Whether you consider his unyielding partisan stances in the Senate or the millions of dollars he receives from political action committees and private donors each year, it’s hard to argue that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is not a textbook example of a politician with ulterior motives. Bizarrely, though, the more I consider his presence in our Senate, the more clear it is that leadership by individualistic politicians à la McConnell should have always been the expected outcome of a system that favors career politicians above anyone else.
Though I suspect it is becoming common knowledge lately, it is probably necessary to establish first that McConnell is indeed the unscrupulous individual I have made him out to be thus far.
An example that is both apt and quite recent is McConnell's stance against the push to make election day a paid holiday for government workers. Though further removing voting barriers is a pursuit that would clearly have bipartisan merit and would benefit busy, working Americans, on Jan. 31 McConnell described this push as a “power grab” from Democratic leaders.
Some evidence has suggested, though inconclusively, that high voter turnout is generally bad for Republicans, and I won’t fault McConnell for wanting to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate. However, the absence of a national holiday for voting seems much more like a strong indicator of extant voter suppression on the whole, and therefore would not be something that concerns Democrats alone.
Maintaining or even lowering current voter turnout certainly sounds like a good idea if you are McConnell, though, especially considering one of his most recent proposals. On Jan. 28, McConnell and Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and John Thune (R-SD) proposed legislation that would permanently repeal federal estate tax, sometimes called the “death tax” by its detractors.
Bipartisan estimates indicate that this repeal would free only around 1,700 ultra-wealthy Americans from the estate tax; Republicans already ensured in 2017 that couples with under $22 million would be exempt from the tax. It is worth noting that the estate tax has actually been supported by some of our country’s wealthiest individuals, such as Andrew Carnegie and Warren Buffett, the latter of whom put it best: “Men who continue hoarding great sums all their lives (. . .) should be made to feel that the community, in the form of the state, cannot thus be deprived of its proper share.”
Nevertheless, I think what I have mentioned in the paragraphs above represents a strong sample platter of McConnell’s problematic approaches to representing the American public, and keep in mind that I have only used examples of his actions from the past week.
Moreover, anti-populous decisions are something of a hallmark for many politicians, not just McConnell alone. His misused power is merely an indicator of a greater flaw within our democracy. The question now becomes what we should do about this type of political leader, who often has histories of prioritizing the needs of a small handful of wealthy Americans over the rest of the majority. But that is a difficult question to answer.
The most obvious solution, and one that is frequently touted by newer members of the Democratic party such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), is to prevent the transfer of money between corporations, PACs and politicians. There are additional options, though.
“Clean Election” laws are already in place within the states of Arizona and Maine, which seek to enforce existing campaign finance laws for politicians campaigning within their respective states. By providing public funds to campaigners who agree to limit their campaign-related finances and spending, corrupt politicians have one less leg to stand on when it comes to taking donations from private interest groups.
The widespread advent of Clean Election laws seem like our country’s best bet on the whole, but discourse surrounding these laws is scarce. We should collectively seek to change that, and calling your senators and representatives never hurts, if only to spread the message to more ears.