McConnell Rejects Russian Hacking Committee. This Is What A One-Party State Looks Like
McConnell’s Rejection Of A Robust Investigation Follows A Disturbing Pattern
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected growing pressure to launch a Senate select committee to investigate Russia’s role in the 2016 election. McConnell downplayed the significance of Russia’s hack while speaking to Kentucky Educational Television on Monday, NPR reported. McConnell said the Russian interference “is a serious issue, but it doesn’t require a select committee.”
McConnell didn’t question the intelligence community’s conclusions, as Donald Trump’s transition team has, that Russia meddled with the election to get Trump elected. But McConnell suggested that the Senate intelligence committee is enough to investigate the breach. This placed McConnell in opposition to Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the Armed Forces Committee, several other Republicans, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and many congressional Democrats who support a select committee investigation. Proponents of a select committee consider the appointed committee’s investigative powers more robust and would give more information to the public faster. It could also lead to better cyber security organization and action. McCain characterized America’s response thus far as “paralyzed.” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is on the Intelligence Committee, perceived an effort to “sweep this under the rug.”
As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell’s efforts to undermine a robust investigation of Russia’s interference of an American election is a disgraceful abdication of his responsibilities. The Russian interference was an attack on American democracy. He should be prioritizing America’s national security, safeguarding the Constitution, safeguarding election integrity, seeking to bolster our cyber defenses, and leveling with the American people. Instead, he is prioritizing what is good for Republican party leadership in the short term. For the last four years, Republicans had no problem using Congress’s most important investigatory powers as a witch hunt on Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails. That investigation was one of the longest and most expensive for taxpayers in American history. Now, when an American election comes under attack by a hostile foreign power a deep investigation isn’t necessary? Something is seriously wrong here.
McConnell was responsible for turning the hacking into a partisan political issue in the first place. In September, the White House approached McConnell and other Congressional leadership, showed him the intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia was interfering in the election to help Trump, and asked him to make a joint bipartisan statement about it. McConnell refused, telling Obama that any statement he made, McConnell would accuse him of a partisan ploy. As American democracy was under attack, McConnell blackmailed the president, and helped pave the way for the Russians to install their useful idiot into the White House. Trump has now named McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his pick for Transportation Secretary.
McConnell’s obstruction of that which is objectively good for the country as a whole, is just the latest affront in a long line of decisions that put party over country. McConnell made it his goal to block President Obama on absolutely anything and everything. The most extreme example of this is his blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for the better part of a year. In addition, the House is so gerrymandered that in 2012, Democrats won 1.17 million more votes across all races but Republicans retained a 33-seat advantage. Trump also likely won the presidency, apart from Russian interference and a politicized FBI, because of voter suppression following the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act.
We now have a government, all three branches of government, that in no way represents the wishes of the public at large, which is claiming a sweeping mandate to revolutionize American democracy as a corporatist-miliatarist privatization machine led by nepotism and cronyism, and loyal to Russia. The incoming government that will take power in 2017 is deeply anti-democratic. It is the result of years of decisions made by the Republican party leadership that put the interests of the party above all other interests.
It arguably began with Newt Gingrich. In the 1990s, Republicans spent most of Bill Clinton’s term looking for a scandal, and eventually found something that was an insult to the nation’s intelligence. A group of Republicans who were secretly having affairs impeached Clinton for lying about an affair. That ruthless effort to thwart a Democratic president at the cost of the national interest, prefigured the GOP’s actions since. And unfortunately, Gingrich is back. He’s now giving Trump advice like, “use the power of the pardon” to pardon his own children for breaking nepotism laws while running his business and having major undefined roles in the White House. Even the Saudi monarchy would blanch at that kind of solipsistic rule. Gingrich’s career has followed an arc from impeaching a popular president who fibbed about nookie to begging to place the crown of King Louis XVI on a reality TV show clown’s gold-encrusted head. And yet, he has been the avatar of mainstream Republican thought the whole way.
This is reaching a tipping point, a point of no return for our Republic. North Carolina Republicans who have a super majority due to super gerrymandered state districts, just stripped the incoming Democratic governor of all meaningful authority in a brazen legislative coup. This hands a template to overturn the results of elections to other Republican states, and to the federal government if it ever falls into the hands of a nihilistic maniac, like, say, the president-elect who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.
Our 240-year experiment with democracy is an impressive run. But beyond the Constitution, it has relied on certain political norms, especially the peaceful transfer of power, faithfully putting the country before party, respecting the legitimacy of the opposition, and compromise and consensus seeking. Because of Republicans’ insistence on undermining Democrats no matter what it costs the country, all of these norms have eroded to a vanishing point.
The rules of the game now are these. For Democrats, shoring up the Constitution and longstanding democratic norms is more important than the pursuit of power. For Republicans, only Republicans are legitimate and may wield power. When Republicans win elections, their positions gain more power. When Democrats win elections, their positions lose power. Democrats are inherently illegitimate and everything they do is illegal. Only Republicans can design legislatures. Only Republicans can choose judges and justices. Only Republican governors and presidents can wield executive authority. No lie is too great to serve Republicans’ interest. No damage to the social contract is too great serve the interests of their private donors. No damage to the economy, the Constitution, national security, the public’s faith in government, or American standing in the world is too great to bolster Republicans’ power and diminish Democrats’ power. As America’s demographics evolve away from supporting Republican policy, the GOP doesn’t evolve as a representative party in a functioning democracy. Rather, it rigs all the rules to force the country into a Stockholm syndrome of being forced to love its abuser.
These are precisely the kind of rules you would see in a country like China or Russia, where the Chinese Communist Party or the United Russia party, is mandated by law to hold control over decision-making bodies and top spots, where elections are rigged to reflect that, and where opposition parties are tolerated only as long as they defer to the dominant party and toe the line. If opposition politicians step out of line, they can be arrested, much like Trump’s favorite chant to whip up his rallies, “Lock her up!”
The threat from Donald Trump and his kleptocratic authoritarianism is real. But the Republican party had already paved a golden highway for someone like him to come into power and catalyze all the GOP’s dirty little despotic desires that are now unmistakable. The Republican party is on the verge of creating a one-party state in America. Once they fill the empty judge seats they stole from Obama with loyal party hacks, the coup against democracy will be virtually complete. And Mitch McConnell had a lot more to do with it than Vladimir Putin.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images