighting potential conflicts of interest.

McConnell’s approach to foreign policy drew criticism as well. Vox relayed an incident where McConnell was hesitant to impose sanctions on Russia following intelligence reports of election interference. While he later supported the sanctions, his initial hesitancy was seen by many as placing partisan considerations above national security.

One of the more contentious issues surrounding McConnell was his stance on election security. NPR detailed his reluctance to back several bipartisan election security bills, leading to perceptions that he was indifferent to the threats of foreign interference. For many critics, this indifference seemed to prioritize maintaining the status quo, which was perceived as beneficial to his party, over ensuring a fair and secure electoral process for all Americans.

McConnell’s strategic maneuverings with respect to the filibuster also drew criticism. As detailed by CNN, his use of the filibuster, especially during the Obama administration, was perceived as obstructionist. This strategy effectively blocked numerous legislative items from even reaching the Senate floor for a vote. Such a use of the filibuster was seen by many as an exploitation of Senate rules for partisan advantage.

Moreover, McConnell’s relationship with President Trump was frequently scrutinized. While they reportedly had a complex dynamic, The Atlantic detailed how McConnell often appeared to sidestep direct confrontations with Trump, even on critical issues. Critics argued that this behavior indicated a preference for political expediency over principled leadership.

Mitch McConnell’s tenure in the Senate has not been without controversies.

From Supreme Court nominations and legislative strategies to campaign finance and foreign policy decisions, he has often been at the center of debates on ethics and partisanship in politics. These instances, as relayed by various publications, underscore a recurring theme: the tension between strategic political maneuvering and the broader ethical obligations of leadership.

McConnell’s actions and decisions in the Senate have left a lasting imprint on its operations, often sparking intense debates about the balance between political strategy and ethical governance.

Counterarguments and Defenses

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has often been the target of critique, a comprehensive examination of his tenure also reveals staunch defenses and counterarguments to the criticisms levied against him. Supporters argue that his actions, frequently labeled as partisan or obstructionist, stem from a deep-seated dedication to conservative principles, and his strategic decisions have always been in pursuit of what he perceives as the best for the country and his party.

The issue of the Supreme Court vacancies provides a vivid example. Critics cited his contrasting approaches to the nominations of Merrick Garland in 2016 and Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 as evidence of partisanship.

However, as elucidated by The Wall Street Journal, defenders pointed out that historically, when the Senate and the presidency were held by opposing parties during an election year, a confirmation process was rare. They argued that McConnell was upholding a precedent, albeit an unwritten one.

On the topic of legislative stonewalling, supporters offered another perspective. While McConnell did halt numerous bills, a detailed analysis by The National Review argued that many of these bills were perceived by conservatives as being overtly partisan, devoid of genuine bipartisan compromise.

Therefore, McConnell’s actions were seen as a defense against what was perceived as a legislative onslaught that could alter the very fabric of American conservatism.

Campaign financing was another contentious issue. While large donations to Super PACs supporting McConnell raised eyebrows, a report from Forbes pointed out that such fundraising tactics were common across the political spectrum. Supporters argued that McConnell was merely navigating the realities of modern American politics, where fundraising is paramount to electoral success.

McConnell’s hesitancy regarding Russia sanctions drew significant ire. However, The Economist provided insight into a different narrative.

McConnell’s initial reluctance, they suggested, might have been rooted in a desire to assess the full scope of intelligence and understand the potential geopolitical ramifications before making a decision. This perspective paints a picture of a leader who is cautious, methodical, and unwilling to rush into significant foreign policy decisions.

Furthermore, on election security, defenders highlighted a broader picture. While McConnell did show reluctance towards certain bills, a piece by Politico noted that he did back other election security measures, especially those that had a clearer bipartisan consensus. This suggests that McConnell’s approach was more nuanced than often portrayed.

The frequent critique of McConnell’s use of the filibuster was met with counterarguments as well. A feature in The Federalist argued that the filibuster has been a tool used by both parties when in the minority, asserting that McConnell’s use of it was in line with historical Senate practices. They pointed out that the filibuster acts as a check against potential legislative excesses, ensuring that laws passed have broad support.

Lastly, McConnell’s relationship with President Trump was multifaceted. While he avoided direct confrontations on certain issues, TIME revealed that behind the scenes, McConnell was often a moderating influence, working diligently to ensure that Senate Republicans had a voice in the administration’s decisions. His supporters believe that this behind-the-scenes approach was more effective than public confrontations, ensuring that the Senate’s conservative principles were upheld during Trump’s presidency.

In conclusion, the narrative surrounding Mitch McConnell is undeniably complex. While critics have lambasted him for what they perceive as blatant partisanship, supporters see a seasoned political strategist, steadfast in his conservative principles. The counterarguments and defenses presented here, as portrayed by various publications, offer a holistic view of a leader who, whether one agrees with his politics or not, has left an indelible mark on the American political landscape.

