I was proud of Mitch McConnell on Wednesday.
I haven’t been able to say that for awhile.
But the man who earned the label of obstructionist-in-chief in recent years proved himself to be a statesman on Wednesday when democracy was under siege.
I covered part of McConnell’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate from the time it began in 1982, through his first election two years later.
And I have continued to cover him off and on in the years since.
I didn’t agree with him on many issues.
But I liked him.
He wasn’t a hypocrite back then.
McConnell believed in the First Amendment.
And in the 1990s, when Congress considered a constitutional amendment to outlaw flag burning, he saw it as part of free speech and voted with Democrats against the amendment.
I respected him for sticking up for his beliefs.
He came back to Kentucky often back then and held telephone news conferences with local media to talk about his ideas and what he was doing.
But as he rose to power in Washington, those ended.
And McConnell became one of the most partisan politicians in Washington.
It became all about his party — and his power.
But Wednesday, the day he lost his majority in the Senate, McConnell stood up for America and put partisanship aside.
I stared at the TV in amazement.
“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” he said. “We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years would bring a scramble for power at any cost.”
He added, “We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes; with separate facts, and separate realities; with nothing in common except hostility toward each another and mistrust for the few national institutions that we still share.”
And McConnell said, “We will either hasten down a poisonous path where only the winners of elections accept them or show we can still muster the patriotic courage that our forebears showed, both in victory and in defeat.”
I felt like cheering.
Then, after the mob of insurrectionists was cleared out of the Capitol and Congress reconvened, he said, “We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress.
I was proud of the man, glad — even though I didn’t vote for him — that he was representing Kentucky in Congress.
McConnell had proved himself to be a statesman when it mattered most.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 firstname.lastname@example.org