Mitch McConnell is all about the money. Unprecedented obstruction as Senate Majority Leader during the Obama administration was his calling card. Stealing a Supreme Court seat in 2016 and packing federal courts during the Trump administration are big bullet points on his resume, too.
Arguably McConnell’s greatest legacy is expanding corporate influence in politics. Few have taken more donations from dark money donors, and no politician has worked harder to ensure that money’s power. McConnell’s career is a testament to lifetime politicians purposely gumming up the works to make it easier for their super rich benefactors to get even richer.
But the right’s new anti-corporate culture war has McConnell confused.
Sen: McConnell: "My warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics. It's not what you`re designed for. I'm not talking about political contributions. … I support that. I'm talking about taking a position."https://t.co/Q14ptTmKyh
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 7, 2021
In a statement yesterday, McConnell “warned” corporations to stay out of politics, but he made sure to add an important caveat. McConnell wasn’t talking about campaign contributions, of course, because he’s perfectly fine with those. Citizens United, the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled campaign donations are political speech, became law when he took power as majority leader in 2010. It helped define his career placating Republican megadonors.
What bothers McConnell is actual political speech—words or actions akin to Major League Baseball moving its all-star game to protest Georgia’s voting law. Taking any kind of political position is where he draws the line.
McConnell couldn’t heighten the contradictions much more if he tried. Forget the fact that this statement goes against his entire political legacy and everything he stands for. McConnell is trying to make the argument that money from corporations is free speech but doesn’t represent that same corporation taking a political position. It doesn’t make any sense.
McConnell knows that, of course. He’s no stranger to contradicting himself to manipulate federal power at the highest level. But watching an ancient political ghoul try to square a circle of his own making is always a little jarring. It’s funny that McConnell even saw the need to make the distinction. No reasonable person thought he wanted to somehow end corporate campaign contributions.
What’s even funnier is why McConnell’s in the position to begin with. Republicans are fighting an endless, mostly contrived battle against cancel culture. McConnell, however, is dedicated to tangible power. Culture wars might make headlines and drive news cycles, but they don’t have any major impact outside the discourse. But once corporations start using their influence more tangibly, it becomes a problem.
Chuds like Matt Gaetz and Ted Cruz are more suited to fight this battle. They’re dummies who aren’t afraid to mix it up while trying to own the libs. McConnell just wants results. But his side is losing badly, and he knows it. That’s why he said something.
McConnell still needs to toe the line, though. He can’t demand corporations stay out of politics altogether. Repealing Citizens United would destroy his political legacy. It would also cut off the main source of Republican political power. McConnell can’t let that happen.
Instead, he’ll have to continue contradicting himself the same way his colleagues do whenever they argue a company censoring its own content is cancel culture. It’s not the game McConnell wants to play, but he knows he has to play it.
If only speech wasn’t actually speech.