(With apologies to Stephen Vincent Benét)
It’s a story they tell about a land that occupied the smallest place in a once powerful nation.
Now, all that power was concentrated in one spot and one group whose fear of losing their authority was so great that they succumbed to the most corrupt individual between heaven and earth. So powerful, they say, that he could sell snake oil to snakes, and transform those who believed in the holiest of writs to turn away from scripture and become his most ardent followers.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
There was a man named Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. from a little town in Alabama. A new job for his father brought the family to Louisville, Kentucky where the bright youngster grew up and became adept in political affairs, eventually attaining a position in the country’s most deliberative body.
He wasn’t a bad man. He was an unlucky man. If he spoke up for the people back home, he got shut down. If he proposed legislation that would help the neediest, he was ignored.
“I just lose!” Mitch cried out one night. “It’s enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil!”
At that moment, a great windstorm rushed through his modest home and a curious figure appeared. He was a scraggly-looking fellow, short in stature but that was misleading because his power to persuade was considerable.
“Good evening,” he said with a crooked smile. “My name is Scratch.”
“Are you from around these parts?” Mitch asked.
“When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there,” he said. “When a persuasive man convinced Americans that communists were in their highest government institutions, I was there. While I am not in your books of history, my name is older than this country. I’m just an honest and humble man,” he bowed, “an answer to all your bad luck.”
Late into the night, the two spoke and after a while, Mitch shared his deepest wishes.
“I’m just tired of losing,” Mitch said.
“You are a most remarkable fellow, Mitch,” Scratch said, “Bright and strong; you can be anything you want to be… with my help.”
And with a clap of thunder and puff of dust, young Mitch found himself decked out in a pin-striped suit and power red tie.
“No longer will you lose,” Scratch said. “You will win everything you want, your deepest desires. I’m even throwing in the love and respect of the people you serve!
“Oh, I don’t care about that,” Mitch said.
“Really? It comes with the package.”
And so, young Mitch struck a deal. In exchange for his ambitions fulfilled, Mitch just had to sign away a little piece of himself.
“Nothing important,” Scratch said. “Nothing necessary for a man like you.”
Not long after that night, Mitch’s dreams became reality. He even rose to become the leader of that great deliberative body. So prominent had he become that he could bend others to his will.
Wherever Mitch went, whatever Mitch said, it was gospel. But something had decidedly changed. Rather than gratitude for the abundance that was his, a dark and dangerous bitterness took hold — for this is not a tale that ends with an epiphany and deliverance.
“All Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech,” he declared. “We now have… the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.”
And as Mitch spoke… it was so.
“For everybody who thinks it’s [global] warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t.”
And it was so.
In response to proposals from a lower chamber, like a “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All,” Mitch said callously, “…think of me as the ‘Grim Reaper.’ None of that stuff is going to pass – none of it.”
And it was so.
The bright and simple man from Kentucky who once had the country’s best interests in his soul, now had a heart of darkness that spread throughout his colleagues as he persuaded them all to fight any and all charges against their president even if the charges and evidence were palpable.
“There’s zero chance obviously that the president is going to be removed from office,” Mitch said with a sly smile.
While the oath taken by the participants in the great chamber required that they pledge to be judicious and impartial, Mitch avowed, “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”
And it was so.
As for Scratch, Mitch’s success became his success, but more so, for not only had he ensnared Mitch, but he was on the cusp of securing agreements from Mitch’s colleagues who are considering signing away that little part of themselves that Mitch said was unimportant.
Will it be so?