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The Agony and Ecstasy of Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell
Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
May 26, 2022

For the better part of the past five years, Mitch McConnell has crafted a veritable playbook for surfing the Trump wave while mitigating his exposure to the most vile and damaging elements of the former president. He’s been disciplined (never invoking Trump’s name), calculating (never a “no” just because Trump is a “yes”), and realpolitik (bear-hugging problematic Trump candidates, such as Georgia’s Herschel Walker, who allegedly held a gun to his wife’s head). This rare political dexterity explains why the Hammer has been elected unopposed Minority or Majority Leader of the Senate since 2007, a tenure in which he has been master of the legislative process and has had full command of the G.O.P. conference. 

It’s all a bit wild considering that McConnell is a deeply unpopular figure in the country, and even in his home state of Kentucky. But McConnell doesn’t care about popularity so much as he cares about the institution, and ultimately changing the country through confirming conservative judges, which he’s done at a record pace that will define his legacy.