For several election cycles, Republicans ran against Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE. Portraying Pelosi as a representative of left-wing, sanctuary citified, big government, tax happy elites, GOP strategists ran thousands of ads in dozens of congressional districts, with unflattering images of “nasty Nancy” and dire warnings about the implications of Democratic control of the House of Representatives.
Democrats who have not, of late, been masters of messaging, should take a few pages from the Republican anti-Pelosi playbook, and initiate a campaign to “Fire Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE” — by ending Republican control of the United States Senate. They should start now so as to set the stage for the big show in 2020.
Democrats can make a compelling case that McConnell is a hypocrite who has done more than any other person to put Roe v. Wade at risk. After all, in an unprecedented move in 2016, he blocked Senate consideration of Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandTexas sues Biden administration over guidance on transgender worker rights Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Grassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation MORE, President Obama’s pro-choice choice nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, declaring that “the American people should have a voice” in the selection. After Donald Trump became president, he engineered the confirmation of Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchPresident Biden's vaccination plan is constitutional — and necessary Religious exemption to vaccine mandates may be difficult to obtain, as Amish case shows Can Biden defend his vaccine mandate? The 'nondelegation doctrine' may be the challenge MORE, who is likely to vote to eviscerate or overturn Roe, and then nuked the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold for Supreme Court nominees. The Majority Leader was therefore able to control the process leading to the confirmation of Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughRepublicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Why isn't Harris leading the charge against the Texas abortion law? MORE, by a narrow majority, despite accusations of sexual misconduct against the appellate judge, who may well cast a deciding vote in abortion cases. The Kavanaugh vote occurred a few weeks before midterm elections. Last month, with a dour grin, McConnell indicated he would fill a Supreme Court vacancy should one occur in 2020. No mention of the voice “the American people should have.”
Judicial appointments, McConnell has emphasized, “can’t be undone.” Supporters of Roe, who constitute a substantial majority of the electorate, Democrats should emphasize, have a chance to stop McConnell before the damage is irreparable.
Democrats should also seize every opportunity to remind voters (including those who are concerned that a preoccupation with impeachment is preventing them from “doing the people’s business”) that McConnell, the self-identified “grim reaper,” has refused to allow the Senate to vote on common sense, urgently needed legislation, passed by the House.
They should say, again and again, along with Speaker Pelosi, that working families and middle class families “don’t want the Senate to be a graveyard for so many of these important issues — they want action.” If Republicans don’t like our bills, “then they can pass their own version and we can go to conference.”
Democrats should then describe key features of bills recently passed by the House, and blocked by McConnell, including:
H.R. 1, sweeping legislation that expands voter access, makes Election Day a federal holiday, regulates removing voters from voter rolls, helps states establish independent nonpartisan redistricting commissions, improves the security of voting machines and processes, expands the ban on foreign nationals contributing to or spending on elections, tightens ethics requirements for officials in all three branches of government, and requires candidates for president and vice president to submit 10 years of tax returns.
H.R. 9, keeps the United States in the Paris Agreement, with a proviso (to meet a key objection of President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE) for verification of actions taken by other countries.
H.R. 1585, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act
H.R. 7, Paycheck Fairness Act, provides remedies to victims of wage discrimination on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.
H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act, provides a path to citizenship for 2.5 million people, including beneficiaries of the DACA program, and those under the Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure programs.
McConnell, they might add, will not even permit consideration of legislation, introduced by members of his own party, to limit a president’s authority to raise tariffs.
The vast majority of Americans, in my judgment, do not know how much legislation — and what kind of legislation — the House has passed in the last six months. They do not know that the Majority Leader of the Senate is a killer (of bills).
A “Fire Mitch McConnell” campaign, endorsed by professional politicians, political action committees, cable TV pundits, on social media, and Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertFox News dominates prime-time ratings during Afghanistan crisis Colbert confirms he was disinvited from Obama's 60th Colbert: Trump era 'almost like a spell was being cast' on the American people MORE, John Oliver, and the cast of Saturday Night Live, allows Democrats to lay out what is, in fact, a popular legislative agenda; blame the Republicans for failing to do their jobs; take the distractor-in-chief off the front pages; frame the policy issues of 2020; and — who knows — maybe even thwart McConnell’s bid for re-election in Kentucky, where his approval rating is about 33 percent.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.