Politics Explained

Why McConnell doesn’t matter when it comes to Trump and the Republican Party

McConnell has become the latest former Trump ally to feel the wrath of the ex-president, whose list of friends within the Republican Party continues to shrink. Sean O’Grady explains what this means for any future political ambitions

Wednesday 17 February 2021 21:30 GMT
McConnell is no one’s first choice for the 2024 nomination. But Trump still has a shot
McConnell is no one’s first choice for the 2024 nomination. But Trump still has a shot (AFP via Getty Images)

Just for a change, you might say, Donald Trump has chosen to tell an old-fashioned truth about a political opponent. The former president says that his Republican “colleague” (loosely) Mitch McConnell is a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack”, which is about as near to scientific fact as politics gets. Of course, McConnell might well be a laugh-a-minute privately, a grinning fun-bunny back at home, a larger than life character who lights up a room every time he walks in; but in his monotonic public outings, not so much.

To be fair to the Senate Republican leader, he doesn’t really pretend to be anything other than a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack. He has no designs on the White House, and he makes Mike Pence seem a magnetic personality. Senator McConnell, unlike ex-president Trump, is at home in his own rumpled skin.

Evidently, too, McConnell’s recent devastating condemnation of Trump’s conduct has needled the notoriously thin-skinned former president. If McConnell thought that voting to acquit Trump regardless would endear him to Trump, he was mistaken. McConnell’s attempt to reconcile the mainstream Republican establishment with Trump’s rebellious base failed miserably. The blatant attempt to have it both ways has done him no good. McConnell knew he probably had the chance to end Trump’s ascendency and another assault on the White House in four years, and he refused to take the opportunity. He got no gratitude from Trump, predictably. Apart from the personal abuse, Trump warns McConnell and the whole Republican Party that if they “stay with him they will not win again”.

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