WASHINGTON — As the Republican Party censures, condemns and seeks to purge leaders who aren’t in lock step with Donald J. Trump, Adam Kinzinger, the six-time period Illinois congressman, stands as enemy No. 1 — unwelcome not simply in his occasion but in addition in his family, a few of whom not too long ago disowned him.
Two days after Mr. Kinzinger known as for eradicating Mr. Trump from workplace following the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol, 11 members of his household despatched him a handwritten two-web page letter, saying he was in cahoots with “the devil’s army” for making a public break with the president.
“Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!” they wrote. “You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!”
The writer of the letter was Karen Otto, Mr. Kinzinger’s cousin, who paid $7 to ship it by licensed mail to Mr. Kinzinger’s father — to ensure the congressman would see it, which he did. She additionally despatched copies to Republicans throughout Illinois, together with different members of the state’s congressional delegation.
“I wanted Adam to be shunned,” she mentioned in an interview.
A 42-12 months-previous Air National Guard pilot who represents a crescent-formed district alongside the Chicago’s suburbs, Mr. Kinzinger is on the forefront of the hassle to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political profession, skilled relationships and kinship with a wing of his sprawling household that his occasion’s future lies in disavowing Mr. Trump and the conspiracy theories the previous president stoked.
Mr. Kinzinger was considered one of simply three House Republicans who voted each to question Mr. Trump and strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from her committee posts. During the House impeachment debate, he requested Democrats if he may converse for seven minutes as a substitute of his allotted one, in order that he may make a extra authoritative and bipartisan argument in opposition to the president; the request was denied.
He has taken his case to the nationwide media, changing into a ubiquitous determine on cable tv, late-night HBO programming and podcasts. He started a brand new political motion committee with a six-minute video declaring the necessity to re-format the Republican Party into one thing resembling an idealized model of George W. Bush’s occasion — with an emphasis on decrease taxes, hawkish protection and social conservatism — with out the grievances and conspiracy theories that Mr. Trump and his allies have made central to the occasion’s id.
To accomplish that, Mr. Kinzinger mentioned in an interview, requires exposing the worry-based mostly ways he hopes to eradicate from the occasion and current an optimistic various.
“We just fear,” he mentioned. “Fear the Democrats. Fear the future. Fear everything. And it works for an election cycle or two. The problem is it does real damage to this democracy.”
Mr. Kinzinger mentioned he was not deterred by the Senate’s failure on Saturday to convict Mr. Trump within the impeachment trial.
“We have a lot of work to do to restore the Republican Party,” he said, “and to turn the tide on the personality politics.”
Mr. Kinzinger now faces the basic problem for political mavericks aiming to show their independence: His cussed and uncompromising nature rankles the very Republicans he’s making an attempt to recruit to his mission of remaking the occasion.
His anti-Trump stance has angered Republican constituents in his district, a few of whom liken him to a Democrat, and pissed off Republican officers in Illinois who say he cares extra about his personal nationwide publicity than his relationship with them.
“There doesn’t seem to be a camera or a microphone he won’t run to,” mentioned Larry Smith, the chairman of the La Salle County G.O.P., which censured Mr. Kinzinger final month. “He used to talk to us back in the good old days.”
Mr. Kinzinger is unapologetic about his priorities.
“Central and northern Illinois deserve an explanation and deserve my full attention, and they’ll get it,” he mentioned. “But to the extent I can, I will also focus on the national message because I can turn every heart in central and northern Illinois and it wouldn’t make a dent on the whole party. And that’s what I think the huge battle is.”
Mr. Kinzinger has drawn reward from Democrats, however he isn’t anybody’s thought of a progressive. His campaign website trumpets his longstanding opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and he’s an opponent of abortion rights and elevated taxes. He first gained his seat in Congress with Sarah Palin’s endorsement.
Raised in a big central Illinois household — his father, who has 32 first cousins, ran meals banks and shelters for the homeless in Peoria and Bloomington — Mr. Kinzinger was fascinated about politics from an early age. Before he’d turned 10 he predicted he would at some point be governor or president, Ms. Otto mentioned, and he gained election to the McLean County Board when he was a 20-year-old sophomore at Illinois State University.
