Whereas as much as Republicans want to believe in the “just fade away” narrative, if Trump can be the nominee in 2024, he really might be, and even the shadow of that possibility will shape and warp the G.O.P. effort to leave the events of Jan. 6 behind.
What McConnell has before him, then, is an opportunity to exert agency, to wield power, that is entirely unique to early 2021, and will be long gone by 2024. There is no guarantee that using it will work, but at a moment when every Republican scenario looks bad, it seems more likely to leave Trump weakened than just doing nothing and hoping that some kind of wasting disease will carry his political potency away.
My expectation is that the lure of doing nothing and hoping for the best will still prevail, as it has for Republicans so often in this era. But there is a chance, at least, that a man who understands institutional power so well will see the opportunity before him, the chance to actually prevail over Trump and not just manage and contain him — and for all of our sake, take it.