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June 9, 2016

McConnell to Conservatives: You Ask Too Much

It’s the Senate leader’s limp-wristed approach that’s the problem.

Aside from backslapping former House Speaker John Boehner, no one is more synonymous with failed Republican leadership in Washington than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That’s why it’s almost funny to hear him complain about “unreasonable” conservatives, egged on by talk radio. Specifically, McConnell is irritated by the government shutdown of 2013. “Unfortunately, my party owns the government shutdown brand,” McConnell said. “It’s not a good brand.” Why did this happen? “For one thing,” he said, “I think a lot of today’s voters have really been misled by talk show hosts and others about what’s achievable when you don’t have the White House.” It’s impossible, he said, that “somehow a Republican Congress can overcome a Democratic president and eventually bring him to his knees.”

We too were critical of the shutdown gambit in 2013 because it did nothing to advance the conservative agenda, but not for the reasons McConnell thinks. He’s worried about media perception. We sought actual results. In any case, McConnell’s limp-wristed leadership has disappointed grassroots conservatives across the nation, and McConnell, Boehner and Co. are in many ways responsible for the rise of Donald Trump.

One of the reasons successful opposition to Obama’s agenda was so difficult for this hapless band of Beltway invertebrates was that they spent far more time attacking their own right flank than countering Democrats. All Obama had to do was stick to his guns and wait for the GOP’s circular firing squad to do the rest. Republicans retook the House in the wave of 2010 and the Senate in the wave of 2014. They’ve put the brakes on much of Obama’s agenda, but not nearly enough to be perceived as successful, and without a message even approaching coherence.

Now McConnell wants to lecture conservatives about being “unreasonable,” and to admonish Trump to “get on message.” Physician, heal thyself.

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