In the least surprising but possibly most upsetting election call so far this evening (though there’s still time, folks), Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has secured his Senate seat for another six years. By all leading election projections, Kentucky voters have chosen McConnell over Democratic candidate Amy McGrath. According to The Associated Press, McConnell had already secured double the votes of his opponent with only approximately 59% reporting.
In truth, McConnell’s Senate win isn’t a surprise. The six-term senator is well-suited for his largely conservative Kentucky constituents. As the longest-serving Republican Senate leader in history, McConnell has also made quite name for himself as the Republican Party mastermind on Capitol Hill. His approach to politics is essentially to finagle a win for the GOP whenever and however he can, and he's been highly effective.
His most recent, high-profile move surrounds the hotly-contested hearing and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In addition to Barrett’s conservative politics, much of the controversy had to do with the fact that the nomination would be taking place just five weeks before the most contentious election of our lifetime. If you’ll remember, McConnell is supposed to be against Supreme Court nominations happening too close to a presidential election. At least, he was when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March 2016 —eight months before the 2016 election. At that time, McConnell was an outspoken critic, arguing that the Senate couldn’t possibly consider a Supreme Court nomination during an election year. The Republican Party successfully blocked the entire process by refusing to conduct the hearings necessary to allow a Senate vote.
Four years later, the tables turned, apparently. Under his guidance, the Republican Party has prioritized a party-first agenda that is fine with contradicting itself, fine with nepotism, and fine with pushing or blocking legislation that doesn’t align with the majority of American voters. As long as the Republican’s longest-running upper-chamber general can bag a win for the Republicans, nothing else really seems to matter.
McConnell unarguably has the strategic foresight to prop up Republicans well into the future. Consider what he said about his Supreme Court strategy in a floor speech just before the official vote: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election," he declared to his colleagues. "[Democrats] won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
It would’ve been nice if McConnell hadn’t won a seventh term. But there’s still hope that he could be demoted from Senate majority leader to Senate minority leader if the Democrats are able to secure a majority in the upper chamber. Though all eyes are on the outcome of the presidential election, voters have also been showing up to the polls in record numbers to vote for judges, overturn congressional seats, and have their voices heard in a number of other elected positions. Even though Kentucky voted to keep McConnell in the Senate, it's possible Democrats will be able to gain enough seats to advance a different legislative and policy agenda.