The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The GOP is having a reckoning, and McConnell seems to be on the right side

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the Capitol on Jan. 1.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the Capitol on Jan. 1. (Amanda Voisard/For The Washington Post)
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AS REPUBLICAN Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) talked on “Meet the Press” about his effort to defend his party from Trumpian extremists, the formidable challenge he confronts was on display on another Sunday news show. Asked by ABC’s Martha Raddatz about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and her lunatic views, the best that Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson could muster, after a lot of fudging and dodging, was that he wouldn’t vote for her.

What needed to be said — what too many Republicans have been too afraid to admit — was thankfully stated the next day by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement that never mentioned Ms. Greene by name but left no doubt about the subject. “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” he said. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”

Mr. McConnell’s statement — which he followed with a testimonial on behalf of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, threatened with losing her Republican leadership post because of her vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump — was reassuring: At least there is a battle over the soul of the Republican Party. Will it, as Mr. Kinzinger hopes with his launch of a new political action committee, eschew the “darkness and division” of the past four years and return to its traditional conservative values? Or will Mr. Trump, enabled by the complicity and cowardice of Republicans who fear being primaried by the likes of Ms. Greene, maintain his cultlike grip?

Mr. McConnell’s statement comes as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was set to meet with Ms. Greene to talk about her noxious views. Democrats had told Mr. McCarthy that unless she is stripped of her committee assignments, they would bring the issue to the floor. It was obscene to give someone a seat on the education committee after she called the massacre of elementary school students a “false flag” event.

But Ms. Greene is not the Republicans’ main problem. For that, they have only to look at Mr. McCarthy still currying favor with a former president whose actions just weeks ago placed Mr. McCarthy’s life and that of every other lawmaker in danger. Or at Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) waging an opportunistic campaign to unseat Ms. Cheney for voting her convictions. Or at party leaders attacking Republicans who act with courage and patriotism, such as Cindy McCain, the widow of Arizona Sen. John McCain, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

The central Republican problem is exemplified by the refusal of so many of them to speak a simple truth: that Joe Biden won and Donald Trump lost in a free and fair election.

Mr. McConnell’s forceful statement is significant and encouraging. We hope it signals a moral repugnance with the consequences of Mr. Trump’s leadership. But Mr. McConnell is nothing if not shrewd, and presumably his statement also reflects a calculation that Ms. Greene and her type of politics are bad for the Republican Party. That provides some hope — however slim — that this once-proud party might return to its senses.

Read more:

Max Boot: Rob Portman has done more damage to America than Marjorie Taylor Greene

Greg Sargent: The post-Trump fumigation takes an important new turn

Michael Gerson: Trumpism is American fascism

Colbert I. King: The GOP once knew what to do about problems like Marjorie Taylor Greene

Paul Waldman: What the GOP war over Marjorie Taylor Greene is really about