McConnell, the Republicans, and American Politics
Below is a link to an article from the NY Times, entitled “McConnell Gambled on Health Care and the Alabama Senate Race. He Lost.” This article is interesting because it illustrates the character of American politics quite well and how it differs from what conventional wisdom tells about our politics.
According to the conventional wisdom, our political parties are conduits through which the popular will is translated into legislation and policies, making our officials “representatives” people of “good will,” who respond to the popular will as it manifests itself in polls and elections. In brief, our political parties are the tools of democracy, headed by well-intentioned politicians seeking to advance the common good.
Contrarily, however, what this article illustrates is that our political parties are controlled by “bosses,” here personified by Mitch McConnell for the Republicans, who seek to short circuit the popular will whenever that is necessary to preserve the status quo and the bosses’ power and status. One quote captures this very well: ““I think people here are frustrated, and they have bought into this narrative that Mitch McConnell is to blame, that he’s incompetent, that he’s part of the establishment, that he’s controlled by special interests and synonymous with the status quo.”
This is a fairly accurate assessment of what is going on – although I would say that McConnell is not incompetent and that he is not controlled by the special interests – which is why the “frustrated people” are buying “into this narrative.” After all, “the narrative” is accurate! They, the frustrated, are beginning to see that their “representatives” in D.C. are not so much interested in representing them as controlling them in order to preserve the status quo. They are even beginning to suspect that the mainstream Republicans never intended to repeal and replace the ACA, insofar as they had seven years to come up with a replacement and did not do it. That is, they are catching on that those who claim to represent them and seek to turn their wants into legislation and other policies are more interested in preserving the status quo, interested in controlling them and not in representing them.
The thing is: Our political parties and its leaders, its bosses, are not in the game of embracing democracy but, rather, are in the game of stifling democracy or rule by the people. This is, as the election in Alabama illustrated, as true of Donald Trump as it is of Mitch McConnell. It is also as true of Democratic Party as it is of the Republican Party. What are called “special interests” take part in this project but they are not playing the lead roles therein. It is within this project of preserving the status quo that these groups seek to promote their interests.
People are frustrated across the political spectrum, as evidenced by the relative success of Bernie Sanders’ challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president last year. And their frustration stems from two facts, not taken into account by our conventional wisdom regarding our politics: (1) Our politicians are not, for the most part, people of “good will” who are “well intentioned,” trying to serve the people’s interests and desires. And (2) our political parties are not devoted to making democracy work but are, rather, devoted to ensuring that democracy doesn’t work so their bosses can preserve their power and status.