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“It was only three months after the Democratic Party’s 2010 electoral “shellacking” when Vice President Joe Biden found himself in Kentucky keynoting a conference about the US Senate. There were few people better qualified to talk on the subject: Biden had spent virtually his entire adult life in the body and was one of the most outspoken proponents of its culture of chummy dealmaking. Topics ranged from its foundations and evolution to the influence of antebellum political giant Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser” who had staved off civil war through a series of famed bargains that also had the effect of extending the life of slavery.

Biden was on enemy territory. He was speaking at the behest of the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, which, like the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on whose third floor he prepared to deliver his remarks, drew its name from the source of its corporate funding: Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s longest-serving senator, who had ascended to the Senate Republican leadership over a twenty-six-year-long career founded on his unparalleled ability to raise money from powerful interests. McConnell, who would be speaking alongside Biden, was also the chief architect of the “shellacking” Biden’s party and administration had just received.”

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