The Moral Bankruptcy of Conservatism

And the unforgivable hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell

Growing up my Church, my school, everyone in authority except my mother told me conservatives and the Party that they inevitably belonged to — the Republicans — had the moral high ground. Liberals were dirty and licentious, poor, and addicted to drugs. And yet every year these supposedly unimpeachable men of moral impunity would be found out having embezzled funds or hired people for sex or committed sexual assault or in some cases even engaged in paedophilia. I knew these Reagan and Bush Republicans were only a few years past a openly anti-Semitic man who had directed a burglary to win an election. And I knew that no such scandals, or at least considerably fewer, plagued the Democrats with whom my mother — herself a Democrat — almost secretly convened with.

And yet at school these absurd men and boys would parade around in starched button up shirts, closed at the collar with ties far too expensive for their age or position, and suit jackets, their hair perfectly combed and coifed turning their nose up at all the rabble.

In truth Niccolo Machiavelli was probably not nearly as “Machiavellian,” as The Prince would have you believe. But whatever his purposes in writing it his work survives and he does not. (source)

Because, of course, in their mind power is a birth right. It’s not something you earn and it’s not something you can lose. The rules were for the ruled not for the rulers. They are not there to protect the people but to punish the rebels and reward the princes. So it did not matter to these white men in their suits whether or not someone inferior to them was a stand up citizen or in the right, they were still less. And of course it did not matter to them if they themselves broke the law or behaved well below the moral standard they demanded of others because these things do not apply to them.

The law — state, federal, and religious — to these Republicans and conservatives I grew up with was a weapon to be wielded against people who were less than them: inferior to them. Elected to office or not these men believed they deserved their position in society as well as their imperviousness to society’s rules.

They believed they were akin to gods and could use not only law but religion as a tool to dominate and subdue. But as all people of the book know, pride comes before the fall.

There’s a number of legends surrounding this but Lucifer, be he Jin or Angel, was cast out in large part because he refused to recognize the perfection of God’s most recent creation and considered humans inferior to him. He rebelled and, along with his followers, was expelled from Heaven. (Gustave Doré illustration for Paradise Lost.)

To Republicans and conservatives ethics are an obstacle and morality is an instrument of control. Republican Senators and Congressmen will go on and on about how “godly” they supposedly are. They will show up to church — note, never temple, never schul, and never a mosque always church — at least on the high holy days. They will make sure everyone knows they’re a “good Christian,” in public. But the moment people’s eyes are off them they break all of the Commandments.

Republicans paint themselves as the Party of law and order. And yet it always seems to be Republicans who are breaking the laws.

Republicans will tell women that having control over our bodies even through the innocuous act of taking hormone therapy in order to reduce dysmenorrhea is immoral and worthy of nothing but condemnation. And yet they see no problem with demanding their mistress have an abortion.

Republicans say that allowing Planned Parenthood — and organization that provides family planning and reproductive health services — to exist is akin to genocide. And yet they see no problem with sterilizing women at the border without their consent or even sometimes without their knowledge.

Republicans will tell LGBTQ+ individuals that they have no right to a normal life or pursuit of happiness. And yet Lindsey Graham frequents male sex workers so much he is known as “Lady G.”

Republicans — both elected officials and the Republican base — will insist that they have the moral high ground and are good, upright god-fearing people while all that rabble on the left is godless and evil. And yet when you hear of a scandal or a con or a murder for hire nine times out of ten there’s a Republican behind it.

Jesus would chase these people who take his name out of the temple if he were alive today.

Then we come to the most hypocritical of them all: Mitch McConnell.

Or as I like to call him, the Mendacious Tortoise. (source)

McConnell is a special kind of corrupt. It could be argued that at least other Republicans understand they’re doing wrong and should hide it even if they don’t feel bad about their immorality. McConnell however seems perfectly comfortable with being pictured “warts and all.” And unlike Donald Trump or the rest of the Trump family this doesn’t seem to be due to lack of intelligence. Mitch McConnell absolutely knows he is behaving unethically, immorally, and is quite transparent about how little he cares.

There’s really no debate that Donald Trump is psychologically and likely neurologically damaged, but McConnell more than anything else comes off as a sociopath.

