Mitch McConnell, the Grim Reaper, haunts Democrats’ debate

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) — He’s the Grim Reaper hanging over Democrats. And his silent presence haunts their dreams for a bigger, more generous government.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell played an arguably larger role as Democrats’ villain during their first 2020 presidential primary debate than President Donald Trump did. And that’s saying something.

Google Trends tweeted after the debate that McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was the top trending search query during the second half of the debate.

Any Democrat who gets to the White House will probably have to be ready to do something with him. The 2020 Senate map does not feature a lot of competitive seats, so there’s a very good chance that he will be Senate majority leader come January of 2021, when one of the Democrats hopes to take the oath of office (assuming they can unseat Trump).

NBC’s Chuck Todd laid all that out and asked Elizabeth Warren if she had a plan to deal with Mitch McConnell.

“I do,” she said. “We are a democracy, and the way a democracy is supposed to work is the will of the people matters.”

She said she’d make sure people engaged in 2020, stayed engaged and pressured Congress.

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio said Democrats needed to appeal to blue-collar voters.

“If we want to beat Mitch McConnell, this better be a working-class party,” he said.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said he would work to end the filibuster, the custom by which legislation requires 60 votes to limit debate in the Senate. Warren has also endorsed this path.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said it is essential that Democrats take the Senate.

So how did McConnell feel about being the subject of the debate?

“I love it,” McConnell told reporters Thursday morning, citing his achievements in “stopping the liberal agenda and confirming conservative judges.”

“The things they are criticizing me for, I plead guilty to,” he said.

McConnell also knows that the problem with all the Democrats’ answers is that the political reality is it will be extremely difficult for Democrats to take over the Senate in 2020. Unless they do, McConnell will still control what gets votes in the Senate, which means he could, as promised, take a scythe to Warren’s ambitious plans to tax wealth, provide free tuition and child care, and forgive student loans.

Keeping people engaged will only make them more frustrated at the system, which is not actually a democracy, as students of the Senate or the Electoral College are painfully aware. It’s a democratic republic where states have quite a bit of power.

The answer to the McConnell question for Democrats right now is there is no answer.

And that means all of the big legislative ideas Democrats are floating won’t get off the ground unless they can get bipartisan support for them. And McConnell, who was up front and unashamed about his strategy of keeping Republicans united against any effort by Democrats during the Obama administration, will do everything he can to keep that from happening. He calls himself the Grim Reaper, after all.

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