April 23, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Mitch McConnell’s Multiverse of Betrayal

America owes blue states for fighting COVID-19. He'd repay them with bankruptcy.

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I admit it. I write on a theme of betrayal so often I risk diluting the impact of the word with sheer repetition. I can’t help it, though. I see the national Republicans saying they govern in the interest of all Americans, then behaving as if only some citizens count as legitimate Americans. Trust is key to a democracy. We must trust our leaders to act for the sake of the common good, especially in times of crisis. When a partner suddenly demands freedom from responsibility, what word describes that other than betrayal?

Nearly 48,000 Americans have died in the last five weeks from COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of the coronavirus. The death toll would almost certainly be higher had not good-faith governors (including Republicans) taken aggressive measures to force people to isolate or distance themselves from each other in order to retard the disease’s spread. A major consequence, of course, has been an economy in near collapse. Today, the government reported another 4.4 million unemployment insurance claims, bringing the total number of official jobless to about 26 million.

When a political partner suddenly demands freedom from responsibility, what word describes that other than betrayal?

Even Donald Trump’s most vocal critics don’t hold him entirely responsible for the damage done, but no reasonable person can say he did close to enough when it most mattered, or has done enough since. The president’s administration “delayed or bungled basic but crucial steps to contain the spread of infections and prepare the country for a pandemic,” according to a review of government documents by the LA Times. The investigation is just one of a host of reports showing the president privileging his television image over the health and well-being of the populace.

The president might be forgiven (politicians are self-interested, after all) if his Republicans had spared a thought for the 56 million northeasterners facing the worst. But they didn’t. Instead, in each of three relief bills passed so far (a fourth is pending in the House), the Republicans demonstrated concern for the health and well-being of corporations struggling with a near-total absence of consumer demand. To be sure, normal people are getting one-time checks, but big businesses are getting massive, cheap and forgivable loans. Meanwhile, the Fed is printing trillions to take over the bond market and provide virtually unlimited lending to Wall Street banking firms.

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Even that, however, wouldn’t be so bad if major cities and blue states got a cut of the action. Fighting mass disease and death has strained their resources to the breaking point. Even the richest municipalities foresee the possibility of insolvency in the near term. If the airline, hospitality, banking and oil industries can get bailouts, surely so can cities and states defending the country against the “invisible enemy” whose existence a Republican president refused to acknowledge for weeks and weeks.

Not so fast, said Mitch McConnell. The Senate majority leader said yesterday that his conference was in no mood for more relief. The national debt is becoming a serious issue, he said. We can’t mortgage our children’s future on a “blue-state bailout.” “We’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created for themselves with bad decisions in the past,” he said. Instead, he said, he’d rather work to change current federal law so states can declare bankruptcy.

It’s hard to express the depths of betrayal here, but I’m going to try. First, future insolvencies are not a consequence of past decisions by the states, but instead recent inaction by a president whose gross negligence and incompetence forced cities and states to take matters into their own hands. Second, McConnell is suggesting the country does not owe these cities and states a debt of gratitude deserving of federal compensation even if the money ended up covering “bad decisions in the past.” Third, in not recognizing the debt owed, and instead offering the possibility of bankruptcy, he’s slapping the face of anyone who has sacrificed, which is to say everyone.

The Senate majority leader is happy to let a pandemic weaken and impoverish cities and blue states, his political rivals.

With respect to blue states, the betrayal goes even deeper. Blue states are richer, and they send more tax dollars to Washington than they get in return. That’s not so painful given that blue states tend to believe in the common good, plus they used to keep some of the money thanks to a tax code allowing filers to deduct state and local taxes from their federal tax returns. In 2017 Trump, McConnell and the Republicans capped SALT deductions, in effect raising taxes on rich states while cutting taxes for obscenely rich individuals. Blue states were already subsidizing red states. Now that went double.

Make it triple. McConnell is fine with extracting wealth from major cities and blue states, redistributing it to red states and GOP-friendly corporations, while at the same time expressing concern for the national debt just when 56 million Americans, who collectively send Democrats to Washington, are in full need of assistance. McConnell is happy, in other words, to let a pandemic weaken and impoverish his political rivals. That’s not what you expect from a leader governing in the interest of all Americans.

It is, however, what you’d expect from a traitor.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Ed Kako on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    “Multiverse of betrayal”: what a great phrase.

    It’s betrayal. It’s traitorous (in the colloquial sense). But there’s something even more deeply sinister going on, something that very few want to articulate: The GOP want to destroy the United States and sell it for parts. I mean that almost literally. By driving the country into a Depression, they can break it apart, destroy what’s left of our institutions, consign Americans (or post-Americans) to a lifetime of servitude to corporations that have become increasingly fascist in over the last five decades.

