Ditch Mitch as Senate leader

Just yesterday, Politico reported that Senate GOP leaders plan to conduct leadership elections next week, despite a growing number of Republicans requesting a delay following an underwhelming performance during the midterms.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) circulated a letter urging Senate colleagues to support their demand for the postponement of elections.

According to Politico the letter states the following:

“We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not,”

“We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024.”

Scott has spent most of the year at odds with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as he chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It was rumored that Scott was considering the possibility of challenging McConnell for the top GOP spot.

Johnson and Lee have often disagreed with McConnell’s management of the Senate GOP.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also demanded a delay in the elections.

Hawley even declared that he will vote against McConnell, while Senator-elect Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) has said the Senate GOP needs new leadership.

Prior to the midterm elections, with all the talk of the massive red wave, McConnell seemed poised to be re-elected to the GOP leadership position while the Republicans seemed set to secure a majority in the Senate. Those prospects seem uncertain now.

Despite the opposition, the GOP leadership insists it will conduct its leadership elections on Wednesday as planned and said the Senate GOP should have a discussion on Tuesday at its first post-election party lunch “so every senator has a chance to be heard.”

And “after presentations from candidates, and there is every opportunity to address questions from every member, we will complete leadership elections.”

So is there a case for postponement?

First, let’s know the situation on the ground.

The swearing-in of the midterm winners occurs on January 3, which means the Senate has 52 days to elect their leader, perhaps we subtract a week for Christmas and a couple of days for Thanksgiving. Why the rush?

Currently, the Senate has 49 Republicans and 49 Democrats. The GOP needs to win two more, from the remaining races – the election in Nevada and the run-off Georgia to regain the majority in the Senate.

The run-off election in Georgia is to be held four weeks later. Should the GOP's Herschel Walker win, he will be denied a vote in the Senate leadership elections if it is held next week. Disenfranchising Herschel Walker is the equivalent of disenfranchising Walker's voters.

It also makes sense for voting senators to know if their party is in the majority or minority prior to casting their vote.

Hence postponement to a date after the Georgia Senate run-off seems reasonable.

In the time available, all senators, including senators-elect must be encouraged to express themselves freely about why they thought the GOP performed so underwhelmingly in the Senate elections. They could also cite the lessons they learned, and possible remedial actions to be taken.

All that is discussed must be streamed live so that the public knows what their senators are thinking.

The Senate leadership contest must be seen like a primary except instead of voters, their representatives in the Senate will be voting.

This is similar to what occurred in the U.K. after Boris Johnson announced his resignation as prime minister. The Conservative party conducted elections for party leadership. There were televised debates and interviews of candidates aspiring to be elected. The goal was for the public to learn about the vision of each leader. The voters could then hold meetings with their representatives, i.e., their respective members of parliament who then use the information to decide their choice of candidate.

Back to the GOP Senate leadership contest.

Any GOP senator who qualifies and desires to be the Senate Leader must be encouraged to file their nominations. Each candidate must present their vision for the party and how they intend to fix the wrongs. All of these ideas must be available in public. Perhaps there could even be a televised debate where each candidate for leadership expresses himself.

What about Mitch McConnell?

A recent poll revealed that just eight percent of voters view McConnell favorably, while an overwhelming 80 percent view him unfavorably.

How has McConnell’s record been as Senate leader?

In 2020, the GOP lost a majority in the Senate.

During the midterms, many candidates whom McConnell promoted did poorly. Also, McConnell didn't financially support Blake Masters in Arizona and many other MAGA candidates.

But that wasn’t all.

A few months ago McConnell engaged in a veiled attack on MAGA Senate candidates.

McConnell said that "there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they're statewide, and candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome."

This is shocking and unprecedented. In politics, candidates and their party leaders always display optimism and confidence irrespective of their electoral prospects. 

Here, despite the Democrats' appalling record -- and their party's low candidate quality, i.e., John Fetterman -- McConnell was smearing his own.

There are a lot of Republican voters who are angry about Trump attacking DeSantis after the elections, but very few, even among conservatives, have questioned McConnell’s unnecessary comments.

What has McConnell’s attitude been towards Biden?

Mitch led the GOP in the Senate to vote to send billions of taxpayer dollars to Ukraine, devoid of tracking or accountability mechanisms.

McConnell also reportedly told Joe Biden that he wanted to blunt President Trump's influence by conveying to allies in Eastern Europe that "Republicans believe NATO is important" and to "push back against the isolationist sentiment in my own party." 

McConnell also voted for a "gun safety" bill that contains a "red flag" law that allows a judge to order the seizure of firearms merely based on someone's suspicion about his intentions.

The family of McConnell's wife, Elaine Lan Chao, has extensive business interests in China.

It has been reported that when Chao was Secretary of Transportation, she used her office to promote her family's shipping business and tried to include family members in high-level meetings with Chinese government officials.  

After the midterms, McConnell should have accepted responsibility and voluntarily resigned.

But instead, the GOP leadership and many of their mouthpieces are busy blaming Trump and suggesting that he shouldn’t contest for president in 2024. 

Since McConnell seems to think of himself as a monarch who will be permanently perched on the GOP leadership throne, it is important for the GOP senators to remind him about the existence of internal democracy.

The reason the GOP leadership seems eager to conduct elections next week is that challengers to McConnell will have no time to mount a campaign and spread their message, with the inevitable result that McConnell will emerge as the winner.

Having many lunch or dinner meetings just a day prior to the elections will be symbolic and meaningless.

For the elections to be fair, each candidate must be given sufficient time to present their case. Senators must be allowed time think about their choice of voting after consulting with their constituents.

A postponement, therefore, is quite essential.

Image: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

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