In response to House Resolution 1, the first bill produced by Speaker Pelosi and the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on a mind-bending tirade against democracy itself on Wednesday. Why? Because HR 1, among other things, seeks to make it easier for people to vote.
Included in HR 1, according to Truthout’s Mike Ludwig, are provisions for the national promotion of early voting and same-day voter registration; ending partisan gerrymandering and voter roll purging; recruiting and training more poll workers ahead of the 2020 election; making Election Day a holiday for federal employees, and encouraging private sector businesses to do the same for private citizens. “The bill,” reports Ludwig, “would address virtually every high-profile electoral controversy that has arisen over the past decade.”
HR 1 is chock-full of other nutritional goodies besides these incredibly non-controversial proposals. The bill seeks to wipe the calamity of Citizens United from the books by supporting a constitutional amendment to end it once and for all. It promotes public financing of political campaigns, cleans out the Augean stables of big-donor secrecy and advertising financing, and adds a fifth member to the Federal Election Commission to end the longstanding gridlock there.
Lathered liberally (pun intended) with new ethics rules, one of which requires candidates to release their tax returns, HR 1 is a reform bill this country desperately needs and has long been waiting for. So, of course, Mitch McConnell abominates it. He labeled the bill doomed way back in the first week of December, but waited until this week to fully unbuckle his spleen about it in public, and it was an ugly thing to see. Per The Washington Post:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that a Democratic bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a “power grab,” sparking a fierce backlash online. McConnell was speaking about HR 1, legislation that Democrats have made a centerpiece of their agenda since retaking the House earlier this month.
In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats “want taxpayers on the hook for generous new benefits for federal bureaucrats and government employees,” including making Election Day a “new paid holiday for government workers.”
“So this is the Democrats’ plan to ‘restore democracy,’” McConnell said, describing the legislation as “a political power grab that’s smelling more and more like what it is.”
McConnell was joined in his disdain for the founding concept of the country by Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whose greatest gifts to the republic to date have been founding the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House and trying to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for doing his job. “There is one more thing the Democrats want to do,” Jordan grimly intoned from the House floor. “They want to make election day a holiday. A paid holiday. For federal employees. This is not where we need to be. This is not respect taxpayers deserve.”
You need proper hip waders to slog through this swill canal, but let’s have at it. First of all, dudes could at least pretend to respect and uphold the idea that the United States is at minimum a semblance of a democratic republic. Lip service is 90 percent of modern politics, and these two did not reach their lofty stations by skipping this most elemental practice. The idea of making voting easier apparently shorted out that particular circuit, causing a rare torrent of gruesome honesty to gush forth.
This double-barreled screed lays to rest for all time the notion that modern-day Republicans like Mitch McConnell give even half a fig for the people and their voting rights. This age of GOP voter suppression is already a big enough billboard advertising the rank terror they feel whenever Black people, Latinx people, LGBTQ+ people, elderly people, recent immigrants, Native Americans, young people, poor people, women or basically anyone who isn’t a white pool-and-patio male from Lexington gets to cast a ballot. Mitch and Jim just went and said it out loud, right there on the floor of their respective chambers, and hats over the windmill.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, McConnell and his Mini-Me Jordan couldn’t resist jumping up and down on the same federal employees who just got screwed for 35 days live on television. For five weeks, the country was afforded a front-row seat for the slow calamity endured by the 800,000 workers and 1.2 million contractors forced to live without pay in our very expensive country because Donald Trump had a temper tantrum while Mitch McConnell played human shield for him in the Senate.
These are good and decent people, regular folks who got run over by a bad president and his terrible friends. The country sees that now, and the long-proffered GOP mythology about bloodless DC bureaucrats being most of the problem got sent to bed without its supper, finally. Yet here was Mitch and his cohort, lamenting the awesome burden taxpayers would suffer if federal workers got a day off to vote.
As far as I’m concerned, HR 1 does not go nearly far enough in simply “encouraging” businesses to make Election day a holiday for private citizens. Election Day shouldn’t just be a day off for federal workers; it should be a mandated federal holiday for each and every voting-age person in the country. Further, I believe the voting age should be dropped to 16 so young people getting ready to inherit the ash heap we’re making of their world have a real say in the matter.
Mark Twain once famously lamented that if voting really mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it. Well, guess what? They’re trying very hard to prevent us from doing it, more and more with each passing election cycle, because voting matters. Done with mass and vigor, it works quite well, thank you. Just ask the 2018 midterms. More voters are good, fewer voters are bad, and now we all know where the leader of the Republican Senate comes down on the issue.
To nick a line from recent birthday boy Thomas Paine, these are the times that try our souls. Only through mass participation can we, the people, say no to Mitch McConnell’s vocal hatred for democracy, and ring a death knell for the kind of politics that make people like him possible in public life. If he reviles it so much, he should forego his re-election campaign in 2020, slouch on home to Kentucky, and stay there. He will not be missed.