Memo to Republican Senators:
- Understandable cowardice is still cowardice.
- It is not only Trump’s character that is being judged. Tolerance for corruption is a form of corruption.
- Your political risks pale in comparison to the physical risks taken each day by soldiers, police officers or firefighters in service to the common good.
- Every Republican senator who does not support Trump’s removal should publicly embrace some form of censure and be seeking a way to demonstrate this commitment en masse.
- The “disturbing but not impeachable” argument is not convincing. Trump has provided a case study that future constitutional-law textbooks will use to illustrate the meaning of an impeachable offense.
- Senators who are not offended by the president’s threats against them if they display independent judgment have lost all pride in the Senate’s purpose.
- Intimidation of Republican senators would demonstrate the triumph of verbal violence — Trump’s Twitter insults, his political threats, the White House’s reported promise to put disloyal heads on pikes — in Republican politics, and in the business of the Senate itself. American democracy would be confirmed as a place where menace is rewarded and bullies prosper.
Very truly yours,
* * *
Of course, Senators can try to ignore Gerson’s points because they have a cogent and compelling defense at the ready:
Trump didn’t do the thing he’s accused of doing, but if he did it was fine, and in fact that’s exactly what he did, get over it, because it’s not only fine, it’s precisely what we want from a president, and can you believe that Biden did the same thing, shame on him.
* * *
My Junior Senator reportedly has abdicated his sworn role in favor of voting as his constituents wish.
Well, Mike Braun, this constituent thinks that, things having come this far, the sonofabitch should be removed from office.
This may sound odd, even ironic. You are here in the flush of victory. And yet it is precisely now that I ask you to contemplate the possibility of defeat — perhaps even the necessity of defeat.
Edmund Burke, in 1774, set forth a model we should all emulate when he told his Bristol constituents: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Let me put the matter plainly: If you are here simply as a tote board registering the current state of opinion in your district, you are not going to serve either your constituents or the Congress of the United States weIl.
Your constituents expect you to represent their interests, and that you should certainly do. But you are also a member of the Congress, and your responsibilities are far greater than those of an ombudsman for your district. You must take, at times, a national view, even if, in taking that view, you risk the displeasure of your neighbors and friends back home.
Indeed, I feel obliged to put the matter more sharply still: If you don’t know the principle, or the policy, for which you are willing to lose your office, then you are going to do damage here.
This institution needs more members willing to look beyond the biennial contest for power, more committed to public service as a vocation rather than merely a career.
* * * * *