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Can Ashley Judd Save America?

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader and one of the most loathsome politicians in the US, is up for reelection next year, and his most serious challenger is, apparently, Ashley Judd. Can she save the country from his obstructionism? Spoiler...
Harry Cheadle
Κείμενο Harry Cheadle

Mitch McConnell is what’s wrong with America. I don’t mean that if the Kentuckian weren’t Senate Minority Leader and the most powerful Republican in Congress, we wouldn’t have AIDS or prison or people who aspire to be “the crazy one” on a reality TV show, but McConnell has devoted his considerable talents to making government less functional and politics more partisan. He’s a gray-faced manipulator who travels from backroom to backroom, making sure he gets his way—and most of the time, getting his way means stopping the government from functioning, so Barack Obama can’t claim credit for any accomplishments.


The best summation of McConnell’s “achievements” is in this Atlantic profile from two years ago, where he’s described like so: “McConnell has always been a Republican, though not the kind for whom ideology holds any great importance. What he believes in is winning.” In other words, he’s odious not because of any views he holds, but because he holds none at all. Some highlights from his career:

-Opposing campaign finance reform, even when there were bipartisan calls to do something about the corrupting infusion of cash into elections.

-In 1994, being the first person ever to use a filibuster to stop a bill from being referred to a House-Senate committee, which would negotiate a final version of the bill (a routine practice).

-Saying to the press, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”—in other words, not passing laws or reforming government waste. All he wanted was to win an election, years down the road.

-Leading Senate Republicans to filibuster low-level judicial appointments, leading to a shortage of judges all around the country, which persists to this day.

-Filibustering his own bill, after being outmaneuvered (a rare occurrence for him) on a proposal to vote on the debt ceiling.

-Straight-up lying whenever he feels like it.

This is a man who’s spent his entire life working toward the position he now holds, and now that he’s got it, he’s using it to screw the other guys again and again with parliamentary procedures that allow the minority party in Congress to hold up legislation indefinitely without proposing alternatives or compromises. The GOP, with barely more than 40 out of 100 Senate seats, can just say “fuck you” to every policy the Democrats propose, and under McConnell, that’s what they’ve done. And then, when altering the filibuster rules, as was suggested because, hey, it’s sort of fucked that a minority’s power is equal to the majority’s, McConnell stomped on the reform, then gloated about it. He’s got the soul of a chest-thumping Wall Street bro, the face of everyone’s least favorite history teacher, and the instincts of a cornered, starving possum fighting for its life.


Not surprisingly, with someone like him in charge, Congress’s approval rating has dropped to around 15 percent. McConnell is also very unpopular in his home state, especially for a sitting senator. The Democrats, of course, want him out so bad they can taste it—but they have to beat him in the 2014 election first, and that’s where Ashley Judd comes in.

McConnell has been in office for 30 years, has a bunch of money behind him, and can be a nasty campaigner, so Democrats in Kentucky aren’t exactly lining up to run against him. In fact, McConnell just cut an ad that highlighted how pitifully weak the field against him was:

(Yeah, McConnell is running mocking ads against potential opponents 20 months before an election. He's a dick, in case you didn’t get that already.)

Judd—who, I guess, is most known for Double Jeopardy or Heat?—has no prior political experience (though she has been a liberal activist for some time), but she is famous (sort of), and that is all you need to be a viable politician in the United States of America, so various Democrats have started to call her a “serious candidate.” The conservative media, who are so used to demonizing Hollywood liberals, they do it as an unconscious reflex, pointed out that Judd has said some shit in the past about it being “unconscionable to breed” and about how Christianity “legitimizes and seals male power,” stuff that voters in Kentucky might find a bit… insane. Also, she lives in Tennessee. Democrats may be encouraging her to run, Jonathan Chait wrote this week, because she could raise a lot of money for the party, and they’re going to lose against McConnell no matter who faces him. (There are donors, apparently, who are like, Wow, Judd is running? Let me break out my checkbook!)

The only chance Judd has to win, lies in the fact that some Republicans hate McConnell, too, because that dude sucks on an entirely nonideological level (see above). Tea Party groups have promised to run against him in the primaries, less out of disagreements with any specific policy (since he doesn’t have any policies), than out of a passionate dislike for the DC establishment that McConnell embodies. If they manage to knock him out in a primary, the Tea Party will likely nominate a kook in the mold of Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle, the 2014 Kentucky senate race will be hilariously entertaining, and we might be reading about Senator Judd in a couple years.

But that won’t happen. All the stuff that makes McConnell so loathsome—his naked desire for power, his viciousness, his eagerness to bend the rules to his advantage—are also what make him a winner. Like an animal ideally adapted to its environment, McConnell fits into the system perfectly, which probably says something about the system. Unless something completely unexpected and wonderful happens, he’ll bury his Tea Party opposition and Judd under a wave of negativity, spend roughly a second sneering at them, then go back to stopping the federal government from functioning. His isn't a very helpful or pleasant path, but it is very American.