Analysis: Trump sets off yet another GOP civil war, risking party’s midterm strategy

“We all were here. We saw what happened,” McConnell said of the attack on the Capitol. “It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next.”

If McConnell is playing a “long game,” which is what he titled his memoir, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is playing a short one — since he likely depends on Trump’s blessing to become speaker if the GOP wins the House majority in November.

The California Republican excused the RNC language, contained in a resolution that censured GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming for joining the House select committee probing the January 6 insurrection.

“Anybody who broke in and caused damage, that was not called for. Those people, we’ve said from the very beginning, should be in jail,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju while claiming that the resolution was referring to subpoenas from the committee to RNC officials who were in Florida during the Capitol attack.

But the censure resolution made no such distinction. And the committee is empowered by the Democratic-led House to investigate events up to and including January 6, 2021.

Trump could distract GOP from Biden attacks

Yet again, the GOP is being dragged into internal recriminations and down an extreme road that could lead to violence and fresh assaults on democracy by the demagoguery, loyalty demands and obsessions of the ex-President.

The RNC’s whitewashing of the true nature of the insurrection is typical of the cult-like subservience many in the party still show to Trump. It made clear that the price of entry to the 2022 campaign for Republicans is now not just acceptance of Trump’s stolen election delusions but a willingness to deny the truth of the worst attack on democracy in modern American history.

Republicans are frustrated by RNC move reopening party's January 6 divide ahead of midterms

But such radicalism threatens to turn the midterm campaign into yet another public therapy session for the ex-President, who still cannot accept his 2020 election defeat. It will not be lost on McConnell that Trump’s post-election tantrum helped cost the party two US Senate seats in Georgia runoff elections that would have made him majority leader.

This time, Trump’s fury threatens to drown out the searing attacks planned on Biden’s presidency by Republican strategists and remind critical suburban voters why they soured on the GOP during Trump’s presidency.

McConnell’s strategy

The clarity of McConnell’s language, which is rare in a party afraid to contradict Trump, deserves credit. It reflects his mastery of the conference and confidence he faces no internal threats, despite the ex-President’s multiple attempts to incite a revolt against him in the Senate.

The minority leader’s words were also characteristic of McConnell’s tendency to give his senators political cover — one reason his leadership position is so secure. Senators questioned about January 6 can now refer directly to their leader’s remarks without getting drawn into politically damaging quotes that might alienate them from supporters back home.

Mitch McConnell just smacked down the RNC

Critics may argue that McConnell’s remarks were too little too late. The Kentucky Republican has previously made his own accommodations with Trump, despite his disdain for the ex-President. His willingness to tolerate the lawlessness of the Trump presidency helped deliver the conservative Supreme Court majority that will endure for years — and for which McConnell and Trump will be remembered for generations. He vigorously condemned Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol insurrection.

But his decision not to vote for the ex-President’s conviction in his second impeachment trial, which could have led to his disqualification from future public office, represented a realization about the ex-President’s continuing hold over the party. And McConnell has already said that he’d support Trump in 2024 if he is the Republican nominee. The comment was a signal, if one were needed, that an ultimate choice between breaking with Trump or securing another spell as majority leader would not be a choice at all.

Several of McConnell’s colleagues were explicit about the party’s strategic path on Tuesday, reflecting anger over the RNC’s self-inflicted wound.

Sen. Thom Tillis said that the moment protesters entered the Capitol building, it was “no longer discourse. It was riot.”

The North Carolina Republican sought to refocus the attack on the Biden administration, saying, “I think that we as a party need to recognize that people are worried about the economy, they’re worried about the continuing struggles with Covid, they’re looking ahead, and that’s what they want us to do.”

A split that promises to widen

Republicans have a simple task in the fall — hammer Biden for high inflation, failing to fulfill his pledge to end the pandemic and for perceived weakness abroad. History, which is almost always unkind to presidents in midterm elections, could do the rest. But while McConnell sees the…

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