Opposition to Senator Mitch McConnell Makes Strange Bedfellows

Mitch McConnell

With Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection coming up in 2014, numerous individuals have been looking at taking a whack at the Kentucky senator. He’s annoyed grassroots conservatives, libertarian Republicans, and Tea Party types for awhile now, both for his deals with Senate Democrats to keep things moving (such as the recent deal on filibusters) and just because he really hasn’t done anything to cut spending.

Recently, though, this irritation has built a bridge between Kentucky conservatives and Kentucky liberals, and an unlikely grouping of very strange bedfellows indeed are exploring the possibilities of an alliance against him. Seth Mandel at Commentary magazine doesn’t like this at all:

The sometimes contradictory nature of the grassroots conservative criticism of GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparent a few weeks ago when one conservative group began to advertise against McConnell from the right. It turned out this same group, which rates members of Congress on their dedication to conservative principles and freedom, gives McConnell a 95 percent rating.

That doesn’t mean the group isn’t free to push McConnell on the other 5 percent, or that such groups shouldn’t prioritize high-profile and symbolic fights over more mundane votes in the Senate. Indeed, there is logic to that approach. But it does show why there hasn’t been, and doesn’t appear to be, any real enthusiasm for a primary challenge to the veteran Kentucky senator, whose term is up in 2014. And a Politico story today reports on the possible Tea Party involvement in what sounds like a truly terrible idea:

That terrible idea?:

Tea party activists looking to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary may get some help from an unlikely source: Democrats.

Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.

The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.

“We are doing a lot of reaching out to some of the tea party folks across the state,” said Keith Rouda, a field organizer with the liberal group MoveOn and the Democratic super PAC, Progress Kentucky. “What we’re finding — at least in this stage of the race — we’re finding that our interests align. It’s unusual.”

It’s actually not all that unusual. Consider that Senator McConnell is more of an establishment Republican, even though Seth notes that he’s “as broadened his Tea Party support, and brought more conservative members of the party’s congressional delegation under his wing.” Consider that the guy is a pro-business Republican, rather than a pro-market Republican, and may have had a hand in continuing the outrageous subsidies to the failing United States Enrichment Corporation. There’s also the egregious flip-flop on a debt reduction commission, where McConnell pushed for it and supported it enthusiastically for months—until, when it actually came up for a vote, he voted against it because it was no longer politically useful.

It’s just another example of the Washington playbook that conservatives outside the beltway are so teed off about. And liberal Democrats are already dead-set against McConnell, so is it truly unusual that such thinking would happen? Absolutely not.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that people should actually primary McConnell. I think resources would probably be better deployed elsewhere, to pick up open seats where senators are retiring, such as in Georgia, West Virginia, and Iowa. I think going after the Republican’s top dog in the senate—particularly when he’s supported by Rand Paul, the libertarian torchbearer—is something of a waste of time.

But I don’t share Seth’s incredulity and immediate hostility to this idea. Instead, I express sympathy. People are fed up with big government Republicans all over the place, and are kicking themselves for being duped throughout the past decade. They want to make a change and set things right. I don’t know if taking down McConnell would do that, but I understand. I also don’t share the same fear Seth has—he points to Mourdock and Akin as examples of Democratic shenanigans, but let’s be honest, if you nominated someone who wasn’t an idiot on abortion, you wouldn’t have to worry about that. And in this economy dominated climate, you might skate through in Kentucky, though I admit it would be tough. But would it be impossible? No. Libertarianism can and does work.

Again, not sure if going after McConnell is the brightest idea ever. But I can easily understand the allure. And who knows? Maybe that’s all people will need to vote the incumbent out.

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