‘We’ve lost our moral authority’: Kinzinger unwilling to back off Trump

Source: Politico | December 5, 2020 | Melanie Zanona

The outspoken Republican is defining himself in a post-Trump GOP.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger is sticking around next Congress — and the Illinois Republican isn’t done sticking it to Donald Trump.

Kinzinger, fresh off a re-election victory in his conservative district nestled between Chicago and Peoria, has been dialing up his criticism of the president since Nov. 3. The 42-year-old lawmaker has long pushed back on Trump’s foreign policy moves. But with most of the Republican party still paralyzed by Trump’s brazen attempts to overturn the election, Kinzinger is staking his ground in the post-Trump GOP.

“We have two different directions to go as Republicans,” Kinzinger said in an interview. “And I’m on the direction of, let’s get back to our roots and explain what conservatism is, so we can actually win the generation we’re gonna need to stay relevant.”

His high-profile rebukes of Trump have left some in Washington wondering about Kinzinger’s political future. Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran who has served in Congress for a decade, could have opportunities to run statewide in 2022. That’s when both Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Gov. J.B. Pritzker — both Democrats — are up for reelection. And Kinzinger’s public criticism of Trump certainly couldn’t hurt a general election bid in a blue state like Illinois.

Kinzinger said he’s keeping his options open, but currently has no plans to run for higher office.

“I never rule anything out,” Kinzinger said. “But this isn’t some grand scheme to remake myself in some image. I think it’s the same image I’ve always had.”

While Republicans are slowly starting to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect, most GOP lawmakers who have publicly challenged Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud are either retiring or already out of office. It’s a testament to the grip Trump still has on the party, even in defeat.

Yet Kinzinger says he isn’t scared of the blowback from the party’s base or damaging his standing among fellow Republicans, making him a rare breed in today’s GOP. “I’m not saying this to try to sound cool,” he said, “but I’m not afraid of anything in politics.”

Kinzinger also insists he has no motive other than feeling a genuine, moral obligation to counteract the rhetoric Trump and his allies are peddling — and Kinzinger wishes more of his fellow Republicans would stand up, too.

“I think the long term impact of this could be devastating … It’s important to be outspoken,” said Kinzinger, who acknowledged he is “concerned” about the direction of his party. “That’s why I decided to put this on the line. We’ve lost our moral authority to be outraged.”

“When you end up where principles don’t matter, beliefs don’t matter, it’s just about who can be the loudest and kind of maintain power through raw anger and aggression, you’re no different than a lot of Latin American countries at that point,” he added.

Kinzinger has long been willing to break with Trump over foreign policy and national security issues, such as the president’s plans to draw down U.S. troops abroad. He also famously admonished the president’s “both sides” comment after the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va. But in recent weeks, Kinzinger has pushed back on the president in increasingly aggressive ways.

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