What Mitch McConnell Teaches Us About America

Eric Medlin
5 min readOct 10, 2018

The Kavanaugh hearings have shown McConnell’s true colors. Democrats need to take note.

Mitch McConnell at a 2016 press conference. Source: Slate

Saturday’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was a victory lap for several people. One was President Donald Trump, whose ability to nominate anti-abortion justices most likely clinched his election. Another man proud of the Kavanaugh ascension was Senator Lindsay Graham, who has spoken frequently in recent weeks about the idea of Kavanaugh as an aggrieved victim of evil, vindictive Democrats. But the proudest supporter of Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell praised his own actions in nominating Kavanaugh, decried protesters against the judge as a “mob,” and confidently predicted that anger over the nomination would “blow over.”

In a recent New York Magazine article, Chas Danner described what this victory meant for McConnell’s overall approach to governance and Supreme Court nominees, including Kavanaugh and failed Court nominee Merrick Garland. Danner wrote

with his dream achieved on Saturday, McConnell admitted that his whole stated premise for blocking Garland — that it was, as he once said, ‘about a principle, not a person’ — was bullshit, unless the right to take over the judicial branch by any means necessary was the principle.

But while McConnell is certainly an extremist, he is an extremist in an entirely American mold. McConnell belongs to a body of American thought known as republicanism. This branch of thought, opposed to the democratic approach to governance but not to be confused with today’s Republican Party, has animated McConnell’s entire career. It is the mechanism by which he justifies his actions and the secret to Democrats’ eventual hope of unseating him from power.

The ideology of republicanism is opposed to democracy (or, as it is sometimes referred to, classical liberalism) in a number of ways. Most importantly, the republican ideology asserts that the most virtuous individuals in a country should be elected to run that country the way they see fit without constantly responding to shifts in public opinion. Individuals of wealth, education, and status are elected and then use their skills to solve the nation’s problems. If they perform inadequately, the educated people of…

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Eric Medlin

I’m a writer interested in the intersections of history, ideas, and politics. I publish every week. www.twitter.com/medlinwrites