Val Demings, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
There are lessons my parents taught me about America. They taught me there is dignity and honor in working hard and playing by the rules. That the Constitution and the law mattered. That voting was a civic responsibility and an obligation. That our nation and our family were worth defending against people who would take advantage. That I should treat others as I would want to be treated. That honesty, duty and integrity were inherently good and that to cheat, lie and steal was wrong.
I believe most Americans learned these same lessons.
Of course, there are exceptions. When I was in law enforcement, we called them “habitual offenders.” These are people with no respect for the law and no regard for the rules. These people spend their time trying to game the system and do so over and over.
We knew six months ago ― and I said at the time ― that the president is a habitual offender. Habitual offenders don’t sneak up on you. They telegraph their intentions. No one who has been paying attention can deny the true character of Trump. We know him. His lifetime of corrupt scams, outright lies, malignant racism and cheating the little guy is transparent.
As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III told me last year, the president was generally untruthful in his dealings with the investigation. Mueller testified to a “spectrum of witnesses in terms of those who are not telling the full truth and those who are outright liars.”
The overwhelming evidence in Trump's impeachment — which showed that he abused his power, threatened our national security interests to cheat in the 2020 election and then attempted to cover it up ― was the kind of evidence any police detective would love in a case.
But Republican members of the Senate, one excluded, decided that a crime to their party’s benefit was no crime at all. Even as they publicly and privately admitted his obvious guilt, they voted to say, “This doesn’t bother us.”
Today, as we are barraged by revelations of incessant corruption and the enrichment of the Trump Organization with taxpayer dollars, I think of the Senate.
As we look in horror at a federal pandemic response that has put the president’s deliriums before the health of the American people, I think of the Senate.
As we watch continued efforts to disenfranchise voters, block mail-in voting, close polling places and open the doors to further Russian election interference, I think of the Senate.
As the president’s new personal fixer, Attorney General William P. Barr, tears down the principles of equal justice at the Justice Department and turns it into the president’s personal protection detail, I think of the Senate.
As we scramble to prevent a relentless decline toward authoritarianism and the extrajudicial occupation of American cities, I think of the Senate.
Of the lessons my parents taught me, the most important was the difference between right and wrong. When the president illegally demanded that a foreign country help him cheat in a U.S. election, that was wrong. When he illegally used U.S. national security policy to pressure them to do it, that was wrong. When he illegally tried to cover it up, that was wrong.
A child could understand this. Why not Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona? Why not Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia or Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa? Why was it too hard for Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to say, “It’s wrong to break the law and undermine our democracy”? Why couldn’t Montana’s Steve Daines or North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, or 45 other Republicans take a simple stand for right rather than wrong?
Perhaps, as Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
But you, reader, have no such impediment. And in just a few short months, you may be able to remove that burden from your senator.
My parents taught me that right and wrong are supposed to matter in America. I bet you think so, too.
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