Is Mitch McConnell politically damaged

Republicans caught on Trump issue

With 57 to 43 in the vote in the US Senate it was clear that a majority of the senators are of the opinion that Trump - with his behavior on the day the Capitol was stormed by a right-wing mob himself and in the weeks and months before - was responsible for the uprising. However, the two-thirds majority required for a conviction in an impeachment procedure was not achieved. Seven Republican senators voted for a conviction, 16 would have been necessary.

Even if a ban on office for Trump sought by the Democrats is no longer possible - one thing is clear: The outcome of this second indictment has at least seriously damaged Trump's chances of running again. The fact that - in contrast to the first impeachment related to the Ukraine affair - seven senators from within their own ranks voted, is a setback for Trump and shows how divided “his” party is.

McConnell's unfamiliar clarity

This was also evident in the speech by Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against a condemnation of Trump, but at the same time also approached the supporters of one in his own parliamentary group by saying: Trump's behavior on January 6th was “a shameful neglect his official duty ”. "There is no doubt that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day," said McConnell, who supported Trump in some self-denying way for years, with no lack of clarity.

"He is burdening the party with it"

Another Senator loyal to Trump, Lindsey Graham, immediately criticized McConnell: These statements would be used against Republican candidates in the 2022 midterm elections if the "GOP" tries to regain control in Congress from the Democrats. "I think Senator McConnell's speech was telling me what incriminated him, but unfortunately he was incriminating Republicans," Graham told Fox News. Graham made it clear that for him the party must continue to hold on to Trump in order to win again.

It can be assumed, however, that the experienced McConnell, who was thoroughly tactical, chose his words with care - and that he was also aware of how they could be interpreted and used in the further internal party dispute.

Trump busy investigating

Trump himself - cut off from his most important platform, Twitter - recently held back, but made it clear on Saturday that he does not intend to give up his access to the Republican Party: the "Make America Great Again" movement has "only just begun". Most of all, Trump will face multiple criminal investigations in the near future, including those in New York and Georgia.

Within the party, after the Voltum in the Senate, the fault lines between the clear Trump supporters, the determined opponents and those who do not want to declare themselves publicly deepened.

Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted in favor of Trump's condemnation, had been criticized by "GOP" officials in his state who were devoted to Trump. Cassidy himself is "part of the problem" and he should "not expect a warm welcome" when he comes back. Cassidy defended himself, saying, "As the facts get better and people have a chance to judge for themselves, more and more will be on my side," Cassidy told ABC News. “People (...) want to trust their politicians. They want them to be held accountable. "

The US version of the crucial question

Trump has long since become the crucial question for the Republicans: In particular, those Republicans who are considering running for the presidential candidacy in 2024 would be happy if Trump and his entourage were disempowered within the party. In addition to fundamental and party tactical considerations, you also have a solid personal motive.

You and all other Republican officials who criticize Trump under the palm of your hand but do not publicly distance themselves from him have one thing in mind: Trump's firm grip on millions of enthusiastic to fanatical supporters at the grassroots level. Many Republican MPs and officials at all levels do not want to risk scaring them off.

The Trump team had recently tried again and again to keep the party in line by pointing out that the ex-president's support for certain candidates is heavier today than ever before. This may be exaggerated in view of the approval ratings at the end of his term in office, but Trump's judgment is by no means insignificant - after all, more than 74 million Americans voted for him in the November election. The Republicans are also likely to perceive as a threat that, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Trump was playing with the idea of ​​founding his own party before he left the White House.

Moderate Republicans in the Democratic camp

For their part, McConnell and others see the need to win back the moderate party support that elected Joe Biden and the Democrats in November and helped defeat the Republicans. It is precisely them who are particularly angry about the storming of the Capitol and are in any case prevented from returning with oaths of loyalty to Trump.

Lisa Murkowski, Senator from Alaska and one of the seven Republican votes against Trump, is not worried about losing re-election in 2022. "If I can't tell what our president should do, why should I ask the people of Alaska to vote for me?"

What challenges will Biden face?

Strategic stage win for Democrats

Only a clear left turn - by US standards - without a clear rejection of Trump could perhaps bring this group of voters back to the Republicans. Even if Biden for his part is under pressure from his left wing of the party, the current president has always made it clear since his election victory that he is aware that he was also elected by many moderates.

Democrats would have liked nothing more than a final conviction of Trump. It would have been a great satisfaction for her after the last four years. Even if the moral victory failed to materialize: The approval of seven senators of the “GOP” is a success that should not be underestimated. Because it guarantees that the Republicans will remain deeply divided internally for the foreseeable future.

And that's exactly what could ultimately turn out to be the much greater benefit strategically: not only in the midterm elections in 2022, but also before that. It could lead to the fact that, at least in the Senate, the voting behavior that has been cemented for years breaks strictly along the party lines and votes are not decided solely thanks to the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. It would be exactly what longtime Senator and now President Biden hopes: more bipartisan compromises.

Guido Tiefenthaler, ORF.at

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