Legacy and Impact on the Senate

The legacy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both divisive and influential, has fundamentally shaped the operations, dynamics, and political character of the Senate for decades. His impact stretches from policy-making decisions to the deeper realms of political strategy and Senate mechanics.

In the realms of judicial appointments, McConnell’s approach has perhaps had the most lasting impact. The Wall Street Journal highlighted how under his leadership, the Senate underwent a significant shift in the speed and method of approving federal judges. By prioritizing these confirmations, McConnell reshaped the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative bent for generations. His strategic decision in 2016 to not consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and conversely to push forward with the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, are emblematic of this tactic.

Beyond judicial appointments, McConnell’s leadership style has also set the tone for how the Senate conducts its business. Politico once delved deep into McConnell’s use of Senate procedures, particularly the cloture rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote. His frequent deployment of this tactic not only slowed the legislative process but also reshaped the Senate into a more deliberative, and some argue, a more obstructionist body.

However, his impact on the Senate isn’t solely procedural. As The Economist analyzed, McConnell’s tenure saw an evolution in the Senate’s policy focus. Under his leadership, there was a distinct pivot towards issues like tax reforms and deregulation. His ability to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, which marked significant tax reductions, especially for corporations, is a testament to his policy influence.

Yet, it wasn’t just about what McConnell achieved; it was also about what he prevented. TIME once reflected on his strategy during the Obama years, terming it as one of “strategic obstruction.” McConnell’s decision to rally Republicans against major initiatives, like the Affordable Care Act, cemented his reputation as a master tactician, albeit a highly polarizing one.

His tenure’s repercussions extended beyond policy and strategy. McConnell’s leadership, as depicted by The Atlantic, also significantly impacted the Senate’s culture. His tight grip on his caucus and penchant for closed-door meetings changed the nature of Senate debates, making them less public and more strategic. This shift drew criticism from those who felt it veered away from the Senate’s traditional role as the nation’s deliberative body.

McConnell’s relationship with his counterparts, especially during times of Democratic majorities, has been intricate. As noted by The National Review, his ability to maintain Republican unity, even during challenging periods, meant that the Senate Democrats often had to navigate around him, making bipartisan agreements a rarity.

This isn’t to say that McConnell’s legacy is solely about partisanship and obstruction. The New Yorker chronicled instances where he showed a willingness to collaborate, especially when national interests were at stake. His work with then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2010 to extend the Bush tax cuts, and again in 2012 to avert a fiscal cliff, are notable examples.

Yet, for many observers, the defining feature of McConnell’s legacy remains his unwavering focus on ensuring long-term conservative influence. His strategic decisions, whether related to judicial appointments, legislative procedures, or policy focuses, have all been geared towards this overarching goal.

In summation, the legacy of Mitch McConnell, as painted by various publications, presents a portrait of a seasoned politician with an acute understanding of the Senate’s levers of power. Whether one views his impact as positive or negative, there’s no denying that he has left an indelible imprint on the Senate’s history, fundamentally shaping its operations and policy direction for years to come.


“The measure of a man is what he does with power,” a poignant reflection by Pittacus of Mytilene, has resonated through ages, and in the context of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s extensive political career, it presents a challenging assessment.

McConnell’s many decisions, strategies, and the legacy he leaves behind in the Senate have often been perceived through a lens of personal power accumulation rather than genuine dedication to the nation and its Constitution.

A review of his tenure brings forth instances that suggest a prioritization of personal and party interests over national well-being. His navigation through the intricacies of politics not only changed the Senate’s trajectory but also raised questions about the nature of his commitment to the principles that the United States stands for. While he certainly displayed an adeptness in leveraging Senate rules and norms to his advantage, many argue that this often came at the expense of democratic traditions and the trust of the American people.

In times of crucial legislative decisions and especially during the tumultuous impeachment proceedings, McConnell’s actions appeared less driven by the tenets of the Constitution and more by a quest to solidify his personal grip on power. Such moves, in the eyes of many, compromised the integrity of the Senate and its role as a beacon of democracy.

Pittacus’ words remind us that wielding power carries a responsibility to the collective, a duty to uphold the foundations upon which institutions like the Senate were built. Yet, for McConnell, critics argue that this power was too often harnessed for personal gain, sidelining the broader interests of the nation.

In sum , as history continues its inexorable march, the narrative of Mitch McConnell will likely serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of prioritizing personal ambition over collective well-being.

The questions surrounding his legacy reiterate the importance of Pittacus’ ancient wisdom and emphasize the need for leaders whose actions align with the values they profess to champion.