Like it or not, and some do not, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky holds the preeminent national post in the Republican Party.
With a Senate divided 50-50, he will pick up some ripe plumbs, more than any minority leader in recent memory. But can McConnell himself unite the party until a 2024 front runner emerges?
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For practical Republicans, like this analyst, the answer is yes. Over his years in Senate leadership McConnell has proven both a wily tactician and strategist. His move only yesterday on the filibuster and power sharing proves his expertise. His emphasis on competence and a lack of ideological posturing is a very valuable thing to have on your side inside of power and out. He knows the Senate system and he uses it to the advantage of the party.
However, there are those still looking for a shining standard bearer, a Shaman-King to worship and follow to the gates of hell. They will not find that in McConnell. He is about achieving practical results with the cards he has, not boasting and promising things that are very unlikely to come to pass.
It goes to a deeper division not only in today’s scene, but in politics and government in general: The competent professionals versus the true believers.
There is an interesting, though perhaps apocryphal, story of the 1929 Soviet Communist Party. The decision then was ultimately, who would be the heir of Lenin? Trotsky or Stalin? Leon Trotsky, former head of the Red Army, was considered an impassioned leader and forceful speaker. After Lenin’s death in 1924 there was an internal war between his followers and that of party bureaucracy chief Joseph Stalin. As the story goes, at one event Trotsky spoke so well and brought the crowd to such a state of euphoria that a vote about to be taken on a matter much debated between the two sides was greatly assumed to be going Trotsky’s way. But while Trotsky was speaking Stalin was working the room, making promises and threats. The vote went overwhelmingly for Stalin. When someone asked Stalin how that was, given the reception received by Trotsky, Stalin mused, “Trotsky’s speech was beautiful. Beautifully useless.”
McConnell is no showboat and thus does not make true believers swoon or airplane hanger audiences bark with delight. But his expertise and cunning does more work for the Republican Party than ten screeching ideologues or demagogues. His behavior during the post election period was also beyond reproach, both as to the Party and the nation. But, you say, what about the Georgia runoffs? The loss there was due to another factor, a personal analysis McConnell made sure was leaked.
So, as we fight a defensive battle for at least two years, this is a man, a regent in a way, that we want at the helm until the return of a monarch. In this case, very possibly a queen.