Should Mitch McConnell be confronted in public? Conservative writer Scott Jennings and LEO Executive Editor Aaron Yarmuth take opposite sides. Read Yarmuth’s opinion below, and click here for Jennings’ take.
At a picnic several years ago, a man approached my dad, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth. “Congressman,” he said, “I appreciate your service and think you’re doing a great job. There’s only one thing — could you get your NRA score up?”
My dad said, “Thanks, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
They both laughed and carried on enjoying the picnic.
When you are in public office, you make yourself available, and you answer to your constituents.
That’s the job.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell doesn’t do this part of the job.
This is why McConnell was recently run out of two Louisville restaurants in as many days, and why he was confronted leaving a dinner in Washington, D.C.
Of course, in typical, distracted partisan-clan-politics fashion, we debate whether this is appropriate instead of the real issue — McConnell is the only one to blame. There is no arguing that it is his own fault that these incidents are occurring.
He doesn’t answer constituent mail or phone calls in any meaningful way, instead replying with only form responses.
He doesn’t hold public town halls.
He doesn’t answer reporters’ questions unless they are questions he’d like to answer.
The only media appearances he makes are tactically selected, either when he has an advantage on the story du jour, or when he cautiously appears on a friendly network.
After 34 years in the U.S. Senate, McConnell has become a democratic recluse. He now answers to only the largest Republican donor class and political power brokers.
That’s why so few people like him.
That’s why his approval rating percentages in Kentucky are in the 20s, among the lowest of any politician in the country.
This is also why he is now hearing from his constituents when he appears in public.
And it’s why he should be confronted in public.
For one, he could have put an end to the heckling at any point by stopping, engaging — and being a normal human — with his constituents.
In that same vein, I guarantee you that none of the people harassing Mitch want to spend their time doing that. It may have been cathartic for them at the time, but that is only the result of years of pent-up frustration… feeling unheard, unappreciated, disrespected by their elected representative.
All he ever had to do was stop, listen and, at least pretend, to care about the people he represents.
In truth, what he has done to his constituents, by ignoring them for years… decades… is much worse than them ruining his meal. What they did was, at most, rude. What he has done is dehumanizing. He alone has caused American citizens to feel disconnected from their own government — something that goes against a bedrock principle of democracy, as well as our country since it was founded.
How he has conducted himself is the antithesis of what we should expect from our elected officials.
It fits better in an aristocracy than in a democracy.
In addition to abdicating the responsibilities of his office, he has displayed arrogance. It takes astonishing arrogance to walk into the most liberal neighborhood of the most liberal city in an otherwise conservative state and not expect to be confronted; And we know McConnell is not ignorant, so it must be arrogance.
McConnell could’ve chosen a different neighborhood to go to for lunch, where probably nobody would recognize or bother him. But there is no right to privacy, and particularly not on Bardstown Road.
Like celebrities, elected officials know that when they leave the house they could be confronted by someone — constituent, fan, heckler. That’s the trade: privacy for fame, money, power — whatever motivated them to choose that profession. The big difference is that it’s part of elected officials’ job to engage with the public — it’s expected.
So, yes — McConnell deserves to hear from his constituents. Not only do Americans have a right to be heard by their government, but they have proven over centuries that they are going to make sure they’re heard one way or the other. McConnell’s own behavior is the reason he was shouted out of a restaurant.