How do I know you know? Because nothing in your careers, before the age of Donald Trump, hints at a willingness to tolerate such odious behavior.
Yes, I’m talking to you, Lamar Alexander. And you, John Barrasso. And Roy Blunt. Richard Burr. Susan Collins. Mike Crapo. Joni Ernst. Cory Gardner. Chuck Grassley. Mike Lee. Lisa Murkowski. Rob Portman. Jim Risch. Pat Roberts. Marco Rubio. Ben Sasse. Tim Scott. Dan Sullivan. John Thune. Roger Wicker.
And others in your caucus, too. Even you, Lindsey Graham. Even for you, it’s not too late.
Five years ago, could any of you have imagined excusing a leader who praised white supremacists, called his former opponent a criminal and a “skank,” mocked the weight and appearance of your fellow leaders?
Could you have imagined tolerating a president who sought to bend law enforcement, diplomacy and intelligence collection to his personal needs and whims?
You know, you all know, that he has imperiled the country and cost thousands of lives with his contempt for science and expertise.
Many of you have championed funding for the National Institutes of Health. Could you have imagined, five years ago, biting your tongue when a president told a country in peril that a virus would “magically” disappear? Would you have endorsed dangerous nostrums or mocked sound public health advice?
You know that he has eroded what turns out to be the surprisingly fragile system of checks and balances laid out in the Constitution that you have sworn to support and defend. Five years ago, you would not have tolerated a president spending money that Congress — your Article I branch — had explicitly decided not to spend, or shrugging off any attempt at congressional oversight, or firing inspectors general at will.
You know that he has dangerously eroded the United States’ security and standing in the world with his impulsiveness, his contempt for allies, his trashing of core American values and his naive embrace of America’s foes.
How do I know you know? Because many of you have spent your careers defending those values, building the institutions that undergird them, cultivating relationships across oceans. You shuddered when he trusted Russia’s leader over our own intelligence community, when he hailed the boss of the Chinese Communist Party as “a good man” and “a very, very good friend,” when he “fell in love” with the criminal strongman of Communist North Korea. Before the age of Trump, you could not have imagined staying silent in the face of such abominations.
So why do you stay silent now? Why does your colleague Mitt Romney seem so lonely in maintaining his moral compass?
It’s not hard to guess. You see your former colleagues Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, cast into political irrelevance for raising the most timid of objections. You think, better to stay viable. Keep your head down, don’t provoke the bully, and you can help restore sanity when he is gone.
But if he is reelected, restoring sanity may not be an option. The republic will be forever altered, as you know.
And you know this, too: Joe Biden would be a better choice for the country, at this moment. Of course, you disagree with many of his policies. You dislike some of the people he would bring into government. But he would respect the Constitution, the rule of law, simple human decency and the norms that have kept this experiment alive.
So why not hang together, announce you are voting for Biden, and help save your country? Explain that the president has left you no other honorable choice. You can still campaign for a Republican majority in the Senate to act as a check on a Democratic administration and its judicial picks. At best, you might help save your party and rescue your country.
At worst, you would meet the fate of Corker and Flake. That may seem unbearable to you. But if Trump is reelected, history will remember them far more kindly than those who, silently or actively, were complicit in the degradation of our democracy.