McConnell Played Trump Like a Fiddle
The nomination of ACB may have cost Trump the election — it was a win-win for Mitch.
In 2016, McConnell refused to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. He was quoted saying this:
It seems clear President Obama made this nomination not, not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.
I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president.
In 2020, Justice Ginsburg passed on September 18. The next day, September 19, Mitch McConnell told the press he would do all he could to fill the vacancy before the election. Amy Coney Barrett was eventually nominated on October 26, without a single vote from the minority party (a first in American history).
Trump is without a doubt a despicable human being, but there’s one thing we know for sure about him: he is a moron.
The world looked at this and figured the rush to fill RBG’s seat was linked to the upcoming election and the judicial challenges Trump was already hinting at. After months of sowing doubts about absentee ballots and the electoral process, it was clear to all observers what Trump’s strategy was:
- Based on historical and projected mail-in vs same-day turnouts, Trump expected he would end up election day ahead in terms of electoral votes (and perhaps the popular vote too);
- The rush to nominate a SCOTUS justice and the many references made to the 2000 election (both Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett helped build the case in favour of Bush in Bush v Gore) indicated that the Trump campaign expected the election to be contested, with razor-thin margins;
- He would claim victory on Tuesday night based on partial results and file lawsuits in battleground states to delay the count or mess with it so much as to force the cases up to the SCOTUS who would rule in his favour.
- Failing that, the doubts cast could delay or hinder certification so much that the 12th Amendment would be used, and the election moved to the House, where Trump would win too.
From the outside, it seemed like Mitch played along and was acting in Trump’s best interest.
What if the true story were different?
The Crow and the Fox
McConnell is without a doubt a despicable human being, but there’s one thing we must grant him: he is a cunning and efficient political operative who knows DC in and out.
Trump is, without a doubt, a despicable human being, but there’s one thing we know for sure about him: he is a moron.
McConnell immediately pushed for a replacement to RBG, seeing a once in a lifetime opportunity for him and the GOP to steal the Supreme Court and make it a 6–3 conservative majority, impacting generations of Americans to come and cementing his legacy.
Trump, believing the Supreme Court would be his saviour in a contested election, rushed to nominate ACB. Doing so, he obliged Mitch and gave up his only bargaining chip.
Nominating ACB might have lost Trump the election.
Had Trump played it intelligently, he would have asked Senate Republicans to pass a stimulus bill before Election Day in exchange for the nomination they wanted.
Seeing he anticipated a contested election, surely a Stimulus Bill would have dramatically improved his chances. As it turns out, with Trump’s actual performance, he might have won handily. But Trump’s mind was so focused on his strategy that he could not conceive of other plans.
As proof of his stubbornness and inability to fall back on his feet and adapt to new circumstances, his legal team is now 1–38 in their legal challenges.
In the wise words of Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
McConnell got the nomination he wanted in fewer than 40 days, and he is still sitting on the stimulus bill because it has now become his bargaining chip. Republicans are now asking for “corporate COVID legal immunity” in exchange for passing the bill.
Trump has lost, and McConnell knows full well that what matters now are the two Georgia run-off elections. They will determine whether the GOP keeps its majority or loses it. His personal power hinges on these elections.
If pretending to support Trump improves the GOP’s chances there, McConnell will support Trump. If the opposite is true, you’ll see Mitch drop Donnie in a second.
Trump acted on the belief that the GOP was his, and that McConnell was loyal to him. He believed the advice he got was in his best interest.
McConnell is loyal to no one but himself and the GOP’s interests, and through slyness and apt manoeuvering, he got what he wanted.
McConnell played Trump like a fiddle.