McConnell steals Biden’s title

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/01/2022 - 1:00am in

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Michael Kinsley, the one-time co-host of “Crossfire” and founding editor of Slate, began dropping off the radar (or at least, off mine) over the last decade. His Parkinson’s diagnosis had something to do with that, as it would. Kinsley’s Twitter account went cold about the time in 2016 when he published “Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide.”

But among the witticisms Kinsley will be remembered for is the Kinsley gaffe, a form of Freudian slip: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

Rather than use Kinsley gaffe, the common turn of phrase of late is the clunkier “saying the quiet part out loud.” What a shame.

The occasion for this mini-retrospective is a Kinsley gaffe committed Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader and self-described “Grim Reaper,” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, after his 50-member caucus unanimously refused (with help from two Democrats) to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.

Asked by reporters about concerns non-white citizens express over the security of their voting rights, McConnell answered, “The concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

A purer example of a Kinsley gaffe is hard to find.

Admitting aloud that Republicans do not view Black people as bona fide Americans is so very Kinsleyish for the very reason that it is among the world’s most poorly kept secrets. The party abandoned its decades-old, nudge-nudge-wink-wink stance towards racial minorities when Donald Trump descended his golden escalator and immediately declared Mexicans rapists and murderers. The euphemisms and coded language deployed since passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s have disappeared. Notwithstanding the black faces strategically placed behind Trump’s speech last weekend, Trump’s is a white-people’s party he’s set against everyone else.

Unsubstantiated Republican charges of widespread “voter fraud” by “others” have circulated for decades. But voting restrictions passed by Republican-held state legislatures in the wake of Barack Obama’s presidency have accelerated with Trump’s 2020 loss to Joe Biden. Hence, Democrats’ efforts not only to reinforce voting rights but to defend them, and democracy itself, from frontal assault.

I mock Republicans’ use the term Real American to describe their white base by adding a trademark symbol to it, but McConnell just made a mockery of my mockery. He spoke plainly.

It is a gaffe McConnell would be remembered for if not for the many calculated legislative atrocities he’s committed over his career. Greg Sargent recalls “a largely-forgotten, 11-year-old quote” from McConnell on how he approached his role during the fight over the 2010 Affordable Care Act. He explained himself to The Atlantic‘s Joshua Green:

“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

Sargent continues:

The counterintuitive thought here runs as follows: Yes, Americans want the parties to cooperate in a bipartisan fashion. Yes, when the parties disagree, Americans might agree with one side more than the other. But in McConnell’s theory, those things don’t matter.

Instead, when government is seen as dysfunctional amid partisan fighting, the president and his party are blamed, because they run the place. When Republicans uniformly oppose the president’s policies, voters fault him for failing to secure bipartisan cooperation. That’s why McConnell wants to deny him “broad agreement.”

Biden famously described himself as a “gaffe machine,” and he made a few during his 2-hour press conference this week. McConnell, however, is so confident in his party’s ability to engineer minority rule in what was the world’s most prominent democracy that he can say plainly that he does not consider non-whites to belong here. It’s hardly a revelation.

UPDATE: Note McConnell’s us/them hand gesture.

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