Amy McGrath is everything wrong with the Democratic Party. She launched her high-profile campaign Tuesday with a multimillion-dollar burst of fundraising, with Democrats across the country eager to see her upend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. By Wednesday, she was apologizing for a bizarre flip-flop-flip on a question — Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court — that seemed like a layup. In between, she told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that she was running on the mind-bending rationale that McConnell needs to go because he has been obstructing the agenda of Donald Trump.
Perhaps the strangest part of McGrath’s Kavanaugh answer — she said that she found Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of attempted rape against him credible, but that such charges don’t disqualify him, and she’d have supported his nomination — is that it wasn’t hypothetical. McGrath was a candidate for a House seat in Kentucky in 2018 when she was first faced with this question. Last summer, before Blasey Ford’s allegations were made public, McGrath took to Facebook to condemn Kavanaugh:
I echo so many of the concerns that others have articulated over the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
He has shown himself to be against women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and will be among the most partisan people ever considered for the Court. Apparently, he will fall to the right of Gorsuch and Alito on ideology, and just to the left of the arch conservative Thomas.
Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed and we are starkly reminded, again, that elections have consequences, and this consequence will be with us for an entire generation.
After Kavanaugh’s September confirmation hearing, at which Blasey Ford testified, McGrath said, “No one is owed a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Let’s get this right.”
She lost that race for Congress by 3.2 percentage points in a district that Kentucky political observers say is critical to carry for a statewide candidate. Her opponent, the hapless Andy Barr, an incumbent Republican, hammered her relentlessly for a private comment that was caught on tape at a Boston fundraiser. “I am further left, I am more progressive, than anyone in the state of Kentucky,” she told donors. Whether she was lying to them about lying to voters back home about her politics is anyone’s guess, but it’s a stark contrast with her new rationale for why she should be elected, that Trump just hasn’t been given enough support in enacting his agenda.
McGrath is a perfect encapsulation of what’s wrong with the party because her rise can’t simply be blamed on the deformed strategic thinking of Democratic leaders. To be sure, sources in Kentucky say, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer heavily recruited McGrath, believing she’s just the fighter to beat McConnell. So that’s certainly on Schumer, but this one’s also on Democratic primary voters, who first elevated her in 2018: When McGrath ran for her House seat, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was not on her side, and instead got behind Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington.
To primary voters, McGrath had something more powerful, the intoxicating combination of imperialism, tokenistic feminism, and resistance. She launched her House campaign with a viral ad celebrating her role as a bomber pilot, going so far as to use actual footage of a bombing in which, presumably, human beings were incinerated, their nightmarish last moments becoming fodder for a political ad. It’s been viewed nearly 2 million times, and helped win a close primary.
Most Democratic voters, in fact, opposed the Iraq war and want to see an end to the ongoing one in Afghanistan. Their support for McGrath, then, was likely not because they automatically support bombings around the world. But McGrath framed her campaign video as a story of a woman overcoming the patriarchy to fulfill her dream of becoming a fighter pilot.
Schumer leapt at the chance to recruit her not because there were no other options. Matt Jones, the state’s most popular sports talk radio host, an outspoken liberal who jousted with McConnell on air, has been floating a possible run, and McConnell has been watching him warily, as he scrambles the political calculus.
Charles Booker and Attica Scott, both popular African American state representatives, have been hinting at bids.
McGrath’s loss to Barr did little to dissuade Schumer that she was the right candidate to take on McConnell. He likely figured she’d be able to raise gobs of money online, meaning he wouldn’t need to worry about the Kentucky campaign.
Until, at least, it began.