Obstruction, Destruction, and Reconstruction

Indivisible Guide
7 min readMar 4, 2024

By Ezra Levin, Indivisible Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director

Screengrab via CBS News

Mitch McConnell announced his soon-to-come retirement. The MAGA-packed Supreme Court he helped Trump create just delayed Trump’s coup trial for months. And any reasonable person paying attention can’t help but be spitting mad at this nationally-humiliating miscarriage of justice. So, enough preamble. Let’s get to The News, the Brag, and the Discussion.

The News: McConnell’s retirement and the Supreme Court’s dirty deal

You may have heard the celebratory cheers last Wednesday morning. Mitch McConnell announced he would step down as the Republican Senate minority leader at the end of this year.

Historians will write more about what carnage this man brought down on our republic. But I’m not a historian, so I’ll tell you what I saw with my own eyes: obstruction and destruction.


I started as a young legislative staffer on Capitol Hill in 2008, the week Lehman Brothers failed. It was a wild time with the economy imploding, a massively unpopular warhawk president exiting, and an historic blowout election that delivered a massive Democratic trifecta with a mandate for change. “Yes we can!,” we chanted in the streets in celebration that election night.

I’ll never forget Mitch McConnell’s response: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Use of the no-effort filibuster for the purpose of obstruction hit new heights while McConnell was minority leader during Obama’s presidency. During the first six years of Obama’s presidency, Minority Leader McConnell used the filibuster 643 times to kill legislation. Mind-boggling levels of obstruction.

And his power to obstruct reached beyond legislation.

After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, McConnell refused to even allow a debate on a replacement! It was an incredibly brazen act of obstruction — and he got away with it. The seat stayed vacant all year, Clinton lost, and Trump won the power to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the court after McConnell changed the senate filibuster rules to get him confirmed. Four years later, McConnell steamrolled through an uber-conservative replacement after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died — delivering the MAGA majority that would soon overturn Roe.

Then it was 2021, and we got a new Democratic trifecta, this time with Joe Biden at the helm. McConnell’s response? “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” That year, McConnell made it his top priority to kill our attempts to pass a democracy bill to get money out of politics, end gerrymandering, and protect voting rights. The year-long fight ended with him winning Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema over to his side, filibustering the bill to death in early 2022.


It’s darkly poetic that the same week McConnell announced his retirement, the Supreme Court announced it was handing Trump a major political win by delaying his coup trial for months.

Chris Hayes covered it well this week (thread here, on-air commentary here). In short, it’s an enormous political gift to Trump and incredibly damaging to the legitimacy of the court.

And this is what I believe history will most remember McConnell for — not just the obstruction of democratic processes but the destruction of democratic institutions.

At just about every step of the way, when presented with options to acquiesce and go along with Trump or use his unique position of power to assist the fight against MAGA extremist attacks on our democracy, our society, and our freedoms — McConnell followed Trump’s lead.

When Trump welcomed and encouraged Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections, McConnell backed him up.

When Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives after the world discovered he had extorted Ukrainian President Zelensky for political gain, McConnell ran defense for Trump.

After the murderous insurrection at the United States Capitol that threatened his own damn life and those of his fellow members of Congress, McConnell voted against convicting Trump a second time.

Now the court McConnell helped pack is protecting the guy who helped launch the attempted coup!

It’s so monumentally, ludicrously corrupt and bad that sometimes it’s hard to fully accept that this is the real world we live in and not some poorly scripted Netflix show that develops a cult following for its campy writing.

Yes, it was MAGA that brought the tiki torches, but it was McConnell who drenched the Capitol in gasoline. This cartoon is as good as any long analysis:

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

The Brag: Reconstruction after obstruction and destruction

We can wallow in despair at this destruction, or we can rush to put out the flames and plan to rebuild. How do we go about reconstructing what McConnell and MAGA have destroyed? What is the realistic vision for the future?

Well, have I got a book for you.

Earlier this week, I held a book club discussion with Senator Jeff Merkley and a few hundred Indivisible members from across the country. We were discussing Merkley’s (and his former Chief of Staff Mike Zamore’s) new book, Filibustered: How to Fix the Broken Senate and Save America.

I was surprised by this book. I’m a congressional nerd and so of course I’m going to like a book about the filibuster. And yes, I learned a lot about McConnell’s favorite obstructive tactic and the practical, real-world way we can change it. But beyond that, this is an engrossing book about American history, dysfunctional democracy under the Articles of Confederation, the precarious democratic norms created with the Constitution, weird accidents in history that turned into massive problems, and bitter, bloody, political fights. It’s a damn good read.

While I was interviewing Merkley about the book for the Indivisible book club, I saw a lot of comments in the chatbox along the lines of, “This is terrible! But what do we do about it?”

The answer is: We win a simple single senate vote to amend the rule. And we’re painfully close to the votes we need. In 2022, we came two votes away from reforming the filibuster to pass democracy reform. Sinema and Manchin sided with McConnell. That November, we picked up John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, who supports reform. That puts us one vote away in the Senate. If we hold our vulnerable seats (minus West Virginia) and replace Sinema with Ruben Gallego this November, we’ve got the votes we need to reform the filibuster, pass democracy reform, and codify abortion rights next year.

Is that a lot of ifs? Yes. Are we all worried because of the polls, the corrupt court, and political shenanigans to come? Of course. Even given all that, is this a reasonably plausible path to saving democracy? You bet it is.

Now, I’ll use a time-honored rhetorical trick to transition from actual content you may have wanted to yet another request for money:

Let me tell you an anecdote that made my blood boil.

It’s a quote from an article in this week’s Washington Post covering McConnell’s speech announcing his coming resignation.

“McConnell’s most emotional greeting came from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). McConnell wrapped her in a long hug, then grasped her hands as the two spoke quietly. When Collins gave impromptu remarks after McConnell’s speech, Sinema sat alone on the GOP side of the chamber and wiped away tears.”

We’re going to defeat Kyrsten Sinema. We’re investing in winning Arizona right now. We’re going to get an abortion rights constitutional amendment on the ballot. We’re going to replace Sinema with Ruben Gallego. We’re going to reform the filibuster to start reconstructing everything McConnell has spent a lifetime destroying. And we’re going to do that with grassroots donations. Your grassroots donations…that you invest in this effort by clicking here. So thank you :).

The Discussion: Building toward a national launch of Neighbor2Neighbor

One of the big ways we’re planning to get that 50th vote for filibuster reform, abortion rights and democracy is with our new relational organizing/canvassing tool that I wrote about last week — Neighbor2Neighbor. That’s the one that we’ve found is about two times as effective as traditional GOTV methods, and that will be the star feature of our voter contact program this year in target races across the country.

Our challenge this year will be to get as many people as possible involved in the effort to defeat Trump and MAGA, so thank you to everyone who wrote in with thoughts about how to recruit for this work. Some good ideas that stood out: working with folks in continuing care communities, working with volunteers to recruit other volunteers in a snowball effect model, having community launch parties to bring in new volunteers, creating a leaderboard to motivate and gamify the voter outreach, and working with folks in blue/uncompetitive races to recruit for Neighbor2Neighbor in competitive places.

Lots of great ideas to kick around here — thanks all who helped us brainstorm how to make this as big as possible. We’re preparing for a national launch of the program in the spring, so stay tuned!



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