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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

With Donald Trump sinking ever lower in the polls and odds-makers increasingly favoring Democrats to flip the Senate in November, the polls on the first day of August showed Democrats likely to emerge in the fall with complete control of Capitol Hill. It's enough to have Mitch McConnell sweating about his status as a future minority leader, if not future former senator. With that in mind, CNN reports that McConnell has given Republican Senate candidates permission to distance themselves from Trump, particularly on his mass-murder approach to the coronavirus and Trump's continued claims that it's safe for children to return to school.

The problem for Republicans looking to separate themselves from Trump is … they can't. By now, every single candidate up for election in House or Senate who carries a GOP label has signed on to Trump's most outrageous claims repeatedly. McConnell may have authorized them to show "flexibility" and "independence," but neither of those qualities have on display in the least over the last three years. Instead, even Republicans who went into the Trump era after disparaging Trump the candidate have been utterly subservient to his every random whim. They've backed Trump on his destruction of vital alliances, backed Trump in his racism and xenophobia, backed Trump on an endless array of unsupported conspiracy theories. And in January, they underscored their support for Trump by signing the ultimate loyalty pledge when Republicans in both House and Senate refused to remove Trump from office despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

Susan Collins is concerned. She has damn good reason to be, because Sara Gideon is smashing Collins in fundraising and running ahead of her in the polls. It's gotten bad enough that Collins is running ads in which her only attack on Gideon is that the Democratic candidate wants to do too many good things. Gideon should just run the same ad.

In past cycles, Collins has been the epitome of exactly what McConnell is talking about now—a Republican who votes with Republican leadership on every important issue, then discovers her "independence" in election season. But Collins, like every other Republican, finds that her suit of independent camo has been repainted in screaming orange after she supported a long line of unsuitable Trump nominees—topped off with Brett Kavanaugh—and then found that a little thing like strong-arming a foreign government to provide false evidence in a U. S. election wasn't enough to warrant a vote against Trump.

And Collins is the best of them. Let that sink in. Mitch McConnell is telling a group of people who have been more consistent and more vocal Trump supporters than Susan Collins, that they should now go forth and pretend that there's a dime's worth of daylight between them and the man currently trying to win the White House by undercutting election integrity and hoping that people in Democratic states will die.

That's not the only reason it's about three-and-a-half years too late for Republicans to begin demonstrating this independence. Having bowed down to Trump and refused to call him out over any statement, no matter how ridiculous, racist, or fascistic, Republicans are absolutely wedded to those policies. There is no Republican Party except the Donald Trump Party. There's not a single Republican voter who will reward them for being flexible. Absolute loyalty is their only real play, even if that means hanging onto the tail of the Trumptanic as it heads for the ocean floor.

Because there is definitely one person who will make sure that if they do try to claim any independence from Trump, they stand no chance at all—that's Donald Trump. Shooting "independent" Republicans in the back has been Trump's favorite sport. McConnell may have given them permission to edge away from Trump, Trump hasn't. The moment any Republican says a thing that seems counter to Trump's most muddle-headed utterance … Trump smash.

No matter what Mitch McConnell says, Republicans signed onto Team Trump in 2016 and utterly sealed their fate in January. They might as well just sit back and enjoy the ride, because they long ago sold their souls.


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