You can decide for yourself whether you think this is true or just day-after damage control by Republicans to spin a strategic gaffe by Mitch the Knife. (Politico claims that “There was no grand strategy [to silencing Warren], Republicans said, just a burgeoning anger that Warren was destroying whatever vestige of comity that remains in the Senate.”) I’m inclined to believe McConnell had an angle, though. A few Trump fans read my post on this from earlier today and tweeted at me that not everything is done for deep strategic reasons and that McConnell probably shut her down because she deserved to be shut down. She had in fact broken Rule XIX. C’mon, though. McConnell’s not going to do something that he believes will damage his party long-term for a short-term win over a liberal favorite. As BuzzFeed’s source succinctly put it, “McConnell doesn’t do anything without a plan.”
And the plan, in this case, is to make her the face of the Democratic Party for the 2018 midterms.
The thinking is that the elevation of Warren and any way to show that Republicans are trying to keep the Senate functioning — even as it grinds to a halt — works in the party’s favor.
“I think everybody inside and outside the Senate knows that McConnell doesn’t do anything without a plan,” said one GOP strategist. “His ability to see around the corner is entirely unrivaled.”
“Any attention that people pay to Elizabeth Warren is good for Republicans,” the strategist said. “She just isn’t the type of candidate who would do well in states that Democrats lost last cycle.”…
If the balance tips over to the progressives, then — in theory — Republicans have a better shot at not just keeping their Senate majority but expanding it. And moments like these can help by energizing the conservative base.
Gotta have someone to run against in 2018 to get red-state Republicans excited. That was no problem the last few midterms; Obama was the lightning rod, and man, did lightning ever strike. Now, though, there’s a vacuum. Hillary’s old news; Bernie Sanders is too much the appealing pinko grandpa to be an effective villain; Pelosi hasn’t had any power for seven years; and Schumer’s not enough of a bombthrower to get Republicans really excited to beat him. Maybe a Senate backbencher like Cory Booker will emerge as a GOP hate object, but right now all signs point to Warren as the party’s best bet as an enemy-in-chief. And Warren will relish the role. She’s been attacking Trump with gusto for at least a year, knowing that every time she flames him she’s that much closer to being the 2020 nominee. As I said this morning, there’s backfire potential here for the GOP: She’s a class warrior at heart and someone like that is better attuned to the concerns of blue-collar voters who broke for Trump than Hillary Clinton was. But her Ivory Tower mien and impeccable leftist credentials could frighten working-class whites who are comfortable with Democratic economic populism but not Democratic cultural liberalism. At least, that’s what McConnell’s counting on.
Note too, though, the bit about McConnell wanting to show that the Senate is functioning. That’s important, as it’s a reversal of his strategy from when he was minority leader. Back then his goal was to obstruct on the theory that voters would ultimately blame the president, not the GOP, for dysfunction in Washington — and that theory produced jackpot results at the polls. Left-wing commentators nowadays enthusiastically endorse emulating McConnell’s obstruction strategy in the belief that the same thing will happen to Trump: If the Senate is paralyzed, frustrated voters will hold the president and his party responsible in 2018. McConnell’s solution was to make a splashy gesture last night to show them that it’s not paralyzed and that things are getting done, even if Warren had to have her mic turned off to make it happen. You’re seeing that approach too in the barrage of executive orders Trump has signed — things are getting done! — and you’re going to see it again in the reconciliation process to repeal ObamaCare and the nuking of the filibuster, if necessary, to confirm Neil Gorsuch. The procedural element of silencing Warren is as important as the political angle of making her the Democrat-in-chief for purposes of the midterms. Republicans don’t want midterm voters thinking that Trump has failed to break the logjam in D.C., especially after he went in promising to drain the swamp.
Here she is last night on Facebook milking the attention for all it’s worth.