“The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” McConnell told two associates just days after the uprising, referring to efforts to impeach Trump in the Democratic-led House, according to Times reporters. .
And of Trump’s guilt, McConnell was equally lucid: “If that’s not inscrutable, I don’t know what is,” he said. There has even been talk that McConnell himself might vote to convict Trump in a Senate impeachment trial.
But as the days passed, McConnell’s stance on Trump changed — so much so that when the Senate voted on whether to convict Trump in mid-February 2021, McConnell voted “no.”
So what changed McConnell’s mind? Did he conduct an analysis of Trump’s behavior that day and find evidence that exonerates the president? Nope!
“I couldn’t become a leader by voting with five people at the conference,” Times reporters said, quoting McConnell to a friend to explain his change of heart.
On one level, McConnell is absolutely right. The way you rise to the top of any party is to successfully channel the collective will of your colleagues. Making windmills pay is not the stuff of which successful leadership offers are made.
But there’s a big difference between doing the things that can get you elected to leadership and being, you know, a real leader.
Just a quick recap of what happened at the Capitol on January 6: An armed mob stormed the building for the express purpose of disrupting the counting of votes for the Electoral College. They did it because the then-President of the United States had, repeatedly and without any evidence, told them that the 2020 election was stolen.
In short, this is not a debate on immigration or education policy. In these situations, it makes sense for McConnell to take the temperature of his fellow Republican senators before offering his job.
But we are talking here about an armed assault on the United States Capitol! It was – and still is – a time when real leadership is required. When the political calculations about where you stand in the Senate should go because, well, democracy is literally under attack right in front of you.
That’s not what McConnell did. Instead, he backed off from his initial – and entirely justified – principled outrage at Trump’s actions (and inaction) because the majority of his party did not share his views.
It is not leadership. It’s the contrary. And the abdication of leadership by McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others in the Republican Party explains why Trump is stronger than ever today – as he continues to work actively to undermine public confidence in US elections.