MARY SANCHEZ: From the heart, the GOP launches a trial balloon | Opinion

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated the year former US Senator John Danforth took office (1968).

The Watergate robbery happened the year he was re-elected to that position, as Attorney General of Missouri (1972).

Danforth entered the US Senate a year after the Fall of Saigon (1975), a day that capped the country’s divisive and murderous role in the Vietnam War. He would serve three terms in the Senate, during which the nation would see the farm crisis of the 1980s, a debilitating financial period often compared to the Great Depression.

Danforth finally left office in 1994, the year his Republican Party regained control of the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years.

Such an arc, decades of principled service and experience, showed Danforth much of the potential of human nature to do good or evil. He is also an ordained Episcopalian priest and author of several books, one dissecting how the GOP has so far honed in on the Christian right.

Titled “Faith and Politics: How the ‘Moral Values’ Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together,” the book was published in 2006. Yet not even Danforth could have predicted the extreme politics of 2022.

At 85, Danforth is so mortified by the current state of political incivility and the terror of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that he’s willing to stand with other moderate Republicans behind what we could call a Hail Mary of the upcoming midterms.

The plan is to lead a Republican, but with a sense of ethics, as an independent. That could continue to take U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat into conservative — but moderate by current GOP standards — hands.

It should be noted that this idea preceded the mass shooting of elementary school students in Uvalde, the passage of the first major set of bipartisan gun reforms, and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Blunt was among the handful of Republicans whose support was needed to get the gun reform package passed by the Senate. He touts the bill’s promise to tackle mental health.

Surely, even anti-abortion conservatives cannot be satisfied with the prospect of the nation being torn apart by soon-to-be-playing state-by-state battles over abortion rights, which Roe’s overthrow sparked.

A truly “united” United States of America feels increasingly threatened.

Days before Roe’s fall, under the banner “A Better Choice for Missouri,” a committee formed to lobby former federal prosecutor John Wood to enter the race.

Wood is not a household name, even in Missouri.

But many have seen his face and witnessed his morals in action lately, as lead investigative counsel for the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol Riot.

Wood has officially left the committee, but as of this writing has not officially announced his candidacy.

The hope is that enough moderates will wrest a Republican Senate seat from the clutches of the goofy candidates currently in the lead. It’s a bet for the party.

An independent could easily withdraw votes to advance a Democratic candidate.

But hope for a return to civility and compromise is also at stake. If it works, the move to an independent could become a model for other states that are also trying to circumvent the antics of far-right candidates. crazy and frankly anti-American.

For Missouri, it could keep the Senate seat from a miserably troubled man.

The leading candidate is disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, whose mental health and rapidly flaring anger issues have caused his political peers and family members to ensure guns are kept out. of its scope.

You may have seen his latest antics. Earlier this week, Greitens released a campaign video portraying himself as a battle-hardened warrior with a shotgun and surrounded by an armed squadron in camouflage gear. They were looking for RINOs (Republicans in name only).

Greitens claimed the announcement was merely “tongue-in-cheek.”

But he could probably command the Trumpian base in a primary; MAGA voters who cannot be turned away from their chosen candidate no matter how low that person goes. Greitens is ineligible by any rational point of view.

He resigned as governor in 2018 as he was investigated for blackmailing him during an extramarital affair. Questions have also surfaced about his fundraising ethics.

All of this reminds us that there are more principled Republicans out there than the headlines often indicate.

Yes, Wood served as clerk for now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (who also has Missouri-Danforth ties). Thomas, along with his wife, are now in the spotlight for their extremist views and support for former President Donald Trump’s efforts to void the 2020 election.

But Wood’s service to the committee investigating the insurrection is deeply significant.

The same should be said for GOP Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and all of the state and other election officials in the Trump White House who pushed back under heavy pressure to thwart the transfer of power to the winner Joe Biden.

Danforth spoke with longtime Missouri political reporter Jason Hancock, editor of the Missouri Independent, as news broke of Wood’s possible entry into the race.

Consider his words as coming from Missouri to the ear of God:

“This campaign has nationwide implications,” Danforth said. “It’s very important in our state, of course, but I believe we can send a message through the people of Missouri that we need to change the policy.”