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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Mitch McConnell’s lack of ‘expectations’ indicates it’s time for him to go

One of the beautiful things about American politics is its unpredictability. At any given moment a politician could be on top of the world and the next he or she could be facing removal from office.

Such looks to be the case for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell took it upon himself to criticize President Trump last week for having “excessive expectations” about the pace of legislation and Trump didn’t take the jab sitting down. Trump chided McConnell for being ineffective and encouraged the on-recess GOP Trump McConnell tweetleader to get back to work.

Now some are suggesting it’s time for Mitch to go.

Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner reported, “The Senate Conservatives Fund says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to be replaced after failing to follow through on his promise to repeal Obamacare ‘root and branch’ and tackle other items at the top of President Trump's legislative agenda.

“’Now is the time to replace Mitch McConnell. Not next year. Not in 2020. Right now,’ the group said Thursday. ‘Otherwise, Republicans will squander this historic opportunity to enact conservative reforms.’”

Yes indeed, the time does appear ripe to find someone new to control the levers of the GOP senate majority. If we’re being honest the time was ripe years ago. The Republican establishment has exercised firm control over the party’s senate caucus for decades with little to show for it. No great visions have originated in the Senate. Quite frankly, the senate is where good ideas go to die.

Mitch McConnell cannot solely be blamed for the Senate’s ineffectiveness but someone has to take responsibility. For far too long wayward members of the GOP caucus have put a stop to any kind of positive reform movement in government. If you think about it, the gang of three (Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain) recently denied the will of millions across the country who worked to put the Republicans in power just to do something about Obamacare.

The Democrats must have figured at least three or four of the usual suspects would break with the conservatives to maintain the status quo. They were right.

Tossing out McConnell and replacing him with someone with more backbone would be a good start. But the real solution to the GOP’s problem is to let Republican voters do the deciding courtesy of each state’s party primary. Some establishment senators are already drawing attention as rich targets for ousting.

Al Weaver of the Washington Examiner reported over the weekend, “The head of a group backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was skeptical Friday about how primary challengers to Sens. Jeff Flake and Dean Heller would fare in a general election.

“Steven Law, the president of the Senate Leadership Fund, said that the challengers to Flake, R-Ariz., and Heller, R-Nev., have ‘real baggage.’ Danny Tarkanian, a perennial candidate, announced plans to potentially take on Heller earlier this week. Kelli Ward is challenging Flake for his seat a year after handily losing a primary fight to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.”

What a shocker – the establishment is firing defensive salvos against the very people who seek to hold Republicans accountable for the promises they’ve made during previous campaigns. These elites are about as predictable as the coming of football season every September.

The truth is primary challenges are probably the only way Republicans can possibly maintain their majorities after their spectacular failure to pass an Obamacare repeal last month. Returning the same old establishment retreads to Washington and expecting different results has grown old for the voters. If you don’t believe it, take a look at who’s now occupying the Oval Office.

It isn’t Jeb Bush.

Part of the appeal of primary challengers is they’re an unknown quantity; for all intents and purposes the newbies could turn out to be just as bad (from a conservative’s perspective) as the person they replaced. Yet it’s the possibility we might find another rock-solid conservative to join Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul in the senate that is extremely appealing.

On the converse side, we know pretty much everything there is to know about the senators being challenged in the states mentioned above. In the instance of Nevada’s Heller we already understand that he’s a mushy moderate establishmentarian who was afraid to support Trump last year, is good friends with lukewarm Silver State Gov. Brian Sandoval and isn’t willing to cast a “team” vote to ditch Obamacare.

And the case against Arizona’s Jeff Flake is self-evident. Flake has been John McCain’s right-hand man in the senate, a leading participant in the amnesty-pushing Gang of Eight and recently penned the inappropriately titled “Conscience of a Conservative.”

Flake is no conservative and he certainly isn’t an “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” disciple of Barry Goldwater.

According to L. Brent Bozell III of CNS News, Flake is an imposter; “Since entering the Senate in 2013, Jeff Flake has, time and again, proven he is part of the indulgent hypocrisy in Washington. While he waxes poetically about conservative principles, his Conservative Review Liberty score is an abysmal 53%, also known as: 'F.' In 2013, I watched first-hand as Flake refused to sign a letter pledging to defund ObamaCare, among his many betrayals to conservatism. Jeff Flake is neither a conservative nor does he have a conscience.”

Flake is a perfect example of a longtime federal elected official who doesn’t match the ideological predilections of the people he represents. Flake’s practically open-border views on immigration are in stark contrast to those from his state who have had to live with the ill effects of illegal border crossings for what seems like an eternity.

Both he and John McCain appear to be among the deafest ears to the cries for help from the communities besieged by illegal aliens. Kelli Ward (Flake’s main challenger) received a lot of good publicity for her campaign against McCain last year and one can’t help but think she’ll be even stronger this time around against Flake.

And replacing Flake with a principled conservative would be a good start in returning the senate to a more limited-government, pro-federalism direction.

Meanwhile, libertarian-minded Republicans are also set on finding more people like Sen. Rand Paul to serve alongside him. W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner reported last week, “’Libertarians have a messaging problem, not an ideas problem,’ said [Austin] Petersen, 36. Ambitious and energetic, he is running for Senate in Missouri, a state President Trump carried by nearly 19 points in November, hoping to win the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“Maine state Sen. Eric Brakey, 29, is running on a similar platform to become the Republican challenger to Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. ‘He's much less of a Bernie Sanders independent and much more of a Hillary Clinton corporatist type who hands out favors to big-government cronies,’ Brakey said of his would-be opponent.”

Maine and Missouri are certainly two states that should draw a lot of interest from conservatives looking to break up the status quo in Washington. Though President Trump hasn’t specifically weighed-in on any races as of yet (other than in Alabama, perhaps), he will likely favor potential challengers to those incumbents and establishmentarians whom he sees as damming up the process.

Real change cannot take place without full cooperation from Republicans on important issues such as tax reform, the upcoming fight over raising the debt ceiling, next year’s federal budget and yes, maybe even another try at repealing Obamacare.

And if Mitch McConnell can’t or won’t instill some discipline on the Republicans in his chamber that are tarnishing the whole of the GOP brand, it’s time to find someone who will.

Even the #NeverTrumpers agree on this point. Kevin D. Williamson wrote at National Review, “…Republicans need congressional leadership. As ridiculous as it is to see the president of these United States bawling on social media that he just wants something to sign, McConnell and Ryan really ought to send him something to sign. If they cannot get that done, then they should make room for new leaders who can. Unified Republican control of the executive and legislative branches is not going to last forever, and there is much that needs to be done before the fickle fancy of the voters alights upon some new shiny object.”

Politics should not be the only consideration in assessing the quality of the leadership but Republicans and conservatives are clearly running out of options. Trump himself should not be blamed if something isn’t passed and the process can always be changed (see the “nuclear option”) if necessity calls for it.

With all the talk of replacing Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader, we may see a changed man once the Senate reconvenes. President Trump deserves a lot of credit for injecting some of the unpredictability back into politics – and the establishment should take notice.

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