And we need to take a brief moment to really examine what the Senate majority leader’s motivations really are. He’s clearly not motivated by patriotism, nor is he motivated by a sense of what’s right. If he were he would not have declared himself the Grim Reaper of the Senate, insisted he’d make Barack Obama a one term President, blocked Antony Scalia’s replacement for six months and then went back on his word and insist he should actually push through a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Even conservatives who are willing to admit that some of these actions on Mitch McConnell’s part do sort of serve some parts of the conservative agenda will also note that they do not universally do so and all of them are deeply morally suspect.

So, if — despite all the evidence to the contrary — conservatism really is about morality and conservatives are actually, “good law-abiding citizens,” then one must ask where exactly does Mitch McConnell stand?

You can’t have it both ways. Either conservatism and the Republican Party is deeply corrupt and immoral and only practiced by prideful, selfish, cynical and unethical people who would sell out their family and nation for a buck or virtually all elected Republicans are ideologically unmoored and conservatism is dead. So which is it? Are you immoral or are you serving an pointless ideology meant to destroy the country?

Removing morality, ethics, and patriotism from the equation though, McConnell’s actions are actually completely logical. As long as you assume his ultimate goal is to destroy the American way of life and constitutional democracy.

Initially, I thought McConnell’s behavior was at best weird, but I am a wide-eyed optimist who generally assumes the best in people well after they’ve repeatedly done deeply terrible things. Shame on me, I suppose. But anyway, this started at least in my mind when McConnell decided that Barack Obama was a lame duck President a full six months before his term ended. I appreciate that Senators sit for six year terms and are not term limited, but it’s still a bit weird for him to claim a President is useless for a full six months.

But that wasn’t the really weird part. The really weird part was the 2016 election looked like it was going to go for HRC and McConnell had no guarantee that he was going to retain his majority in the Senate. In fact, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire became Senators in that election. While most of the states up in that election were “safe Republican,” states there could have easily been an upset of an additional two or three more. So in doing this, McConnell bet against the odds that both HRC would lose, and he’d maintain control of the Senate. And he won that bet.

The fact of the matter is that HRC won in 2016 gaining more votes than any white man in the history of our nation, but because she didn’t win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, she lost the Electoral College and was not seated. Coincidentally, both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seated Republican incumbents in relatively close elections and both states are considered more (albeit marginally) left-leaning than the rest of the country. This bet of McConnell’s could and really should have cost him at least four seats and thus the majority in the Senate.

So, what did Mitch know?

There’s about three major possibilities here.

  1. The Senate included two “Independent” Senators who caucus with the Democrats. These are, in order of accomplishment by years of service, Angus Stanley King Jr. of Maine and Bernard Sanders of Vermont. Sen. King seems pretty squarely centrist even by my multifactorial standards, but also seems to consistently vote with the Democrats. Sen. Sanders, however, despite his rhetoric does have quite a few questionable Senate floor speeches and — according to the Mueller report — received aid from Russia in 2016 in order to undermine Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Depending on just how much influence Russia has on Sen. Sanders it is possible he was McConnell’s insurance.
  2. McConnell expected the 2016 election would be tight and could possibly go to the Supreme Court as it did in 2000. If Obama had named a “liberal” or “centrist” judge like Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court democracy might have been upheld. By keeping the court divided McConnell improved the chances that an unelected Republican could become President.
  3. McConnell knew ahead of time how the election was going to go and knew that the Electoral College was going to be utilized against the democratic majority and that his Senators in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were safe.

It is possible that McConnell was taking just an incredibly cynical and racist bet here and he didn’t actually care if he lost. But given everything else that he’s allowed to happen — signs really point to Mitch McConnell being some combination of Machiavellian and bought and paid for by Russia.

The next piece of this was the whole “Grim Reaper of the Senate,” deal. It is possible with the Merrick Garland fiasco to assume that Mitch McConnell is just really lucky. But one can’t use that to explain away his complicity in destroying and undermining the very branch in which he wields power. I was absolutely puzzled as to why he would want to undermine the Legislative Branch especially considering the history of Judicial decisions in cases brought by Congress and the whole thing about the Executive Branch expanding power due to Congress’ abdication of power.

