We hear it all the time – a shakeup is needed at (fill in the blank). Be it through sheer incompetence, boredom or the impending retirement of a revered leader, change is often embraced whether it was sought after or not.
Such is the case on Capitol Hill these days as the Republicans are still getting used to the brand-new tenure of Speaker Kevin McCarthy – only about two months old – while also contemplating what life would be like without longtime caucus leader Mitch McConnell in the senate. The 81-year-old Kentuckian and Washingtonian lifer has been sidelined lately after suffering a fall earlier this month. No sooner had McConnell run to a microphone to gripe about Fox Host Tucker Carlson’s airing of a few minutes of January 6 security camera footage that he woke up the next morning laid up in the hospital, likely subdued by pain killers and seeing there was hardly anyone around to hand him a donor check.
Make no mistake, I wish McConnell well and a speedy recovery from his unfortunate condition. I wouldn’t push a broken rib or a concussion on anyone, especially one who’s in an age group where such injuries could be debilitating if not life threatening.
From all reports, McConnell is doing well and intends to be back at his post when able (some suggest mid-April, others say sooner), which is wonderful news for the stodgy DC swamp establishment and engenders an exasperated “oh no” from conservatives. Remember back to a time in grade school when your regular teacher was absent for a few days and the substitute then announces, “Mr. Smith will be back tomorrow.”
That’s how many feel about a Mitch reappearance. As for the rest of the Republican senators, they have mixed emotions, too. In an article titled “McConnell’s absence leaves colleagues wondering about GOP’s future”, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton wrote the other day:
“Before his injury, McConnell was trying to put his stamp on the future makeup of the Senate GOP conference by playing a significant role in next year’s Senate primaries, helping candidates who have an eye toward governing and the best chance of winning in November.
“He told Fox News last month that in West Virginia, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania ‘we’re focusing on now to try to get the very most electable candidate nominated.’…
“Some Republican senators think that McConnell’s successor would lead in the same way he has by promoting traditional Republican values, cutting deals with Democrats when necessary and promoting unity across the Senate Republican Conference. GOP senators say they expect either Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) or Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to someday replace McConnell as leader and predict that either man would inspire a lot of confidence.”
Confidence? In whom? Either Thune or Cornyn would indeed inspire conviction in those who abhor true “shakeups”, love the status quo and appreciate a system whereby very little ever is accomplished without the say-so of the top guy for each party. Over the years McConnell has earned a reputation for providing safe harbor for wayward RINOs like senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney to waver on crucial legislation publicly – and even to vote no if the occasion allows.
Put it this way – there’s no chance Democrat Majority Leader “Chucky” Schumer would tolerate the insubordination and outright party treason McConnell does. While it’s true that Schumer didn’t use his short leash to discipline either Arizona Independent (former Democrat) senator Kyrsten Sinema or West Virginia opportunist senator Joe Manchin during the budget debates of recent times, he didn’t exactly grant them free reign to poopoo the liberals’ top priorities, either.
Let’s concede that Schumer’s accomplished a heck of a lot for senile president Joe Biden’s agenda without a true majority of votes (D’s and R’s were 50-50 last term with vice president cackling Kamala Harris casting tie votes – the only things of consequence the constitutional #2 has done in her two-plus years of “service”).
Schumer is effective because he doesn’t condone his caucus members badmouthing the leadership or the Democrats’ end goals – to transform the country into a socialist dystopia governed by a small gaggle of the swamp’s big government “woke” elites. This, and the fact Chucky can regularly rely on McConnell and his RINOs to bow to non-existent political pressure to provide “bipartisan” votes for more wasteful government spending.
Mitch McConnell is no fiscal watchdog. He wouldn’t even rate as a guard animal to the doors of the federal treasury. McConnell’s cowardly reluctance to demand spending reforms is the primary reason why the annual federal budget deficit and national debt have grown just as fast under Republican control as they have under Democrat “stewardship”. McConnell isn’t big government’s best man, but he would still be one of its groomsmen.
Hence, the thought of McConnell somehow disappearing as GOP senate leader terrifies the ruling class. The power players understand that ol’ Mitch is in their pocket and won’t change a thing for as long as he’s got a big office on Capitol Hill. Not only that, with Mitch calling the shots, the purveyors of greed know they have a valuable ally against the possibility of another Donald Trump presidency. What if Ron DeSantis gets in, you ask? Do you really think McConnell would be willing to work with DeSantis on true conservative reforms, fiscal or otherwise?
I say no way. DeSantis would get along better with McConnell and the other establishment leaders, but there’s little doubt that the elites would continue to enjoy a powerful voice in electoral politics waiting to help them.
But if McConnell’s injuries were more severe than reported and he would need to step down, the “shakeup” on the Hill would hardly be noticeable. Mitch has led the Republican conference for sixteen years now – making him the longest serving party leader of all-time – which, in theory, means there would be a changing of the guard. But it’s difficult to envision how a switch to either of the two John’s – Thune or Cornyn – would result in progress on the conservative agenda.
Both Thune and Cornyn dwell in the same dealmaking cave as McConnell; and neither of them is regarded as possessing a steely spine for hand-to-hand rhetorical combat with the Democrats. They both talk “nice” in public and I can’t think of a lone example where either single-handedly stood up to the establishment on matters of great importance. Thune and Cornyn certainly weren’t outspoken advocates for the MAGA agenda, that’s for sure. And they joined the others in condemning Trump supporters for the January 6 tourism riot.
Therefore, there would be little actual change if Thune or Cornyn replaced McConnell. There’s no “shakeup” there.
Admittedly, not all shakeups are the same. Corporate shakeups can be dramatic and signal a complete turnaround in management philosophy for the company. For example, when legendary entrepreneur Elon Musk bought enough Twitter stock to take control of the social media giant, he immediately came in and emptied many of the cubicles at headquarters as well as reinstated most of those banned by the entity due to shortsighted actions of leftist censors who feared “disinformation” and free discourse among Twitter users.
Shakeups of the political variety usually aren’t so dramatic. Typically caused by a leader retiring or being beaten in an election, the replacement has a period of time (a “transition”) to put new people in place and incrementally change policies. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she wouldn’t be a candidate for Democrat House leader after the 2022 elections. Democrats simply moved on to Hakeem Jeffries and it’s the same story, different year.
Likewise, the “shakeup” when former Democrat Senate Leader Harry Reid retired really didn’t take place. “Chucky” Schumer is every bit as obnoxious and overtly political as his predecessor.
On the other hand, there definitely was a “shakeup” when Donald Trump steamrolled the GOP establishment in the 2016 party primaries. If Jeb Bush had won, for instance, conservatives could’ve expected little or no progress on immigration, more foreign “adventures” like George W. Bush’s Iraq War, and probably a Supreme Court justice or two like David Souter. Trump kept his promises – and the rest is history.
For his part, according to staff quoted in Bolton’s report, McConnell is making strides towards a return. Sooner or later the “shakeup” talk will cease and it will be business as usual in the upper chamber. McConnell’s iron grip – and willingness to use the power of his office to punish potential challengers like Florida’s Rick Scott (who was removed from his Commerce committee assignment) – will be back before we know it.
Senile Joe Biden recently introduced his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and here’s predicting that McConnell will push for certain aspects of it so as to maintain an appearance of “bipartisan” cooperation. Rather than toss the whole thing out, Mitch wants his slice.
The only way to truly affect change and a “shakeup” in the GOP senate leadership is to elect more boat rockers like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Josh Hawley and Mike Lee. Will we ever get it?
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