Americans can understand why you have decided to end your Senate careers. The body that was historically a sober, thoughtful and mature chamber has come to resemble the House. You are surrounded by abject liars and showboaters such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who perpetrated the Big Lie that the election was stolen, helped incite an insurrection and doubled down on their efforts to overturn the election even after a violent mob invaded the Capitol. Your party’s Senate leader has perfected the art of doing as little as possible, save for confirming judges, at a time when our nation requires decisive, responsible leadership. As hundreds of bills from the House gathered dust on the then-majority leader’s desk, the opportunity for meaningful legislation on everything from infrastructure to immigration evaporated.
You tried to lie low during the Trump years at the price of appearing somewhat dim. “Didn’t see the tweet!” you said. “Can’t say I heard the latest presidential outburst!” You were fully aware the president had committed impeachable acts, but you chose to go with the party in acquitting him last February, hoping the voters would absolve you of any delinquency in refusing to remove a dangerously unfit demagogue. The result was his appalling effort to undermine our election, a violent uprising and the hoodwinking of most of your fellow Republicans who now believe the Big Lie.
It would have no doubt been far better for the party, for the country and for you personally if you had voted to convict in last year’s impeachment trial. You now have the rare opportunity for a second chance. Freed from the fear of a primary challenge, you can do the right thing, namely, prevent the instigator of insurrection from ever holding office again. Equally important, you have an opportunity to talk candidly to your fellow senators and Republicans across the country. You can tell them that the lies must end. The election was not rife with fraud. In fact, fraud is so rare that the bevy of voter ID laws and other restrictions are entirely unnecessary, a thinly disguised effort to suppress the vote and keep a mostly White Republican Party from facing the judgment of an increasingly diverse country. You can leave the Senate as truth-tellers rather than go-alongers.
You also have the ability over the next two years to end the mind-numbing gridlock and knee-jerk obstructionism your party has perfected. Why not vow to support no filibusters for your remaining time in office? Why not work collaboratively on immigration reform, which is entirely in keeping with your pro-market philosophy and, as you know, will contribute to growth and innovation? You likewise can work to update the Voting Rights Act and forestall the Republican stampede to erect barriers to voting, a blight on our democracy and a shameful throwback to the Jim Crow era.
You can aid rather than hinder recovery efforts by funding expanded testing and vaccination, and supporting conservative economic measures such as expansion of the earned-income tax credit.
In short, you cannot undo the past four years, much as you might regret your reticence in standing up to an authoritarian narcissist and his enablers. You can leave the Senate on a high note, freeing your party from dependency on an anti-democratic bully and ending its reliance on voter suppression and legislative obstruction. If you choose to, you can leave a Senate record you are proud of and a legacy of achievement.