Op-Ed

How to speak Russian to Sen. Mitch McConnell

The evidence continues to pile up suggesting that our senior Kentucky senator is a Russian sympathizer working for the greater interests of autocratic Vladimir Putin and his Russian henchmen.

First, ‘Moscow Mitch’ refused to bring to the Senate a bill that would have tightened election security to block Russian manipulation of voting in the 2020 presidential election. Then, the mass media reported our long-time Senate leader had prevented congressional efforts from continuing economic sanctions against Russia. Coupled with this move, a Russian aluminum company backed by an influential Russian oligarch benefited from the lifting the sanction apparently rewarded Senator McConnell by making a major investment in an aluminum mill project developed by Braidy Industries near Ashland.

For me, McConnell’s latest sobriquet, damning as it is, should not get lost amidst new the latest breaking news in 24/7 journalism. So let me share with friends and antagonists of Sen. McConnell some Russian language that might help them muster more proof.

One popular and oft-used Russian word is “To-var-ish,“ which means “friend” or “comrade.” Use this term if you want to cozy up to Sen. McConnell or hint that you really believe he is a Russian tool or asset. If you really wish to get his goat, you might call him a “iz-men-nik,” meaning traitor.

Because Moscow Mitch often seeks after personal gratitude and recognition for his political shenanigans from his allies, two Russian words come to mind: “spa-si-ba” and “horror-show.” The former means “thanks,” a term sure to warm Moscow Mitch’s heart if said enough times. The latter, which sounds menacing, really means “good,” in Cyrillic, while pleasing Russian term, “ot-ni-chi,” goes further and translates into “excellent.”

Of course, Comrade Mitch is also well-known on the Hill for his cutting political words and his sometimes fierce temper. So to give McConnell critics some verbal ammunition, the Russian term, “sklash-knee,” meaning “terrible” or “horrible.” Or in conversation with him or at a protest gathering at a McConnell campaign function, one might say something like: “Nyet! Ya sib-ya plo-ha chus-tv-u-ya!” (In English, “I feel sick!”)

Certainly, whether or the degree to which our powerful Kentucky senior Senator is an instrument of Russian international and foreign policy designs on our democratic institutions and the rule of law bears further scrutiny. He has succeeded in amassing significant power to frustrate or even thwart democratic norms and legislative processes. But could it be that Moscow Mitch is truly a secret Russian agent dedicated to undermining our Republic? Note that he, like many Republicans, no longer worries about the national debt or the yearly deficit, even spearheading a tax cut that overwhelmingly went to America’s wealthiest families and corporations. Looking below the surface, could such an action better be understood as working to further income and wealth inequality and promoting class warfare and revolution in the country?

Those who believe Senator McConnell has been around too long and achieved so little for Kentucky citizens, those who look forward to his defeat against Amy McGrath (or Matt Jones or Rocky Adkins) in November 2020, might well practice another Russian word: “da-svi-dan-ya.” With determination and hard work, with that higher patriotism never really honored by their senior senator, Kentucky voters might yet awaken on that glorious day after the 2020 senatorial election and be able to say, “Dasvidanya, Moscow Mitch. Dasvidanya!

Ernie Yanarella is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Kentucky. He retired from that institution in this past July.

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