Mitch McConnell has cried foul on stated plans that Democrats intend to block many of President-elect Trump’s nominees on Meet the Press. While Trump has moved to a more rational ground since unexpectedly winning a majority of electors this November, it also became clear what he meant by wanting to drain the swamp. Rather than removing nasty things inside the swamp, he just wants to drain the murky water away so we can all clearly see the nasty things lurking within.
For example, Trump is nominating Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, a man who has served as the CEO of Exxon Mobil, apparently signalling that our foreign policy will focus on more war for oil.
Steven Mnuchin, who has long called for cutting Social Security, is being chosen by Trump for the Secretary of Treasury. Fortune reported that Bernie Sanders has been throwing a fit in the Senate recently given that Trump promised to not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid while he is planning to put someone in charge of Treasury who wants to do exactly that. However, for reference, Hillary Clinton had planned to nominate Larry Fink, a man who The Intercept pointed out wanted to privatize Social Security outright.
Trump also plans to name Andy Puzder, CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, with a decidedly anti-labor mentality his nominee for Secretary of Labor. It is almost satirical in a presidency that seemed to be plotted out in Back to the Future II that Trump was indeed the inspiration for President Biff, and that we would find a reference to Idiocracy where a Carl’s Jr vending machine decided to seize custody of a woman’s kids for not having money.
There’s also Steve Bannon, who has empowered white supremacists with Breitbart, if not one himself, and a whole collection of individuals who are expected to work against the very purpose of the agencies they are intended to run. There is no doubt that Democrats would, by and large, support these same nominees if put forward by Hillary Clinton, but that more speaks to the dangers of the Democratic Party, not the virtues of Donald Trump. Partisanship and unwillingness to work together has increased substantially since 1992 when the New Democrats took over the Democratic Party and both parties began moving rapidly to the right.
The best hope here is that Trump will treat these nominees like one of our worst presidents ever: Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson. Jackson famously went through numerous Secretaries of Treasury in quick succession until he found one that would do what he said to do.
However, the spirit of 2010 will haunt Mitch McConnell and the Republicans over the next four years. It was that year that Republicans made the promise to obstruct President Obama at all costs, as Politico reported at the time. Mitch even uttered the famous line that characterized the era, “[t]he single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Obama has had his nominees, rather conservative picks that you would not expect from a Democratic president, blocked since then thanks to Mitch McConnell. Most notably, since the death of Antonin Scalia almost a year ago, Republicans have refused to even consider any Supreme Court nominee even while they noted that they had no problem with Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Garland is such a conservative pick for the seat that I once remarked that the presidential election will decide who gets to nominate Merrick Garland.
CBS reports that Mitch McConnell was quite flippant about the need to approve the nominees Trump puts forward.
“I was in [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer’s situation eight years ago … what did we do? We confirmed seven cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either, but he won the election.”
However, Politifact has confirmed that McConnell wanted to put those nominees through ethics hearings despite being too late for most of them.
“We found most of his Cabinet appointments just as disturbing as they would find President-elect Trump’s, and that’s what happens when you lose the election.”
Of course, this is a bit of a red herring. Trump did, indeed, win the election back in December, based on electors chosen in November, but this election was rather different than normal.
There is no validity in the Democratic claim that Hillary won the popular vote — she won the plurality of the votes cast in November, but the system was not designed to measure a popular vote, it was designed to measure preferences state-by-state. A popular vote can only be measured, with any meaning, in an electoral system that looks for a national winner rather than 51 local winners, especially as there is a wide variance in voter turnout between safe states and battleground states. Trump won the only measurable metric.
Yet, another disheartening trend popped up in the election season: the majority of voters did not vote their conscience, they voted protest votes — votes to stop either Hillary or Trump from winning. Reuters began reporting on this trend back in May, 2016, when it was merely rumored that nearly half of both side’s supporters would be holding their nose, but as the election went on, so did the percentages of voters who were holding their nose for either Trump or Clinton. Trump and the Republicans did not win because they were popular, but because Clinton and the Democrats were so incredibly unpopular as their neoliberalism bled through. Trump and his nominees have absolutely no mandate, regardless of McConnell’s grandstanding.
“I understand [Democrats’ frustration over losing the House and Senate] but we need to sort of grow up here and get past that.”
If there is any historical trend for Democrats since the New Democrats taking over it is that they constantly look to compromise, before the fact, so that they can seem more moderate for voters and grab those ever elusive swing voters. Of course, that same strategy is a huge part of what moved the Democrats and Republicans so far to the right over the past couple decades. I would not be surprised at all to see them fold in front of McConnell and Trump. In fact, I’ve heard the line I’m sure we’ll be hearing again and again to explain their collapse in coming days: that if the government doesn’t work then the Republicans got their way.
However, the grown up thing to do would be to learn from past mistakes, which does mean stonewalling Trump’s nominees. Republicans have been doing it for years and have used it to try and manipulate the highest court in the land. McConnell is playing like a small child, who changes the rules as he goes along, always to benefit himself and his side. Nominees didn’t even have to be considered for Obama, but Mitch wants to change the rules now that it doesn’t benefit him anymore. Under the rule of McConnell, and through Mitch’s initiative, politics in Washington have become so volatile that the only chance of anything being done is for one party to have full power or for the Democrats and Republicans to both fade into the annals of history. Mitch McConnell, hopefully you will learn, through Trump’s nominees, that you reap what you sow.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]