Editor’s Note: In the June 4, 2022 edition of The Emporia Gazette, we inadvertantly ran the wrong version of this op-ed column. We are running the correct version below. We apologize for the error.
We would like to congratulate Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for achieving his apparent life-long political goal — control of two of the three branches of the U. S. government.
McConnell has controlled the legislative branch by abusing the rules for almost 30 years, broken only by the first 13 months of President Obama’s first term. He now controls the judicial branch through manipulation of Senate rules to both deny President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing due to an election eight months away, AND to slam through three nominees for President Trump, including one while the 2020 election was underway.
Whether serving as the Senate Majority or Minority Leader, his control of the GOP caucus has been iron tight. As majority leader, he has stymied any legislation proposed by Democrats regardless of how beneficial to our society. Following the dictates of his donors, he has shepherded through targeted tax cuts for the wealthy without regard for their impact on the deficit. And he has packed the Federal Judiciary with activist judges who will talk about the sacredness of the Constitution when convenient to deny rights to women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ members of our society, then cast it aside to suppress voting rights or the equal treatment of the citizenry.
McConnell has wielded as much power over the Senate when serving as the Minority Leader by holding his caucus firmly against the majority through cloture on all but the most superfluous of legislation. He threatens to retaliate if the majority party changes the rules to allow passage of budgets that would benefit the masses at the expense of the elite, or voter protection laws to guarantee free and fair elections controlled by non-partisan officials. And he tried to prohibit the advancement of Ketanji Brown Jackson, only to be stopped by his own 2017 Senate rule change that allowed for a simple majority for confirmation to enable him to pack the Supreme Court with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
How does this one man continue to wield more power in Washington than all others? It would be easy to blame the voters of Kentucky for repeatedly sending him back through re-election, but our system favors states holding on to political power by re-electing again and again those politicians like McConnell who will work tirelessly for power above all else by making sure their constituents always get an out-sized piece of the governmental spending pie.
McConnell’s control of the Federal Judiciary has already yielded results with the apparent impending overturning of Roe vs. Wade and Casey vs. Planned Parenthood. These two precedent-setting decisions have been the focus of SCOTUS confirmation hearings since 1973. All nominees now practice the technique developed by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who famously refused to speculate without a case in front of her. Based on the leaked draft decision by Justice Alito circulating through press rooms and dining rooms across the country, a woman’s right to self-determination and medical control of her body may be stripped away by the end of the summer.
McConnell’s control of the legislative and judicial branches will likely lead to gaining control of the Executive branch thanks to a packed SCOTUS now poised to rule on cases of
political gerrymandering, voter suppression, and false claims of election fraud. We doubt the McConnell-engineered court will hold true to its oath and rule in favor of democracy. So who can we blame?
We believe the answer is ourselves. We are a government “by the people, for the people” and we get the government we elect. And at this point in history, we have chosen the corruption of power over the sanctity of our Constitution. That amazing document that lies under bullet-proof plexiglass in our National Archives is completely powerless without the citizens caring enough to elect people dedicated to a democratic government, and then replacing those same people when they turn toward autocracy.
So, while we cannot expect the people of Kentucky to give up their Goose that lays the Golden Egg, there are 99 other Senators, one third of whom face re-election in each election cycle, giving all of us the opportunity to choose who has power in the government, “We the people,” or corrupt power brokers.
November will be our next opportunity to choose one U.S. House Representative and one U.S. Senator. We must choose wisely.
Jim Calvert is a retired high school English teacher and Bob Grover is Professor Emeritus, Emporia State University.