Former President Trump lied about winning the presidential election, deliberately worked armed white nationalists into a froth over this Big Lie, and gleefully incited them to attack the Capitol building with the intent to disrupt the democratic process and do harm to members of Congress.
Whatever your personal or political feelings about the election results, you must realize that allowing Trump to do this with nary an official consequence sets a supremely awful precedent.
Leaders are, in a rational society, responsible for the behavior of their supporters. Trump may not have known exactly what his supporters would do when he told them to “fight like hell” and ordered them to march to the Capitol, but he fully understood what they were capable of.
Throwing some Proud Boys in federal prison while Trump is free to campaign again for president does a grave injustice to the entire country (and, frankly, to the imprisoned members of the Proud Boys themselves, whom he pointedly told to “stand by” just five months ago, presumably in anticipation of the exact watershed moment Trump manufactured in his blatant fire-starting on the 6th of January.)
Please, just stop. Stop contributing to the short-sighted, anti-fact demagoguery that is responsible for the continuing decline of American democracy and standing in the world. The Senate is the seat of wisdom and temperance — or it ought to be. Reaffirm your commitment to democratic principles and stop indulging the bad-faith politics that led to this humiliating moment.
If you do not, you can fully expect your states to become the next Georgias. It’s only a matter of time. The MAGA crowd may threaten you, but they are a minority of a minority. America is a blue nation, voter suppressed — and by that, I mean that the policy ideas on which a majority of us agree are all progressive (worker protections, financial regulation, healthcare, paid time-off, the Green New Deal), and conservatives acquire and maintain power by making voting difficult for minorities and poor people.
We outnumber the conspiracy-obsessed, fact-averse 10 to 1, and we will eventually prevail everywhere, just as soon as every state treats voting rights with the same deference that the freedom to publicly lie now seems to garner.
I’m frankly incensed that I even have to write this to you. That Trump’s conviction is even a debate at all is an affront to everything reasonable and decent in the world.
If you knew your vote to convict would be met with praise, funding, and the promise of reelection, you would convict in a nanosecond. That’s the reality.
There is no possible principled position in a vote to acquit, and you know it. Any arguments to the contrary are the definition of bad faith.
This letter has to be written because I know, and you know, that you are, at this very moment, making a cynical calculation that perhaps committing even more deeply to an extreme position will continue to temporarily work in your favor.
You are considering betting that voting to acquit will pay off, literally, in your immediate political and financial future. The words “public servant,” have apparently lost all meaning.
Have you noticed that this is what the Republican Party has become? A party that must pander to increasingly undemocratic and extreme positions in order to retain political control? Is this what you wanted to create? If you continue to court extremism for votes, you will eventually be left with nothing but extremism.
You have “a wolf by the ear,” as Thomas Jefferson famously wrote about slavery, and the longer you keep hanging on, the worse the wolf’s bite is going to be. You cannot escape getting bitten. It’s going to happen now, or later, but it will most certainly happen.
The question is, will you drag the whole country down into fascist populism to avoid facing it? Or will you stiffen up, take what’s inevitably coming to you, and use what power you have to spare us from the consequences of decades of self-serving political choices?
You can retain some dignity, and perhaps save your fractured party and our democracy, by doing the right thing now. The monster you helped create only continues to exist because you keep feeding it.
Show some moral courage.
Author’s Note: I sent this actual letter to my Senators, with my own signature. If you like it, feel free to copy/paste all or part to your Senators. Here’s the link to all Senate emails by state.