How Mitch McConnell just psyched everyone out into thinking he won

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lost pretty badly on the first day of the Senate impeachment trial. He didn’t lose nearly as badly as he theoretically could have, but he nonetheless lost the day, and there’s reason to expect it might get even uglier for him next week. But because McConnell is skilled at manipulating the media, he managed to get the media and the Resistance to believe that he somehow got his way yesterday.

On Monday, Mitch McConnell announced what the rules were going to be for the impeachment trial, and he announced that he had the votes. But by Tuesday he had revised those rules to be notably less rigged in Donald Trump’s favor (though still rigged of course). It was obvious that McConnell’s own Senate Republican caucus had forced him to water down the rules overnight, or else he wouldn’t have changed them. In turn this means he was lying about having had the votes to begin with.

McConnell staked himself to something and couldn’t deliver. His own Republican caucus humiliated him. But as the trial went on, we saw those same Republican Senators vote to table every Democratic amendment to McConnell’s rules. Well duh. Even if the holdout Republican Senators do decide to call witnesses, they weren’t going to stake themselves to it yet. They’re waiting to see the public’s reaction to the trial, and then next week they’ll decide whether to cover their backsides by forcing McConnell to call witnesses.

Nonetheless, the media and the public came away from yesterday’s proceedings with the impression that Mitch McConnell somehow won the day. Really? His own Republican Senators forced him to change his trial rules. They’re already nervously whittling away at McConnell’s control over this trial. But because the TV cameras captured those same Republican Senators opting not to support any of the Democratic amendments (for now), everyone seemed to think McConnell somehow gained something yesterday. That simply did not happen. And yet McConnell psyched everyone into thinking that the day went radically differently than it did.

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