Dear Senator McConnell,
As you prepare for a new term in office, I hope you will indulge me as I share a memory that has stuck with me from your current term.
In July 2019, I wrote you to express concern about the president’s eliciting chants of “Send her back!” at a rally in response to his comments about U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar. You likely remember this event from only 16 months ago, though I suppose it would be unsurprising if it escapes your memory. After all, the president has done much since then to raise further questions as to his commitment to American ideals—not least his refusal to condemn white supremacy during a recent debate (a subject I have also written to you about) and this morning’s baseless, premature claims of victory (which I hope you will comment forecefully on).
Nonetheless, you will remember that at the time, this moment rightly attracted its own condemnation, and your records will show that I wrote you asking for your comments on the matter. It was disappointing—though I suppose also unsurprising—that your response in August did not criticize the president’s actions at the rally. What was surprising, however, was the way that you responded instead. Allow me to quote verbatim from your letter:
I’m proud of what we have accomplished since President Trump took office. Clearly, the last two years were the most productive of my entire Senate career in moving Kentucky and our country in the right direction. I look forward to working with the Administration and the members of the 116th Congress to address some of the toughest issues facing our nation.
To be frank, Senator, it is baffling that you would respond in this way to a letter expressing concern about blatant racism and xenophobia expressed and encouraged by the sitting President of the United States. Are such chants at rallies accomplishments to be proud of? Are they clear signs that Kentucky and our country are moving in the right direction? Your seeming suggestion that this is the case—or that some other “accomplishment” is somehow sufficient to downplay these concerns—is troubling, to say the least.
As you begin your new term in January, my impression of you remains one that has lingered since August 2019 (and even before): Someone who is willing to overlook or minimize clear injustices in order to advance your own partisan priorities. You wrote elsewhere in your letter that you “want to earn [my] trust each and every day.” Your new term affords you thouands of days to try to earn my trust by undoing this impression. I hope you will do so—but, once again, I suppose I will not be surprised if you do not.