photo by Gage Skidmore
We are officially in the second year of one of the deadliest pandemics the earth has ever seen. Many countries have taken extensive measures to ensure their citizens’ safety financially, while the US has passed the bare minimum of bills supplying aid to Americans.
For redundancy, these bills work mostly top-down economically and first provided bailouts to major corporations. They were then followed by loans for small businesses to attempt to keep workers employed that most small business owners found predatory.
Direct aid to citizens took the form of additional unemployment benefits that ran out months ago, and two direct payments: one for $1200, and the other for $600 which most Americans haven’t even seen yet.
That’s why, as the Republican president and the Democratic sides of both bodies of congress push for additional aid in the form of a $2000 direct payment, many have begun pointing to the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, as someone to blame.
I don’t find property damage done to McConnell’s house to be anywhere near equivalent to the damage the lack of substantial aid has done to millions of Americans. I do love a good guillotine joke. That being said, I find the popularity of memes that call for revolutionary measures done exclusively to Mitch McConnell reductionist in a way that is harmful to the goals of otherwise instituting change systematically through either reformist or revolutionary means.
This is because while he is certainly the spokesperson for rhetoric against working class interests, Mitch McConnell is not alone as the cog in this machine causing delayed adequate financial response.
There are a lot of reasons I think that McConnell has become this villainous figure: for one, it’s human nature to want a face for something you disagree with. It’s also true, though, that the media has a lot to do with how McConnell got this reputation, especially with the stimulus discourse.
Most headlines out of major outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, and even Fox News to some extent paint the $2000 stimulus as something both parties agree on. “Democrats and Republicans pushing for $2000 checks” as the common wording, but this misrepresents most elected officials’ actual positioning.
For one thing, the main Republican voice behind supporting $2000 checks is Donald Trump himself, who would otherwise be considered part of the Republican party in name only since losing the election and demanding lawsuits to question the validity of that election. Many Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump for this reason.
Most outlets then go on to point to the Republican senators in Georgia up for election, New York Times for example says above the jump that Loeffler and Perdue both support the $2000 checks.
Once you read on, however, it becomes clear that this support isn’t without contingencies: As reported by NYT, in August, Mr. Perdue told “PBS NewsHour” that he was opposed to direct payments, arguing that tax incentives were a more effective means of relief. Ms. Loeffler had been largely silent on the issue, and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week she would endorse the increase only if “it repurposes wasteful spending.”
At this point you may be thinking, well, these are unprecedented times. Maybe it is really true that these senators will have a turn of faith when it comes time to cast a vote at the senate floor, and to that I say that there is little reason to believe that, especially considering insurmountable evidence that this Republican party will behave in the contrary.
For years, the Republican party under Sen. McConnell has worked in lockstep to achieve its goals of austerity and top-down economic practices. One of the most famous examples of this historically was the ACA vote back in 2017. Millions of Americans would lose healthcare if the vote went a certain way, and it took John McCain being the final swing vote to avoid Republicans denying Americans of this basic human need.
Even more recently, in even more auspicious times, Senate Republicans managed to jam through a Supreme Court Nominee weeks before the election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
According to Washington Post’s Whip count going into the Supreme Court vote, only one republican of the 53 was against pushing for a vote, Susan Collins, noted by many as one of the few GOP senators to sometimes vote against the party
This runs contrary to the GOP’s stance on holding a vote on Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to the court following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in Feb. 2016. The upcoming election, they said, was a chance for voters to weigh in on the selection.
All of this is to say that to chalk up Mitch McConnell as the sole blame for how the GOP has behaved as a roadblock for the needs of the people gives more power to someone just holding a seat. For better or worse, the GOP is a well-oiled machine capable of exacting its aims regardless of material conditions.
If it weren’t McConnell, it would be some other GOP senator. Highlighting McConnell neglects this reality and pushes the conversation away from the topic at hand, combatting the fascistic tendencies of the party and working to see better representative politics going forward.
Daniel Johanson (he/him) is a journalist and digital media specialist living in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scapi and in that capacity manages all things content, including writing and editing articles and producing digital content. His most recent work includes the docuseries Heart of a Nation: Tracking Socialism in the Midwest and co-hosting the podcast Scapi Radio. He spends his free time with cats.