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An Appreciation of Mitch McConnell

WASHINGTON, DC - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell goes on and off the floor during an all night session to consider the Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Thursday July 27, 2017. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
WASHINGTON, DC - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell goes on and off the floor during an all night session to consider the Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Thursday July 27, 2017. (Phot... WASHINGTON, DC - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell goes on and off the floor during an all night session to consider the Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Thursday July 27, 2017. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 17, 2021 10:27 a.m.

Before you get your hackles up, no … this isn’t a post inducting Mitch McConnell into the Resistance. It’s not a post painting McConnell as part of some institutionalist, non-Trump GOP. It’s none of those things. McConnell is just as awful as you and I always thought and in many ways critically responsible for sustaining Trump through his four years in office. My point is a different one, but I think important. I had writing this post in mind before ex-President Trump’s tirade yesterday. But his tirade for me cast the whole reality in a starker and clarifying relief.

The House GOP especially has had a series of weak, often feckless leaders, with Kevin McCarthy being just the latest, weakest and least fecked. But as I wrote back on the 11th, this isn’t really about bad luck or weak character. It’s built into the structure of the modern GOP. The GOP has weak leaders because weak, figurehead leaders are part and parcel of the GOP being a rightist, revanchist party while masquerading as a center-right party of government. The Jim Jordans and Steve Kings and Louis Gohmerts of the GOP prefer to run their party from the back benches or committee chairs under nominal leaders like McCarthy because it gives them power without accountability, a combination which is the mother’s milk of today’s conservative politics. McCarthy, famously and notoriously, went from privately telling colleagues that he believed Trump was literally on Vladimir Putin’s payroll to becoming one of Trump’s most committed and lickspittleyest toadies.

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