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Image: Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

McConnell lectures on 'norms' and 'power,' in defiance of irony

McConnell blasting Dems for ignoring norms - and obsessing over power - might be the single greatest example of projection in the history of the world.


The proposal from a handful of congressional Democrats to expand the U.S. Supreme Court from 9 to 13 seats isn't likely to advance anytime soon, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) nevertheless thought it'd be a good idea to take a rhetorical shot at the bill anyway.

"Democrats keep showing they don't care about norms and institutions, only power. The latest example: a bill to pack the Supreme Court and destroy its legitimacy to guarantee the rulings liberals want."

Look, I realize that an overheated debate over legislation that won't pass seems a little pointless. The Senate GOP leader knows this, but used the bill as an excuse to try to condemn Democrats as out-of-control, power-mad radicals.

But it was the nature of his pushback that was extraordinary: Mitch McConnell blasting Democrats for ignoring norms -- and obsessing over power -- might be the single greatest example of projection in the history of the world.

I'm not unsympathetic to the idea that political norms have value, but if the Kentucky Republican believes he's a credible messenger for this message, he's mistaken. As regular readers know, it was McConnell, for example, who helped change Senate norms to require 60-vote supermajorities on every piece of legislation of any significance.

It was also McConnell who was responsible for creating the modern judicial confirmation wars, including the imposition of the first-ever, year-long blockade on any Supreme Court nominee, regardless of merit. It was also McConnell who cooked up an unprecedented scorched-earth scheme to undermine Barack Obama's presidency, deliberately refusing to consider any compromises -- even if it meant rejecting his own ideas -- in the hopes that it would return Republicans to White House power.

It was also McConnell who was largely indifferent when Donald Trump spent much of his failed term trashing norms, ignoring the rule of law, and abusing our system of government in the hopes of expanding his power.

The Senate minority leader's entire career has been devoted to the idea that norms and institutions are unimportant. What matters is the acquisition and maintenance of power. Full stop.

The week before Election Day 2020, when McConnell was scrambling to confirm a new Supreme Court justice as tens of millions of Americans cast their ballots, the Republican leader said his party had nothing to be ashamed of: they had power, which necessarily meant they could exercise that power, norms and propriety be damned.

Deriding Democrats who implored McConnell to be more responsible, the then-majority leader said, "Legitimacy is not the result of their feelings."

For this same senator to believe he has the credibility to lecture righteously on "norms and institutions," while condemning those who lust for power, is hypocrisy on a breathtaking scale. Mitch McConnell's target audience appears to be those who have no idea who Mitch McConnell is or what he's done to undermine the nation's political system.