U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters following a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1DC41E0680

By Rosetta Miller-Perry

Kentucky senator and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been backing away from support for Civil Rights and Voting Rights for decades. So it was no surprise last week when he remarked “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.” For McConnell and the 21st century Republican Party, Blacks aren’t their definitions of Americans because they don’t suck up to Donald Trump, and don’t support their backwards political agenda.

McConnell claimed he misspoke, then retreated into what’s become today the standard right-wing defense whenever they get called out about making racist and bigoted statements. “This outrageous mischaracterization of my record as a result of leaving one word out inadvertently the other day … is deeply offensive,” McConnell said during a press conference in Louisville Friday. 

Speaking of his record, the longtime senator mentioned his support for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who’s the first Black person to hold that elected post. “I think he would confirm with you that I recruited him to run, supported him and am proud of him,” McConnell said. “I have had African American speechwriters, schedulers, office managers over the years. I think this mischaracterization of my record is offensive and outrageous.”
He also mentioned how he personally was in Washington, D.C., decades ago to see the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and to watch the Voting Rights Act of 1965 get signed into law. “I’ve never been accused of this sort of thing before. It’s hurtful and offensive, and I think some of the critics know it’s totally nonsense,” McConnell said Friday. 

But the truth is McConnell and the entire Republican Party have been backing and passing voter suppression legislation since the 2020 election, when their flawed, incompetent and unqualified Presidential candidate Donald Trump lost his re-election bid.  They struck down or restricted many measures that were enacted during the pandemic’s first year to make it easier for people to vote. The GOP has closed polling places in Black neighborhoods, tried to limit and/or restrict mail-in and absentee voting, and continued doing everything they can to make it harder for Blacks to vote.

Despite the warnings of Black voters across the country, as well as members of Rev. King’s family and other prominent people and organizations, McConnell and other GOP senators, as well as Democratic turncoat senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted to prevent Democrats in the Senate from changing the filibuster rules. This would have allowed the Democrats  to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that would essentially restored part of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013.

McConnell did this despite claiming to have been a friend of John Lewis for many years. It’s hard to believe he really understood who John Lewis was or what he believed if he could willingly help sabotage legislation designed to benefit a cause Lewis championed his entire life: voting rights for everyone, particularly Blacks who’d previously been denied that opportunity.

Yes, there was a time in Mitch McConnell’s life when he supported Civil and Voting Rights. Some 50 years ago, a 23-year-old Mitch McConnell was visiting Washington, D.C., and swung by to see his hero and former boss, U.S. Sen. John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky.Cooper, a Republican who helped ensure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, and whose 20-year tenure in Congress McConnell would one day eclipse, got the future senator to walk with him.

He led McConnell to the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where the pair watched President Lyndon B. Johnson sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”I was overwhelmed to witness such a moment in history, knowing that majorities in both parties voted for the bill,” McConnell — who had also witnessed Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — wrote in his 2016 memoir, “The Long Game.”

Back then, both McConnell and the Republican Party showed courage and were a party that welcomed Blacks into its tent. That Mitch McConnell would never make comments inferring or implying that Blacks weren’t real Americans. But that person is no longer in the Senate. Perhaps today’s version of Mitch McConnell might want to remember that 23-year-old. That Mitch McConnell was someone to admire. This one is a damn disgrace.