In politics, and this is particularly true in the era of Trump, it is advisable for purposes of one’s mental health, to not take things personally. This, of course, does not apply to issues where one’s physical and/or mental health may be at risk, i.e., being drafted to fight in an unjustified war, being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, being deprived of basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution, just to name a few. But taking things personally can drive you to the asylum in the political meat grinder.
As I try to withhold my anger while watching the sham of an impeachment trial being conducted by a complicit Senate Republican majority that has brazenly and proudly announced that it is working hand in glove with the corrupt presidential administration that has been impeached by the US House of Representatives I cannot help but feel personally assaulted.
Speaking only for myself, I feel as though I have been personally betrayed by the very institution I have such an affection for. I spent four decades in public service, with the majority of that time spent working for two Democratic administrations, two Democratic US Senators, the US Senate Budget Committee, and just for good measure two Democratic Governors. I spent 22 years in Washington, DC working either with or on Capitol Hill. Six of those years were spent in the United States Senate.
I know this will sound corny but when I moved to the nation’s Capitol in 1978 I would actually get chills as I would drive from Northern Virginia into the District and daily witness the magnificence of the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Rotunda of the US Capitol Building, the various Government agency buildings, the White House, and the Washington Monument. It was, quite simply, an awe-inspiring experience.
Taking either the walk or the subway from one of the Senate Office Buildings over to the Senate floor of the Capitol as esteemed giants from another era would busily hustle over for votes, assuming a position on the couches in the rear of the Senate floor, walking across the Hill to attend Conference committee meetings, or assuming my position behind the Senator in a Committee hearing room, being summoned to answer a question from the Senator on an important policy issue as he prepared to question Cabinet officials, the glare of the klieg lights, the rustling of clicking cameras, and ultimately the adrenaline rush of listening to your boss ask questions that you had studiously prepared or the thrill of having him read the speech you had written for him on whatever the issue of the hour was, either in Committee or on the Senate floor all lent a special significance and satisfaction that I was actually serving the people in a meaningful small way.
Gone are the days of high level debate and compromise, gone are the days of any semblance of bipartisanship, gone are the days when patriotism dictated that the needs of the people would take precedence and prominence over partisanship.
And since I was serving in the Senate, the upper body, the world’s most deliberative body, the enormity and gravity of the legislation being drafted, debated, and ultimately disposed of made the long hours and the peripatetic pace of action exhilarating and abundantly fulfilling. I treasure those times and while one learns to live with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, just being a part of the process made it all worthwhile. On a daily basis my choice of a career path in public service was consistently validated.
I left Washington, DC in 2001, shortly after the crushing Presidential defeat of Al Gore. I even learned to live with that, although it took some time and still hurts to this day. But as I look at the Senate today under the control of a corrupted, immoral, partisan hack not so affectionately known as “Moscow Mitch,” it has devolved into the world’s most debilitative body. Gone are the days of high level debate and compromise, gone are the days of any semblance of bipartisanship, gone are the days when patriotism dictated that the needs of the people would take precedence and prominence over partisanship. Now the place never was perfect but at one point in the not so distant past it did work, it did produce change, maybe at a glacial pace, but change nevertheless that benefitted the people.
I first became convinced that public service was a noble avocation as I watched the Watergate hearings in 1973. I watched Republican Senate heavyweights like Howard Baker, Lowell Weicker and Barry Goldwater, and House Minority Leader John Rhodes and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott persuade Richard Nixon to resign rather than face being removed from office. As much as I appreciated the mannerisms of Senator Sam Ervin, the real heroes of Watergate were Republican members of Congress. I worked for Tennessee Senator Jim Sasser during the 1980s and we worked closely with Senator Baker, my respect for him only strengthened over time.
I also fondly remember shaking the hand of Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield, a Republican, when he rebuffed his leadership on a make or break vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and was threatened with being stripped of his chairmanship unless he voted the right way. He didn’t and the bill lost by one vote, a vote of conviction, a profile in courage. I thanked him as he walked off the Senate floor and told him I was a Democrat, he looked at me and thanked me.
Where are the Republican leaders today? Republicans today are shamelessly cowering behind the dictatorial maneuverings of a corrupt President who outwardly brandishes his respect and admiration for strongmen and thugs such as Putin, Erdogan, Duterte, and Kim Jong Un. He is a first rate con artist with an agenda that only serves his own interests, not those of the nation. Yet nowhere to be found are serious lawmakers and servants of the people willing to tell them when they know he is wrong. Cowards, enablers, pure and simple greedy, self-interested ass kissers abound in the halls of Congress in the cult-like atmosphere surrounding this preposterous imposter.
I have tried very hard to not hate those who voted for Donald Trump and contain my disgust for him and those who enable him to viciously divide the country. It is not the fault of the people that we have an electoral process that when properly manipulated can render a verdict that does not reflect their collective will. We have seen two Democratic candidates in 16 years defeated by an Electoral College that legitimately awards victory to candidates that did not receive the most votes. Is it any wonder average Americans have lost faith in their leaders and institutions and registered their disgust by taking a flyer on such a despicable character?
The United States Senate is currently poised to reward a criminal enterprise continued control of the world’s most potent nuclear arsenal. Fifty-three United States Senators are currently poised to forego the most essential elements of a fair trial, evidence and witnesses, in order to preserve their own political self-interest, absolutely disgusting. While the Senate may not give a hoot one way or another, history will not allow you the free pass you so desperately lust for in this era of transactional insanity. You will be held accountable.
The dangerous path you are charting for future generations will haunt you for as long as you live. I sincerely hope enough Trump supporters come to their senses and throw you out of office along with the corrupt swamp creature you so lasciviously covet. I sincerely hope that you live long enough to realize the damage you have inflicted upon the American people. But at this point I no longer have patience with you and the damage you have inflicted upon the institutions that I once revered. You should be ashamed but fear from your actions that you are incapable of shame.
I would dearly love to be wrong, but there is no indication that courage will suddenly infect those who have developed an unhealthy immunity from it. So the burden falls upon us, we the people.