Rep. Adam Kinzinger on the fight for the future of the GOP: ‘That epic battle has commenced’

The most prominent Republican in Illinois, Kinzinger is stepping up his crusade to “RestoreOurGOP,” as his hashtag says, in this post-Trump era.

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“There is a real split for the future of the party and that epic battle has commenced,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Photo by Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON — Once again, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., on Thursday was the lonely voice, the only Republican to say freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., — the QAnon conspiracy booster — should be punished for supporting on-line threats to execute Democrats and suggesting incorrectly school massacres were “false flag” operations.

With twice-impeached ex-President Donald Trump out of the White House but retaining his grip on Republicans, “There is a real split for the future of the party, and that epic battle has commenced,” Kinzinger told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I’m fine being the only one doing it or one of just a few, but it would nice if more people that believe, similar to me, were vocal about it,” Kinzinger said.

GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Trump in Florida on Thursday to kiss Trump’s ring and pick up his pledge to help flip the House to Republicans in 2022.

The most prominent Republican in Illinois — mentioned as a potential candidate in 2022 for governor or senator — Kinzinger is stepping up his crusade to “RestoreOurGOP,” as his hashtag says.

His quest is an outgrowth of his campaign against conspiracy theorists that course adjusted after Trump tried to overthrow the election and his supporters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving five dead.

First elected to Congress in 2010, Kinzinger represents the sprawling 16th Congressional District, sweeping in 14 counties west, north and south of Chicago, with borders touching Indiana and Wisconsin.

He is one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s second impeachment.

Evangelist and Trump acolyte Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, likened the 10 to Judas Iscariot in a Facebook post: “It makes you wonder what the 30 pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

I asked Kinzinger about what Graham said regarding the 10, and he told me, “as a Christian myself it was just heartbreaking to see” how “far, you know, personalities in the movement have fallen.”

Kinzinger, 42, raised a Baptist, left that church when he was 20 and is now a “non- denominational Protestant.”

For Graham to “equate those of us that voted to defend the Constitution to Judas, who betrayed Jesus, aka Trump, I mean it was — I didn’t get mad about it because nothing really makes me mad, you know — but I was just, I was actually more heartbroken,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger did not vote for Trump in 2016 and did in 2020, based on his conservative record — even asKinzinger vaulted onto the national scene for taking on conspiracy theories embraced by Trump and his supporters.

A profile of Kinzinger led the Washington Post Style section on Thursday with him shrugging off death threats after the impeachment vote. It was headlined, “Willing to lose it all at any time.” An Air National Guard pilot, Kinzinger usually keeps a pistol with him; he told me he has conceal carry permits for D.C. and Illinois.

In a Jan. 25 Tweet, Kinzinger wrote, “Time for a restoration . . . inspiration and aspiration is no more, conspiracies are. I’m not giving up, I’m gonna do battle to #RestoreOurGOP Who is with me?”

I asked him about that. “I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to follow me . . . I don’t know if what I’m saying has success or not. But I do know, that no matter what happens, I have embarked on a noble journey that, you know, I’ll feel good about.”

Kinzinger’s journey led him to be the only Republican to call out Greene, who is the fringe of the fringe, and say on CNN on Thursday morning she should be stripped of her new appointment to the Education and Labor Committee.

This came after CNN’s KFile reported how she was supportive, before she ran for Congress, of assassination plots against Democratic leaders. YouTube video Greene posted before her election then surfaced of her chasing Parkland, Fla., school-shooting survivor David Hogg when he was on Capitol Hill lobbying for gun control measures.

Said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the GOP House leaders who have been mum about Greene, “What could they be thinking?Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing?”

Kinzinger remains the lonely Republican for now.

Said Kinzinger, “I don’t necessarily love having a big media profile at the moment but you know, I also do think there is benefit because it allows you to have an audience where you can make your voice heard.”

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