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McConnell is Stuck with Trump

3 min read

For a brief moment after Trump sent his myrmidons to storm the Capitol where Mitch McConnell was telling the Senate the Biden election was legal, he was angry at what had just happened that he actually showed emotion.

“The mob was fed lies,” the GOP leader said on the Senate floor [on Jan. 19]. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”…

Moscow Mitch was angry enough at The Orange Insurrectionist to privately back his impeachment.

But then he joined almost all Republicans on Tuesday to vote that trying the impeached president after he left office (a trial he himself had delayed) was unconstitutional. That means he will almost certainly not vote to convict Trump next month. What happened?

Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times have an explanation: McConnell Was Done With Trump. His Party Said Not So Fast.

For Mr. McConnell, a leader who derives his power in large part from his ability to keep Republicans unified, defying the will of his members would have been a momentous risk, putting his own post in peril and courting the ire of the far right.

In short, Trump still has a stranglehold on the GOP. Any Republican who crosses him can expect a primary opponent and probably threats of violence. McConnell himself just won a sixth (?!) term and is not likely to run again at his age, and he probably has special protection as minority leader, but the rest of his caucus is not so safe. And he needs them if he is to regain power in 2022 — which we will do our best to stop, of course.

While few have defended [Trump’s] conduct, many fewer have dared to back the impeachment push. The 10 House Republicans who did join Democrats in voting to impeach him faced fierce backlash, and in the Senate, constituents were flooding offices with phone calls indicating they expected their senators to stand behind Mr. Trump.

“Let’s face it: Many of the people there — they want to be re-elected, most of them,” said Bob Corker, a former Republican senator from Tennessee who retired in 2018 after clashing with Mr. Trump. “For those people, whose service in the Senate is their entire life, I’m sure just what they are hearing back home has an effect on them.”

McConnell is well aware of the damage Trump has done to the party (and, incidentally, to the country), and the damage he can continue to do:

Mr. McConnell remains eager to move beyond Mr. Trump. While his House counterpart, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, was set to meet Mr. Trump on Thursday in an effort to repair his relationship with the former president, the Senate leader gladly told reporters he had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Dec. 15, after Mr. McConnell congratulated Mr. Biden as the president-elect. He has told allies he hopes never to talk to Mr. Trump again.

But he can’t. Moscow Mitch chose to ride the tiger, and if he ever lets go, he’ll be eaten. He looks to be eaten in any case. He will now go one of two routes, depending on whether he cares more about coming back to power by yielding to a man he despises, or if he is more worried about his legacy and about restoring enough of the country to keep himself and his backers in wealth and comfort.

All this because Trump, who cares only about himself, is using his ugliest weapons to accomplish two — and only two — things: Stay in the limelight, and stay out of jail.

(This diary should be read together with AlyoshaKaramazov’s Boy, Mitch McConnell Ain't the Gangsta He Used to Be. . .)

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