The Trouble With Mitch

Mitch McConnell understands target fixation better than we do.

I see that a very important piece of legislation is riding on the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Presently, he’s working hard to sideline a $2000 stimulus check (a raise from $600) to every American suffering from the recession resulting from our very poor response to the pandemic. Millions of people are out of work, can’t pay their bills, can’t pay their rent or their mortgages and there isn’t much that can be done until we can get past this virus.

The latest bill passed by the house to up the stimulus to $2000 per person ($600 per dependent kid), has been passed by the House and awaits action in the Senate. What does Mitch McConnell do? He attaches two other bills to it, one to repeal section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and another to authorize investigations into alleged election fraud in the 2020 election.

Those two items together, are what some people are calling, a poison pill. It’s obvious to many that McConnell would like to keep the stimulus checks small, knowing that in terms of politics, the primary beneficiary will be Democrats and Joe Biden going into the next year. He knows that both of these other legislative priorities are not appealing to the majority in both houses and he’s trying to limit any sort of assistance that Joe Biden might need to recover from the pandemic.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is not a subsidy to social media companies, and it wasn’t written just for social media companies, for it was enacted long before we had social media companies. Section230 is protection for all companies on the internet. It provides a safe harbor to allow all companies to remove offensive material from their websites without getting sued for it. Some people call that kind of activity, “censorship”, while more reasonable people would call that, “content moderation”. McConnell was a member of the Senate when the CDA was passed and is well aware of the purposes of the Act. He knows that repeal of section 230 would expose millions of small businesses to the risk of burial by litigation.

Now about the other provision for an investigation into election fraud in the last election. There have been more than 60 lawsuits contesting the results of the presidential election in the past few months. Most belatedly contested the expanded rules that enabled more people to vote by mail during the pandemic. Many objected to procedures and rules for poll worker observation. All but one have been roundly rejected, even upon appeal.

Some judges have noted that the timing of the lawsuits confer the sense that the GOP could have acted earlier, but waited fearing that an early challenge would allow the defendants to fix any defects before the election. This to me is the central issue. If they knew there was a problem, why wait until after the election?

I know! They had a contingency plan. If they lost with the current rules, they’d protest. If they won…well, they could be silent and let it pass, for no one would be the wiser. Trump and his cronies seem to project the idea of cheating. Kind of like, “Huh. All our plans to cheat didn’t work. The Democrats must have cheated. Let’s sue!” The Trump campaign seems very selective in its approach and forum shopping.

So I’m hoping that Bernie prevails and that both houses can vote on a clean bill to up the relief for millions of Americans. I’m taking a private pleasure in watching Trump up the ante for Republicans in Georgia, too. On the one hand, they want to be fiscally conservative, without appearing to lack empathy.

But all this focus on Mitch…

I’ve seen it all over the news and in my social media feeds. Everyone is so focused on Mitch McConnell. What will he do? How will he do it? What is he really planning?

There are a few problems with all that focused attention on the Majority leader of the Senate. First, the mere focus of attention on Mitch distracts us from us. What are we doing? Every second we focus on Mitch is a second lost to focusing on what we can do to help the people who can’t earn the money they need to pay their bills and take care of themselves.

Bernie is doing the right thing by his filibuster. He’s focused on what we’re doing, not what Mitch is doing. Our job is to put the best solution forward and not speculate about Mitch. Mitch loves all the attention. He’s aware that we’re expending mental effort on him, not our cause. We’re never going to change Mitch. But we can change ourselves.

We can take note that centrist Democrats helped us to get to this point. Had they been more progressive for the last 30–40 years, we might have been in a better position to deal with the pandemic now. We can take note that the pandemic utterly destroyed the myth of the American “rugged individual”. The low minimum wage says we care more for dependent millionaires and billionaires than regular people who work the front lines. The fact that so many in the GOP are unwilling to provide the money necessary for people to get through the pandemic speaks to their lack of empathy. Now is not the time to be talking about deficits. Now is the time to be talking about how to relieve the suffering of millions of Americans. Now is the time to be talking about solutions, not about Mitch.

Mitch is betting that his antagonism will distract progressives from progressive goals. Avert your eyes. Don’t look at Mitch. Speaketh not his name. Just talk about your solutions, put them in a bill, and put it in the hopper for a vote. If they want to keep their majority in the Senate, then make them prove it. Spread the news of the legislation being held up in the Senate, but do it without mentioning Mitch. Speak only of the progressive agenda, and utter not his name. Focus the attention on the legislation and leave the games that Mitch plays so well to him. Let him play by himself. Let him show the world how little empathy he has for the rest of us. We don’t have to speak about it, He will show us.

The leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s figured this out long ago. They boiled it down to a simple affirmation, “Keep your eyes on the prize”. They understood target fixation without even naming the concept. We would do well to follow their example.

Write on.

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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