The Only One to Show Moral Courage

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The show continues, dear Readers. Those of you who follow politics know that this week brought a fiasco in Iowa with the first caucus to determine the Democratic presidential candidate. And today, as everyone already surmised, the Republican-majority senate acquitted the US president of the impeachment charges against him. The only moment of reckoning was when Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, stood and gave a heartfelt speech explaining his reasons for voting with the Democrats, saying “the verdict is ours to render under our Constitution. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfill our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasked senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.” Senator Romney continued to explain his rationale for voting to remove the president, the leader of his own political party, thus:

“The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.

What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.

Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.  (video here) 

I’m aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters I will be vehemently denounced. I’m sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me? (NYTimes, Feb 5, 2020)

Senator Romney made it clear in his speech that the main reason he voted against his party to remove President Trump stems from his deeply held belief in God and his moral duty to act in a way coherent with that divinity. He is well known as a Christian of the Mormon faith. Unlike many of his senate colleagues, however, Romney’s faith gave him the moral imperative and courage to LIVE his beliefs through his vote. In the Christian Bible, Jesus the Christ is famously quoted as saying, “By their acts will you know them.” To his credit, Senator Romney took those words seriously. He began his speech by stating,

“As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

Romney ended his speech with these words,

“My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate, but irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability believing that my country expected it of me.

I will only be one name among many, no more, no less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong. We are all footnotes at best in the annals of history, but in the most powerful nation on Earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that distinction is enough for any citizen.” (find the transcript of his speech here https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/us/politics/mitt-romney-impeachment-speech-transcript.html

What strikes me the most about Mitt Romney’s speech, followed by his act of voting Trump guilty of article 1, Abuse of Power, is the fact that he is the lone Republican senator to display true moral courage, as Senator Adam Schiff spoke so eloquently of during his argument for convicting and removing President Trump last week.  Schiff implored every senator in the chamber to put their party aside and find their moral courage, which is more difficult to garner than courage in battle. Yet, when it came down to the impeachment vote, only Romney was able to dig deeply enough into his soul to discover that moral courage and then to act upon it. In his interview with the New York Times before the vote, he admitted he would “pay an enormous price” for choosing to vote the way he did and go against his political party.  Indeed, nearly the moment he uttered the word “guilty” people in Trump’s sphere began to vilify him and shout for his removal from the Republican party.

Yet, as many readers of today’s NYTimes commented, it is Mitt Romney who will be remembered in history as the majority senator who courageously stood up to Trump’s bitter bullying, humiliation and pressure to stand with party over country. In these extreme times of shredded democracy, surreal MAGA concert-like performances by the current presidential administration, and a type of civil war not seen since the American Civil War of the mid-19th century, it can be easy to forget just how many thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate people actually live in America. Yes, there are many who are blind, in denial, ignorant and just plain stupid, BUT there are also millions of us who deeply care about the ideals of democracy, liberty and freedom that the framers of the US Constitution intended. As Senator Schiff hammered home repeatedly during the trial, the implications of today’s acquittal will reverberate for decades to come. A blatant defiance of the system of checks and balance of power between the presidency, the Senate and the House is sure to deeply and negatively impact that balance, along with stacking the judiciary with far right-wing judges for many years to come.

Thomas Jefferson once stated, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” Tonight, at the end of this grueling and arduous impeachment inquiry and trial, I wholeheartedly agree that Americans who paid close attention received a large education in the past few months as to how our system of government and trial works, and how deeply flawed it has become. We learned firsthand about what obstruction of justice is, what abuse of power is, what partisanship is and why exactly it is so harmful to a democratic system. And, we all got to see and hear from those whom We, The People, elected as they “did their jobs.” Now, dear Readers who have the great privilege of being able to vote in the 2020 primary and election this coming November, it is up to you.

Please take the time to read this excellent editorial by the NY Times editorial board concerning the impeachment vote and general malaise within the Democratic party at the moment. Here is the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/opinion/impeachment-vote-trump-acquitted.html

References:

https://everydaypower.com/thomas-jefferson-quotes/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/us/politics/trump-acquitted-impeachment.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/us/politics/mitt-romney-impeachment-speech-transcript.html