Republicans looking for someone to blame for their failure to repeal Obamacare may settle on an obvious candidate, like President Donald Trump, who never understood the policy or politics of the effort. Or they may settle on a slightly less obvious figure, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
Perhaps because Republican senators are more scared of Trump than they are of McConnell, the majority leader may end up absorbing most of the blame, at least in public. This is unfair to McConnell, who, as ever, is only truly appreciated on the left.
McConnell has a very difficult job, and many people misunderstand exactly why it is so hard: His job is to make it more likely that hugely unpopular things that majorities of Americans don’t want to happen, happen.
Republicans who criticize McConnell fail to recognize that nearly their entire agenda is hated by most Americans. Their plan to make the American healthcare system worse for most Americans was hated by most Americans. If Republicans have an explanation for why that is, beyond blaming the liberal media, I haven’t actually heard it. One very strange moment in the healthcare debate came when multiple Republican senators openly wondered why their healthcare bill cut taxes for high earners while also cutting support for low earners; they didn’t seem to recognize their own agenda.
Perhaps it is related to the mental block that causes them to regularly forget that the only reason a Republican is currently president is because he constantly and loudly promised not to be a conservative on issues like social insurance. Instead of confronting the implications of that victory, conservatives instead have responded like Trump’s own budget director, who regularly brags that he is tricking the president into exchanging his (popular) non-conservative ideas for (unpopular) conservative ones.
This is why it’s absurd to blame Mitch McConnell. The role of the Senate is to be the place where popular things go to die—in the popular (albeit fictional) account of our Founders’ intentions, it acts as the “cooling saucer,” where a good thing everyone likes (hot tea) becomes something you dump down the drain (old, room temperature tea). The rules of the Senate were perfected over many decades to turn it into a place where the will of the people is easily frustrated. It is extraordinarily difficult to get large, popular bills through the Senate. Imagine, then, how hard it must be to pass incredibly unpopular bills.