Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won reelection to his office on Tuesday night, with voters in Kentucky sending him back to Washington for a record-setting seventh term.
McConnell defeated his Democratic rival, Amy McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot.
During his acceptance speech, which he gave shortly after polls in his home state closed on Tuesday night, McConnell provoked outrage from racial justice activists and the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by invoking King’s name while boasting about his own Senate career.
“When I witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington speech as an intern back in 1963, I dreamed about doing big things to help my state and our country,” McConnell said. “I never imagined Kentuckians would make me the longest-serving senator in our state’s history.”
In his victory speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invokes MLK: “When I witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington speech … I dreamed about doing big things …” #election2020 pic.twitter.com/0m9N9S9NW5
— The Recount (@therecount) November 4, 2020
King’s daughter, Bernice King, rebuked McConnell for invoking her father’s name:
But my father’s dream was to create the #BelovedCommunity, in part by eradicating #racism, #militarism and #poverty. Certainly not by denying #healthcare to human beings or by separating Brown immigrant children from their parents. #TripleEvils #BigThings #BeLove https://t.co/yyhUsL13Qd
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) November 4, 2020
McConnell’s actions in the Senate have steadily run counter to the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., including his stance on restoring a key law that the civil rights leader had been a proponent of. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated key portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, specifically canceling out provisions that blocked states with histories of racial discrimination at the polls from passing new voting laws without first obtaining federal approval. Immediately after doing so, several states made their voting laws more restrictive, significantly harming the rights of Black voters and other voters of color in those areas.
Last December, the Democratic-led House of Representatives passed a bill that would restore provisions strengthening the Voting Rights Act to its previous powers. McConnell has blocked any hearings from happening in the Senate, however, and has described the need for laws protecting against voter suppression on the basis of race as “nonsense.”
In 1965 King himself described the law that McConnell now blocks as “a great step forward in removing all of the remaining obstacles to the right to vote.”
In invoking King’s name, McConnell demonstrated his blatant ignorance about King’s vision for racial justice.
Although McConnell won in his home state, he is largely seen as unpopular across the rest of the country. According to a recent Econoomist/YouGov poll, just 33 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Senate Majority Leader, while 57 percent say they view him unfavorably.