The Other Side
Well, last Friday the Senate came to that fork in the road and took it. Too bad the path the majority chose led to an abyss. And like sheep, they blissfully followed each other over the edge, taking us with them. So much for the courage to pursue the truth. So much for conducting a trial, one with witnesses and relevant documents. So much for co-equal branches of government, as the administration is now able to just say ‘no’ to Congressional subpoenas and be supported by the Senate. So much for the rule of law and the quaint notion that no one is above it. So much for the Constitution. So much for democracy. And the majority in the Senate did it boldly, unapologetically, maybe even proudly on national TV, right before our eyes as the world watched.
Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of your beliefs about the president, make no mistake: We’re screwed. All of us.
Welcome to the other side.
The vote last week regarding whether to permit testimony of eyewitnesses was largely along party lines. Why? What would motivate one party to work hard to prevent testimony and the introduction of relevant documents in a trial, despite a whopping 75% of registered voters polled recently by Quinnipiac University stating that witnesses should be allowed to testify. (This includes 49% of Republicans, 95% of Democrats and 75% of Independents of those surveyed.)¹ Aren’t most senators lawyers? Didn’t they go to and complete law school? Are they unaware of the basic process of a trial? Have they never watched Perry Mason or Law & Order or seen A Few Good Men or Witness for the Prosecution? What valid argument could be made to prevent testimony or the introduction of relevant documents? What is to be gained by not getting the full truth, especially in a proceeding with so much hanging in the balance? How could it be that one party’s view of fairness is diametrically opposed to that of the other party? Most importantly, how is it that in the Senate ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ appears to be defined exclusively along party lines? Can’t they agree on anything?
We’ll know more this week and in the weeks ahead as tangible evidence of wrongdoing by the administration will undoubtedly continue to find its way into the public domain. We’ll also learn this week the position of many Republican senators, as they stand amongst their colleagues Monday and Tuesday on the Senate floor and explain their thinking on impeachment and their vote to prevent witnesses during the ‘trial.’ Look for self-serving accusations and defensiveness. Also look for evidence of damage to elbows. (It’s typically the elbow that’s injured when one’s arm is twisted.)
Florida Senator Marco Rubio may have captured the essence of the Republicans’ ‘logic’:
“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office…I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation.”²
Let me translate for Senator Rubio: The guy’s guilty, but so what? And let me infer the true meaning: I don’t have the strength or courage to take a stand or lead. Sidestepping is much safer. I get paid regardless. If I’m ever charged with a crime, I want Rubio on the jury.
When they go before the Senate, Republican senators will no doubt express the belief that impeachment is an attempt to nullify the will of the American people as expressed in the 2016 election. Others will explain that the upcoming election will give voters the chance to render a verdict. (If they really want us to decide, shouldn’t we be provided with all the facts?) Still others will have bought the breathtaking argument made by Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for the president:
“If a president does something which he believes will help him get reelected, and if his being reelected is in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”³
Which means, in plain English, that a president can do anything to get reelected if he or she believes that it’s in the best interest of the country to win the election. What sitting president would think otherwise? In fairness, Dershowitz later claimed that his statements, repeated numerous times before the Senate and the press, were taken out of context and were misinterpreted. Right.
All three points of view — an attempt to undo the 2016 election, the need for voters to decide, and the belief that bad behavior is justified if it’s in the national interest — are self-serving, like all rationalizations, and are concerted attempts to avoid the real truth: Republican senators are, for the most part, without courage or honor. They put personal and/or party needs before the interests of the country by validating illegal behavior and enabling a coverup. Far worse, their validation has created an all-powerful Executive branch, one unfettered by the law; has lessened the power of the Legislative branch — which, and this is important, diminishes our ability to influence the direction of the country through the democratic process — and it has undermined the Constitution and the foundation of our republic. They haven’t made America great. Quite the contrary. They’ve made America less American. They’ve created a king.
Have concerns about our ability to hold fair, unbiased elections? Now you should. Because last Friday the U.S. Senate validated and endorsed the effort to manipulate our elections orchestrated by the administration with the help of foreign interests, along with the blatant and systematic coverup of those actions. According to the Senate, it’s now just fine to do what the Constitution prohibits: involve foreign powers in our elections and claim not to have done so. Be ever wary of television ads and social media posts in this and all future elections, for their origin, their truthfulness will be suspect. Also beware of both blatant attempts to jerrymander and specific, devious efforts to prevent the poor and minorities from voting, especially in presidential elections. Anything to depress voter turnout among largely Democratic populations. Anything to protect the interests of the president and the Senate majority.
Remember when voting was the most patriotic, the most cherished American thing we could do? It still is. But if you’re a person of color and/or are poor, be on the lookout for efforts to keep you ever farther away from polling places and ways to make it difficult to vote if and when you get there. Your point of view is not wanted by those in power.
In the end, the majority’s vote to prevent witnesses and documents is a vote against all of us. We should take it personally, as Republicans in the Senate are telling us that we do not matter. None of us, regardless of political affiliation. It’s a sobering message, but one we must hear and accept.
While that sinks in, mark this date: January 31, 2020. It’s the day the U.S. presidency became a monarchy, the day we went, in a blink of an eye, from being citizens with a voice to near-powerless subjects. January 31, 2020 is the day the music died.