Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is spinning his party's failures as a mandate.
Despite predicting a "red wave" in the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans failed to win back a majority in the Senate and actually lost a seat, creating a 51-49 Democratic majority. But on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell framed the election results as a mandate for his party's regressive agenda.
In a floor speech, the Kentucky Republican argued that the voters want the Democratic majority to change its ways.
According to a transcript posted on his official website, McConnell said: "The American people want and need this 118th Congress to work differently from the past two years that we just finished. … The American people elected a bipartisan divided government. The country voted to change Washington. So this chamber's Democratic leadership needs to change accordingly."
We just had two years of one-party Democratic control. Two years of spending us into record inflation on party-line votes. Two years of ignoring top priorities of the American people, like violent crime and open borders. Two years of Senate Democrats procrastinating on basic governing duties in order to push radical proposals like an unprecedented elections takeover and unlimited abortion on demand for all nine months. The American people put an end to that one-party government because they wanted change. This year, the Senate leadership must not put off our most basic jobs, like intelligently funding our federal government, and providing for our Armed Forces, before the very last minute.
In essence, he seems to think that because Republicans won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives — due in large part to partisan gerrymandering — this meant a mandate against restoring federal voting rights protections and the abortion rights guaranteed by the Roe v. Wade precedent from 1973 until last year's Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
Polling suggested that the GOP's relatively weak showing in the 2022 election was driven by public concern about abortion rights and protecting democracy. Both reproductive rights and voting rights enjoy broad popular support.
With regard to the "last minute" voting on spending bills that McConnell mentioned, his own caucus was to blame. Republicans took advantage of the Senate's filibuster rules to stall negotiations on appropriations legislation, wasting time in an effort to run out the clock on Democratic control.
After previous elections, McConnell has often tended to spin the results as a message that the voters endorsed his own policy aims and rejected the Democratic agenda.
In January 2015, after Republicans won control of the Senate and he became majority leader for the first time, McConnell told colleagues, "The American people have had enough. And this November, they had their say. The message they sent was clear. If voters hit the brakes four years ago, this time they spun the wheel." Two years later, after the GOP narrowly kept control of the Senate and following a two-seat loss but won the White House, he heralded "the horizon of a new era," saying the public was "calling for a change in direction."
After Democrats won the 2020 presidential election, gained a small majority in the Senate (with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties), and held the House of Representatives, he argued in January 2021 that it was somehow a split decision: "The 2020 election was as far from a sweeping mandate for ideological transformation as any election we have seen in modern history. The American people stunned the so-called experts with the number of Republicans they sent to the House and to the Senate to make sure common sense conservative values have a powerful say in the government."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.