Mitch McConnell finally said the quiet part out loud: when it comes to voting rights, Black people and “Americans” aren’t synonymous.
Foghorn Leghorn impersonator U.S. Senator from Kentucky let slip how he really views voting through the prism of race, casually drawing a distinction between Black people and any other U.S. citizen during an interview on Wednesday. His moment of honesty gaffe came as his party, along with Democratic wastes of space Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin finished the devil’s work by blocking Democrats’ efforts to pass new voting rights legislation. We’ll let you hear it for yourself.
As if we needed further confirmation of where McConnell stands, recall he leads a Republican party whose raison d’etre is standing guard against legislating social or economic ascendency for Black people, from anti-police brutality measures to paid family leave to the right to vote. The party does this while being careful to always have cover from the likes of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, always eager–as he did here, and here and here–to help McConnell and others stand in the way of progress.
McConnell’s statement that new voting rights legislation isn’t necessary because Black voters and white voters exercise the franchise at roughly equal rates is stunningly misinformed, assuming you’re willing to credit him for being genuinely mistaken about the data.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70.9 percent of white, non-Hispanic voters voted in the 2021 presidential election, an almost eight percentage point gap over Black voter participation and 12.5% higher than nonwhite voter participation. That gap existed despite the fact that 2020 saw the highest voter participation levels of any presidential contest in history.
McConnell also ignores the idea that prior results don’t guarantee future performance. Put another way, even if Black and white voting levels were on par, it wouldn’t eliminate the need for federal legislation to protect voting rights, especially if one political party had taken an interest in stacking the federal courts, gerrymandering legislative districts, gutting the Voting Rights Act, erecting a series of restrictive voting laws based on lies about voter fraud, and even proposing to fund new election police forces to enforce them.
“There is ample evidence that the sorts of barriers being introduced this year disproportionately reduce turnout for voters of color. The gaps between white and nonwhite voters are bound to get worse. That’s why it’s necessary to reverse these new voting restrictions,” wrote Kevin Morris, an analyst and researcher on voting rights at the Brennan Center for Justice in a paper on voter participation by race last year.
At this point, about the only thing more clear than what McConnell really meant on Wednesday is that his political opposition is absolutely, positively powerless to do anything about it, despite controlling Congress and the White House.