He joined the Air Force after the Sept. 11 assaults and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon his discharge he joined the Air National Guard, the place he stays a lieutenant colonel. In the 2010 Republican wave Mr. Kinzinger, then 32, beat a Democratic incumbent by almost 15 share factors and, two years later, with help from Eric Cantor, then the House majority chief, ousted another incumbent, 10-term Republican Don Manzullo, in a major following redistricting.
But Mr. Kinzinger quickly grew to become dispirited by a Republican Party he believed was centered round opposition to no matter President Barack Obama proposed with out providing new concepts of its personal.
“His frustration level has been rising ever since he got to Congress and I think the Trump era has been difficult for him to make sense of and participate in,” mentioned former Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas, who was considered one of Mr. Kinzinger’s closest mates in Congress earlier than dropping a 2018 re-election bid. When loyalty to Mr. Trump grew to become a litmus take a look at for Republican conservatism, Mr. Yoder mentioned, “that became a bridge too far for him.”
While Mr. Kinzinger by no means offered himself as a Trump loyalist, he not often broke with the previous president on coverage grounds, however he was important of him courting again to the 2016 marketing campaign, when he was a surrogate for Jeb Bush.
Mr. Trump was conscious of Mr. Kinzinger’s lack of fealty. At a fund-raiser within the Chicago suburbs earlier than the 2016 election, Mr. Trump requested Richard Porter, a Republican National Committee member from Illinois, how Mr. Kinzinger would do in his re-election bid. He didn’t have an opponent, Mr. Porter recalled telling the longer term president.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Porter mentioned, poked his finger in his chest and instructed him to ship to Mr. Kinzinger a vulgar message about what he ought to do with himself. When Mr. Porter relayed the remark to Mr. Kinzinger throughout a dialog on Election Day, Mr. Kinzinger laughed and invited Mr. Trump to do the identical.
In Illinois, Republicans have been struggling to guess what Mr. Kinzinger’s subsequent transfer could also be. In the interview, Mr. Kinzinger mentioned he’s unlikely to pursue the 2022 nomination for governor or the Senate. Right now, he’s leaning towards operating for re-election, however with redistricting looming this fall, it’s unclear how the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature will rearrange his district.
What is evident is that Mr. Kinzinger has discovered himself on the incorrect facet of rank-and-file Republicans at residence. John McGlasson, the committee member for Mr. Kinzinger’s district, mentioned the congressman had been “insulting with his comments” since Jan. 6.
Republican voters interviewed within the district final week lambasted Mr. Kinzinger for turning on Mr. Trump.
“If you want to vote as a Democrat, vote as a Democrat,” Richard Reinhardt, a 63-12 months-previous retired mechanical engineer, mentioned whereas consuming lunch at a Thai restaurant in Rockford. “Otherwise, if you’re a Republican, then support our president. Trump was the first president who represented me. The stuff he did helped me.”
Mr. Kinzinger predicted “the hangover’’ of Mr. Trump’s post-impeachment popularity “will kind of wear off.’’
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, the last Republican to win statewide office in Illinois, in 2014, said Mr. Kinzinger could find himself a casualty of the bitter schism dividing the party. “The only winners in the war between Trump and Republicans will be Democrats,” Mr. Rauner mentioned. “For some voters, character matters. For most, it doesn’t.”
Mr. Kinzinger mentioned he has little need to achieve out to the loudest critics in his district’s Republican organizations, whom he hasn’t spoken to in years and mentioned maintain little sway over voters. The letter-writers in his household, he mentioned, endure from “brainwashing” from conservative church buildings which have led them astray.
“I hold nothing against them,’’ he said, “but I have zero desire or feel the need to reach out and repair that. That is 100 percent on them to reach out and repair, and quite honestly, I don’t care if they do or not.”
As to his personal future within the occasion, Mr. Kinzinger mentioned he’ll know by the top of the summer season whether or not he can stay a Republican for the long run or whether or not he will probably be motivated to alter his occasion affiliation if it turns into clear to him that Mr. Trump’s allies have turn out to be a everlasting majority.
“The party’s sick right now,” he mentioned. “It’s one thing if the party was accepting of different views, but it’s become this massive litmus test on everything. So it’s a possibility down the road, but it’s certainly not my intention, and I’m going to fight like hell to save it first.”
Ellen Almer Durston contributed reporting from Rockford, Ill. Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.