Does Mitch McConnell Still Represent the GOP? – Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been at loggerheads with former President Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again movement for several years now – but the Republican leader’s recent decision to vote with the Democrats on a controversial gun safety bill was described by the former president as the “last straw.”
It suggests that the GOP Senate minority leader is probably out of touch with much of the rest of the party, or that the party has moved on and left him and others like him behind.
With polls repeatedly showing that a majority of the Republican party wants to see the former president maintain his position of power in politics and even run again in 2024, this disagreement could ultimately see McConnell lose his position within the party.
When that will happen, however, is anybody’s guess.
It’s hard to say whether the Republican party will oust McConnell or whether this veteran GOP politician will stick around until retirement. What we can say with certainty, however, is that McConnell’s brand of Republican conservatism is no longer mainstream or popular.
Much of the GOP’s traditional policy priorities have changed since Trump took office in 2017, and those new priorities don’t seem to have disappeared even after Trump left the White House.
Curiously, immigration is not a policy where the former president and the Senate minority leader have publicly disagreed in any substantial way.
In fact, McConnell was slammed during the Trump administration for being the “enabler-in-chief” of the former president. McConnell was also criticized by the progressive-leaning media site Vox for not condemning Trump’s “racist” tweets on immigration.
McConnell even supported former President Trump’s DACA compromise proposal back in 2018. The plan would likely be off the cards if he re-enters the White House in three years’ time, not just because of the bad-faith negotiations from the Democrats on the matter but also because Trump’s own base almost certainly wouldn’t forgive him for it.
Under Trump’s proposal, the 1.8 million DACA recipients would have been given an eventual path to citizenship in return for increased funding for border security.
However, with several million illegal aliens apprehended at the border since President Joe Biden took office, there’s still room for Trump and McConnell to disagree on this issue in the very near future.
Former President Donald Trump condemned the violence that occurred that day and explicitly called for peaceful protests on multiple occasions – this is well documented.
But that didn’t stop the Democrats from launching a politically-charged House Select Committee that ultimately blamed the former president for violence and trespassing that occurred on Capitol Hill that day. It also didn’t stop two decidedly anti-Trump Republicans from joining that panel.
For the most part, however, McConnell has agreed with the Democrats on January 6. In January last year, McConnell told the Senate floor that Trump provoked the riot.
“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said.
Only days after the riot took place, McConnell reportedly expressed support of coming efforts by the Democrats to stop Trump from running again.
“The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” McConnell allegedly told two associates, according to the New York Times.
Republicans generally feel differently about January 6 and the subsequent investigation, however. 69% of Republicans don’t believe Trump bears much responsibility for the riot – and if the Democrats and McConnell think that the majority of the country believes the contested and baseless claim that Trump called for violence on January 6, then they should think again.
Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said this year that while a majority of Americans believe that Trump bears some responsibility for what happened, there is “no consensus” that Trump should face criminal charges.
Presumably, that’s because there is no evidence that the former president called for violence or for protesters to do anything other than protest peacefully.
What’s more, the anger behind both the riot and the peaceful protests that took place that day is shared by many Republicans. One national survey by USA Today found that just 33% of Republicans believe that President Joe Biden was legitimately elected. Republicans have since spent the last 18 months voicing concerns about unfair private election funding for Democrat-voting regions in 2020, chain of custody issues with unsecured ballot drop boxes, and the constitutionality of the mass mail-in ballot system used in many vital swing states in the last presidential election.
Love or hate former President Trump, the party he still leads has concerns about election integrity – and McConnell doesn’t.
On Thursday, former President Donald Trump slammed McConnell in a post on his Truth Social online platform, calling the passing of the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades a “career-ending” move.
In a 65-33 vote, which saw 15 Republicans siding with the Democrats, the Senate voted to allocate millions of dollars in funding for mental health and crisis intervention, create incentives to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
McConnell was among the 15 Republicans who voted for the legislation which Republicans have warned sets a worrying precedent for legislators to infringe on Second Amendment rights.
In his Truth Social post, the former president slammed McConnell for working with the Democrats while getting nothing in return.
“Mitch McConnell’s push for Republican Senators to vote for Gun Control will be the final straw. Just like he gave away the Debt Ceiling and got NOTHING in return, or handed the Dems a great sound bite and victory with the Infrastructure Bill, which is actually all about the Green New Deal, he is now forcing approval of the FIRST STEP IN TAKING AWAY YOUR GUNS! Republican Senators SHOULD NOT VOTE FOR THIS CAREER ENDING BILL!!!” Trump said in his post.
It’s clear at this stage that McConnell’s brand of conservatism doesn’t reflect the mainstream Republican Party.
Whether it reflects the mainstream views of independent voters tired of extremism from the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden’s appalling handling of the economy remains to be seen.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.