I appreciate that Donald Trump is Republican, but if we’re assuming that elections will continue to work and be held and that the Republic will carry on then eventually (read: in a few month’s time), we’re going to have a Democratic President and that President might just take advantage of the vast powers that McConnell has made available to him.

But, you see, the problem is my assumption there. I don’t know what McConnell knows. I can surmise based on his actions, but I am unfortunately not psychic. I had assumed that elections would continue to be free and fair. McConnell is operating as if they will not be.

Again, I ask: What does Mitch know?

And of course we are now getting the final piece to this puzzle. Here’s McConnell’s statement on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

If you’re using an automatic text reader the first part of the statement was likely written by someone with a semblance of a heart. It is actually a decent lamentation of the loss of an incredible American icon and civil rights leader. The second part though, oy gavalt. So we’re going to break this down.

Here’s the first paragraph:

In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s [sic] second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.

Once again with the “lame duck,” nonsense. But there’s some basic intellectual dishonesty in here. Yes, in 2014 Republicans did gain nine Senate seats. Two of those were due to the Democratic incumbent retiring and the others were for the most part pretty Republican states.

2014 Senate election. (source)

As you can plainly see from the Wikipedia infographic, the states that flipped weren’t so much surprising that they flipped so much as it’s surprising they ever elected a Democratic Senator in the first place. That’s not — as McConnell is claiming here a mandate from the people so much as it is a logical outcome based on population distribution and timing. But okay, bending the truth to its absolute breaking point is politics as usual. So let’s carry on.

Second Paragraph:

By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise.

I covered above why the majority win in the Senate for Republicans is really suspect. I do genuinely believe there were some electoral shenanigans to ensure Republicans held onto that and I would not be even slightly surprised to find out that Mitch McConnell worked with Russia to (illegally) make this happen.

In 2018 Republicans did gain four seats but lost two for a net gain of two. That’s not really impressive especially if you consider where those seats were. Republicans gained in relatively conservative states including North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, and (by a razor thin margin) Florida. They also lost the relatively conservative Nevada and Arizona.

Technically, what McConnell is putting to paper here is factual; the Republicans did maintain their majority in 2016 and they did expand it in 2018, but they didn’t do it because the people were happy with them. They did it through a combination of bigotry and electoral suppression. McConnell’s assertion that this proves he has a mandate is just, once again, Machiavellian. He’s basically saying “it doesn’t matter that I broke the rules because by breaking the rules, I won the game. Therefore, I will continue to break the rules.”

Then we get to his final little gem of a sentence:

President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

This is almost a non-sequitur. There is a little thing about the “outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” and I have to wonder which use of the term “outstanding,” he’s going for, but even with that inclusion this final sentence is almost the opposite of how he should have concluded.

He just got through explaining that President Obama was somehow a “lame-duck,” for six whole months and while he does go on about the Senate he conveniently failed to mention how the House is fairing. I can pretty easily explain away the Republican gains in the Senate over the last several elections and I’m reasonably convinced that in 2020, assuming a free and fair election (this is why I consider myself an optimist), the Democrats will flip the Senate.

If Barack Obama was a lame duck for a full six months in 2016 then Donald Trump barely ever had webbed feet to stand on and someone went ahead and clipped his wings. Logically speaking as long as we’re talking about little “d,” democracy and maintaining the republic and America as we know it either McConnell was fundamentally wrong in 2016 or he’s fundamentally wrong now. Or both actually. This isn’t an either/or scenario.

But, of course, it’s pretty clear McConnell does not care to maintain a constitutional democracy.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dying wish dictated to her granddaughter, Clara Spera days before her passing was

My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.

Predictably, and with all the grace of a decapitated cockroach, Donnie boy is already trying to say that those were not her actual words and were instead dictated by either Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff, or Nancy Pelosi. (For additional gross out points he even called Adam Schiff, “Shifty Schiff,” while going on about things he hasn’t the emotional or moral capacity or clarity to understand. So, I guess we’re adding reckless anti-Semitism to mendacity and stupidity in this instance.) And of course, McConnell is happy to violate the dying wish of an American icon regardless of how deeply immoral and hypocritical his actions may be.

