Mitch McConnell's dark pivot: Wreck the economy — and sabotage Biden's presidency

Trump is still pretending he'll be president next year, but McConnell has moved on to his plot to ruin Biden

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published December 2, 2020 1:00PM (EST)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is still pretending he'll be able to successfully steal himself a second term as president, probably because it's such a lucrative lie. Mitch McConnell, however, appears to be moving on to his next mission: kneecapping Joe Biden.

The Senate majority leader is doing what everyone who actually learns from history predicted he would, and deliberately sabotaging the American economy, in a belief that voters will blame the incoming Democratic president for the disaster and not the Republican senators who are actually responsible. 

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of congressional leaders proposed a compromise coronavirus relief bill, worth about $900 billion. The bill is meant to rescue the economy from what is likely to be a disastrous winter, as lockdowns tighten and people stay home in the face of rising cases of COVID-19. It falls far short of the $3 trillion relief package that the Democratic-controlled House passed in May — a bill that was ignored by the Senate — but is substantially better than anything McConnell has proposed. It's also better than nothing, which is what McConnell's actions so far have amounted to. 

Unsurprisingly, however, McConnell's reaction to this carefully drafted and dramatically announced bill was to blow a big, fat raspberry, refusing to even look at it. 

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"We just don't have time to waste time," McConnell told reporters, even though he has been wasting time since May, pretending he intends to pass a real relief bill while actually focusing the Senate's precious time on cramming as many Trump appointees onto the federal bench as he can

McConnell is as shameless a liar as Trump, even if he's less theatrical about it. He is clearly in no hurry to pass a stimulus bill and, frankly, is behaving like a man who hopes no bill gets passed at all. That's because McConnell does not care one whit about how many people die, lose their jobs, lose their homes or otherwise fall into ruin. All he cares about is power — and he likely believes, with good reason, that tanking the economy is the best bet for getting more power. 

"We know that if he remains majority leader, Mitch McConnell will work to cripple the Biden presidency by saddling him with the terrible politics of a miserable recovery," Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote Monday, adding that we know this because that's was he did "during the last Democratic presidency."

The strategy is simple, if diabolical: Let the American economy fall into ruin and then blame Biden for the fallout. Use people's anger to win back the House in 2022 and then elect another Republican to the White House in 2024, and resume cramming the federal bench with right-wing judges. 

It will likely work, too, since most Americans — especially those fair-weather and swing voters who tend to decide elections — don't follow politics very closely. Research shows that fewer than 40% of Americans can correctly identify which party controls the House and Senate. McConnell knows that people won't blame him when they don't even know his name. Instead, they'll blame the guy whose name they do know — President Joe Biden. 

McConnell does have a $500 billion package he officially supports, which is focused on tax cuts and giveaways to the already wealthy, while offering little in the way of relief for the ordinary working Americans hit hardest by the pandemic. Most importantly, McConnell's bill would offer businesses liability protection, to prevent employees who contract COVID-19 on the job from suing their employers. 

These kinds of benefits for the already-wealthy are important to McConnell, and he has working to try to push through this bill before Trump — who would be far more likely to sign it than Biden — is forced to leave office. But while McConnell is clearly invested in lining the pockets of the rich and protecting employers whose negligence hurts or kills employees, those delicious goodies are still less important to him than handing Biden a ruined economy. 

After all, the bipartisan group that offered the $900 billion compromise put in some of the sweeteners for the rich that McConnell has demanded, in an effort to attract his support. In particular, the liability protection, a major McConnell priority, was included.

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But Mitch still isn't biting. After all, the compromise bill also includes an unemployment expansion, one that would likely last long enough to float American workers until a vaccine is widely available sometime next year. Such a benefit could very well save the economy entirely. As long as things don't go too badly over the winter — as long as eviction rates don't spike and people can still engage in at least some consumer spending — the economy could be poised to rebound nicely once people are inoculated on a large scale and can re-engage with the world again. But without that help, the damage to the economy might be so severe that recovery will take years, if not longer. 

Clearly, McConnell doesn't want to let such a recovery happen. He knows that just as Biden will take the blame for a wrecked economy, he'll also get credit for a rapidly improving one. 

As David Roberts at Vox warned Tuesday, "[t]he entire conservative movement, from top to bottom, will view limiting Biden to one term as its primary strategic objective," and is ready to "engage in misinformation, norm violation, procedural fuckery, and outright lawbreaking, if necessary, to achieve that objective."

Actually, it's even worse than that: Republicans are willing destroy the economy and condemn thousands more to death — and millions more to economic ruin — to achieve the objective of dooming Biden's presidency. To believe otherwise is a fool's game. 

McConnell is already making his first moves, refusing to even consider any bill that would bolster the economy and pretending to be open to negotiation simply to waste more time and make absolutely certain that no substantive legislation will ever happen. McConnell knows he's got time on his side with this dark strategy. Every day that no relief goes out, the economy degrades further and more people needlessly get sick and die — and America gets closer to the level of economic devastation that will be impossible to recover from anytime soon. Which is exactly what McConnell is counting on. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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