    McConnell is one of history’s great monsters. But he’s also a front for a party that has weaponized the Constitution against itself, turning norms, parliamentary procedures, and even the Bill of Rights itself into a universal solvent that will eat away at everything and everyone until there’s nothing left.

    • EllTeacher on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am


  2. EllTeacher on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Mitch McConnell is a traitor. It’s been obvious for a decade or more but never really given a full analysis because of all the partisan, now tribal, noise that dominates political discourse. And sadly, even if such a complete analysis existed, it would be buried in the Fox News bubble.

    Look at the photos of the unmasked “freedom protesters” who have been brought together by three right-wing brothers manipulating information on Facebook and you’ll see another truth: these people are filled with justifiable anger, but that rage makes it impossible for them to think rationally and examine empirical evidence. (My irrational rage makes me hope that all the folks protesting catch coronavirus–especially the ones waving Confederate flags. Luckily for me, I can usually set that aside and think of the other, innocent Americans who might be adversely impacted because of their connections to the protesters.)

    While I’m glad that this article focuses on McConnell, in general, I believe the mainstream media has to bear some of the blame for the situation we find ourselves in now, because the focus has been on Trump, whose constant braying for attention has worked.

    Moreover, in the days, weeks, and years before the Trump presidency (yes, hard to believe there was such a time), when McConnell exercised his power for the sake of personally feeling powerful, very few in the media called his actions traitorous because they assaulted the common good and flew in the face of our collective understanding and acceptance of the norms that bind us together as a people.

    In fact, McConnell has never had the common good as his lodestar. Even though the evidence was all around us, the most egregious being his refusal to allow the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court–did any of the other Republican senators speak out against McConnell’s decision? McConnell’s power kept the Republican majority in line.

    That affront to our democratic norms was allowed to stand at the time because people thought Hillary Clinton would win the election of 2016, so the fiasco would wind up being a “no harm, no foul.” It was viewed as a simple declaration of McConnell’s power, frustrating to many, and certainly norm-smashing, but a Republican ploy. I doubt Democrats would see it as such now.

    That action should have been called out for what it was: traitorous.

    Not long ago he was caught on camera saying that if a SCOTUS vacancy came open now, he’d see that it got filled–no waiting to see how the voters of 2020 decided to fill the office of the president. He laughed at the notion of hypocrisy.

    When McConnell refused to allow witnesses at the impeachment trial of President Trump, it wasn’t to save Trump, it was to save his own hold on absolute power.

    While it is true that the founders of our nation, those who fashioned the Constitution and its subsequent amendments, never envisioned a president as ill-learned and self-serving at Donald Trump, the real threat to our nation, the man unraveling the fabric that holds the common good together, is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

    Truthfully, I don’t think the framers of our Constitution could have foreseen this unholy marriage.

    Those who have lately come to see the threat McConnell poses to our nation should be doing more than just writing about him. Why aren’t you writing about the honorable Amy McGrath, Lt Col, US Marine Corps, retired, who is running against McConnell for that Senate seat in Kentucky?
    Why not explore McGrath’s Commonwealth, Common Health initiative, which works to keep Kentucky food banks supplied? [She’d happily take a $3 donation: https://amymcgrath.com/%5D

    Just as Trump’s DNA lacks an empathy-well and he is incapable of learning from mistakes, Mitch McConnell has no care for the common good of the people of the United States. He has no character or honor. Both men are broken in a way that can’t be fixed and both pose an existential threat to the nation.

    But of the two, McConnell is the greater threat because he operates quietly, behind closed doors, and generally out of sight. His power is extreme and he will do or say anything to protect it; and, as it happens, he’s rarely called out for his opinions and actions because he cloaks them in some politically plausible camouflage, such as “too much debt” or “stealing from our grandchildren’s future,” or even the more insidious “Blue State” label.

    Denying assistance to states while helping corporations is another blow to democracy. Denying assistance solely on the basis of “Red” or “Blue” is the opposite of working for the United States and is, therefore, undoubtedly traitorous.

  3. Michele on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    He does not care about the lives that has been lost and reopening the country to soon will or could cripple this country more but hey hold on Mitchell McDonnell u have not lost 1 penny why because you are already getting ur money from the Government and ur going to let States People Families go down for something they had no control over… U leave the Government just for 1 month without ur pay and see how u like it and I mean not be able to rely on anh savings… have to get food stamps and gef food from food banks and ask for help to pay ur bills for that month u sorry piece of dirt…the only reason u have stayed in the Senate is because no one has ran against u oh i wish someone would..

  4. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Treason is the only word that applies to McConnell, Trump, and those that surround them in the Congress and White House. Let’s focus on defeating these traitors in the 2020 general election and consigning them to political oblivion from there.

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