Here we are once again trying to determine whether Donald Trump’s idiocy and narcissism or Mitch McConnell’s immorality and sociopathy are most descriptive and determinate of all Republicans and conservatives.

The question though remains: why should Mitch McConnell care? Once again, assuming free and fair elections, his Party is over. Joe Biden is maintaining the national majority by a wide margin and in some states a twenty and thirty point lead in the polls. The Texas state legislature may flip blue and most gubernatorial mansions are increasingly inhabited by Democrats. In 2020 assuming the elections go through, Democrats will hold the House and take the Senate, Presidency, and numerous state and local positions. Electorally speaking, the Republican Party is done.

You could try to excuse him and say that his purpose is just long term. By installing “conservative,” justices he can ensure that civil and human rights are stripped back with case law after case law thereby maintaining white supremacy by preserving democracy only for some 30% of the US population. And as corrupt and morally repugnant as even that would be I still think it’s the nice and naïve interpretation of what he’s actually doing.

Mitch McConnell, as we discussed earlier, has been stripping back the power of the Legislative Branch and allowing — without any challenge whatsoever — the Executive Branch to move into the void. If he were just cynically setting the courts to be uber-conservative for a generation that would be problematic all on its own, but he seems to have an additional goal here.

A normal Senator, particularly a Senate Majority Leader would be cognizant of the checks and balances on power within our system of government. He even mentions it in his statement on Ginsburg’s passing. Given the recent legislative and judicial history of our nation, McConnell should have been particularly invested in expanding legislative power particularly relative to the executive branch rather than curtailing it.

And yet we’ve seen the exact opposite.

While having a conservative majority in place by the time any electoral issues from the 2020 election need to be resolved would be useful for helping President Trump maintain his Presidency, I think McConnell’s designs go beyond even just simple election stealing and fraud.

I think McConnell is trying to install an autocracy in the United States with himself as the puppet master.

So where does this leave us? Is McConnell a Russian asset trying to undermine our constitutional democracy for personal gain? Signs would point to yes.

But beyond McConnell’s machinations what does this say of elected officials like Mitt Romney who attest to being upstanding moral individuals and yet cave at the slightest pressure?

Not here to kink shame, but I think Romney may be into humiliation. (source)

What does this say of the many millions of Americans who in 2016 voted third party, expressly stayed home, or actually cast a vote for the worst President in the history of our nation? How complicit are they?

Surely, the fault for the worsening economic situation, the loss of diplomatic relationships, and the 200k Americans dead rests squarely on Donald Trump’s rounded shoulders. But white supremacy and Russia put him there and Republicans are trying to keep him there. So, having sinned so spectacularly and so egregiously do we forgive the Republican base? They’re trying to destroy the country so it’s not even clear if we can forgive them let alone if we should.

I personally believe that the Republican base and conservatives at large have done terribly hateful things and behaved selfishly, but done so not truly and universally out of spite but because they believe it brings them closer to power. The Republican base is not ever heard by the Republican Party. Even when they elected Donald Trump who according to David Frum was their punishment for the establishment having ignored them, the establishment quickly put a harness on Trump and trained him to their own whip. And yet Republican voters persist.

I believe they’re victimized and convinced of the myth that if they’re just a bit more unctuous they too will reap the promised benefits of conservatism … even though those benefits never have and never will materialize.

Some Republican voters have come to realize that they will never be heard and despite all the lies, they will never be rewarded for their obsequiousness. They’ve broken free and spoken out against their former Party and its elected officials. They’ve become real Americans, but only by leaving and disowning the Republican Party.

For the rest, as hateful and immoral as their behaviour continues to be I recommend pathos. They are — after all — pathetic. But it’s not the Republican base that is trying to undermine our country; it’s their abusers — the elected officials like McConnell, like Romney, like Graham, and like Trump.

Regardless, we must disabuse conservatives of their notion that they in any way do or ever had held the moral high ground. The American way of life and America itself depends on conservatives confessing their sins and doing penance in the form of voting the Democratic ticket. Only through their redemption can we all be saved.

Doctor of Palaeopathology, rage-prone optimist, stealth berserker, opera enthusiast, and insatiable consumer of academic journals.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store