“If #MidnightMitch & Trump think that all of us are going to be asleep during the trial, they have another thought coming because I and others will stay up all night long to hear the democratic team lay out the charges against this criminal enterprise in the White House!” tweeted Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
The memes continued even after McConnell’s resolution was changed to relax the timetable for arguments, stretching the 24 hours of testimony over three days instead of two.
The nickname was apparently coined by Carl Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter whose reporting on the Watergate scandal led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation.
“Now we’re looking at ‘Midnight Mitch’ and the so-called world’s greatest deliberative body really embracing a coverup that is there for all to see,” he said during a Monday interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “That’s what this is about. It’s about preventing information from becoming known and seen by the American public.”
Online, liberals invoked the name to decry a Senate impeachment trial they feel has been fixed from the start, when McConnell vowed “total coordination” with the White House and Trump’s defense team.
Laurence Tribe, a prominent Harvard Law professor, criticized McConnell’s first version of trial rules, saying they “aren’t rules for a real trial at all, much less a fair one.”
“They’re rules for a rigged outcome, with #MidnightMitch making sure that as much of the so-called trial as possible takes place in the dark of night,” he said in a tweet.
But like past nicknames meant to disparage, hurled at McConnell by critics and political rivals, conservatives have co-opted Midnight Mitch and turned it into a term of endearment.
“Even if they changed the rules so the Democrats could go to bed early, he’ll still be #MidnightMitch to us,” Matt Whitlock, a National Republican Senatorial Committee senior adviser, wrote on Twitter, joking that Republicans had made Midnight Mitch action figures.
The strategy mirrored the way McConnell’s team responded when a GOP Senate candidate from West Virginia, former coal magnate Don Blankenship, tried to smear the majority leader. In 2018, Blankenship aired a campaign advertisement that referred to McConnell, without any context, as “Cocaine Mitch.”
It was an apparent nod to a years-old allegation that the family of McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has a shipping background connected to drug dealers. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has debunked this claim and awarded it “Four Pinocchios,” meaning Blankenship had absolutely no evidence to support his peculiar assertion.
But in the months since that ad aired — and Blankenship lost his primary race — McConnell and his campaign have repeatedly adopted the name. In one notable example, McConnell’s campaign used the nickname on a T-shirt showing his outline and complete with a dusting of cocaine that leaves the likeness looking more like a drug kingpin than a top politician.
It quickly became one of the campaign website’s hottest-selling products.
However, when Democrats dubbed him “Moscow Mitch,” after he blocked efforts to pass election security bills, McConnell was outraged. He compared the attack to “modern-day McCarthyism,” and took to the Senate floor in July to rebut the nickname and its implications.
“Over the last several days, I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of boldfaced lies,” McConnell said. “I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years: Vladimir Putin.”
This week, his critics have revived that barb, forming a portmanteau with his latest tag: #MidnightMoscowMitch.
But McConnell has indicated that he’d prefer to be known by yet another nickname, one he happened to give himself as he boasted about overseeing the “legislative graveyard” for liberal ideas.
“Think of me as the Grim Reaper,” he said in April. “None of that stuff is going to pass.”