McConnell Addresses Hillsdale College

WASHINGTON, D.C. On Monday April 15, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) traveled to Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan to accept an honorary degree. Leader McConnell delivered remarks on his career-long efforts to defend the Constitution and the major constitutional challenges facing our nation today. In addition to the excerpts below, his full speech is available on YouTube.

On judicial confirmations:

“I believe these lifetime appointments are the single most important thing we can do for the long-term future of our country... Filling judicial vacancies with men and women who see their job as applying what our laws and our Constitution actually say, regardless of personal views…

“This should not be a partisan position. In fact, it’s revealing that many Democrats see it that way. If simply applying the plain meaning of the Constitution looks like an attack on your agenda, maybe you should revise your agenda.

“The American people did not consent to be ruled by nine super-legislators or nine freelance moral philosophers. The people did not consent to unelected judges who start with an outcome in mind and then torture the text until it coughs up a convenient interpretation. So the president and I have prioritized restoring our third branch of constitutional government.

On the First Amendment and political speech:

“I see political speech as the mother of all freedoms. The liberty to exchange ideas is how self-government can play out and other important questions can be litigated. So I’ve built a reputation as somewhat of a First Amendment purist. I didn’t earn many new admirers by filibustering the famous McCain-Feingold legislation, with its limits on certain kinds of political speech. Nobody else was volunteering to defend ‘money in politics.’ I was the designated spear-catcher…

“The reality is simple. Washington D.C. cannot be in the business of limiting, stifling, or micromanaging what conversations Americans are allowed to have about Washington D.C. Of course it costs money to buy airtime and film commercials. It also costs money to run a magazine or buy posterboard for a political rally. Every act of expression costs something.”

On the cultural climate for free speech:

“I remember when I was in college, we could host all kinds of speakers and have great debates. Nobody thought it’d be more clever to shut down the debate than to win it. One year, we’d host Senator Barry Goldwater, the next, a socialist spokesman and perennial candidate named Norman Thomas The whole spectrum. And if we’d had ‘trigger warnings’ back then -- believe me, there was something to offend everyone.

“But now, we have this bizarre two-step. Step one is saying you are personally hurt and offended by hearing perspectives you don’t agree with. Step two is saying those hurt feelings should outweigh the speaker’s right to be heard and your peers’ right to listen... Every American should discipline ourselves to remember the difference between simple disagreement and permanent outrage, and avoid being part of the problem.”

On left-wing efforts to erode the Constitution:

“In the past three months alone, progressive leaders have proposed ending the Electoral College and switching to a national popular vote; packing the Supreme Court with more liberal seats; packing the Senate through new statehood for the District of Columbia; abolishing the Senate filibuster for legislation; and that Democrat-friendly overhaul of election laws I earlier mentioned.

“Progressives are openly acknowledging they’ll never get their agenda through our constitutional machinery as it’s operated for centuries. So, they’ve concluded, it’s the constitutional machinery that has to go. Change the rules if you can't win otherwise. This isn’t an ordinary policy debate. It’s an effort to change the rules of American politics itself. Our whole nation is founded as a delicate compromise between different states, different regions, competing interests. This seeks to blow all that up.

“Look how the two halves fit perfectly together. Policies that would let coastal cities like New York and San Francisco redesign the whole country in their image; paired with political changes, so that simply running up the score in those same few places would give you the levers of power…

“You’d better believe that my Republican colleagues and I are not about to let the fundamental traditions of our constitutional order crumble because Brooklyn and the Bay Area are tired of playing by the rules.”

Related Issues: Nominations, Restoring the Senate, Supreme Court, Judicial Nominations, Free Trade