As the November election approaches, NeverTrumpers are faced with a question: do we punish just President Trump or do we punish his “enablers” aka GOP Senators?
Groups like the Lincoln Project want to work for the defeat of Republican Senators not just in 2020 but in 2022 as well. On the other side, NeverTrump commentators David French and Matt Lewis suggest that even though Congress has to share some of the blame for the state America is in, we don’t want to go after Senators because that means ceding all control to the Democrats.
I have a lot of sympathy for this argument. Lewis and French, two commentators that I respect, make a compelling case that giving all power to the Democrats means we will end up with policies that we don’t want, like raised taxes or a larger government. Voting out Republican Senators means saying goodbye people that I liked in spite of their unwavering support of Trump, such as Corey Gardener and Susan Collins and that means we end up not just with a Democratic majority in the Senate, but with a more “Trumpy” Republican party in both houses of Congress for the foreseeable future.
The Last Days of the GOP
Never Trump Republicans are not interested in saving the Republican Party but saving the nation. But what happens after…
But I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to vote out Republican Senators at least in 2020 in addition to voting against Trump. As I said earlier, there are some GOP Senators that I personally like. Susan Collins has done great work on LGBTQ issues as well as the environment. The issue is not one of disliking the Senators. The problem is one of integrity.
Every Senator-elect, be they a seasoned veteran or excited freshman, stands in front of the Vice President and take an oath of office. They swear to the following:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Every Senator-elect pledges to support and defend the constitution. It doesn’t say support the nation. It most definitely doesn’t say support the President. It says support the Constitution. That seems rather odd to be supporting a piece of paper of a person or a country. But the idea that the oath expresses is that we are a nation not bound by a person or by “blood and soil”, but by the rule of law. Lawmakers swear to defend the constitution because it is this document that defines who we are: a nation of laws and not of men. If we don’t have that, we don’t have America.
Republican Senators-elect take this pledge at the start of every new Congress. These aren’t just words, they basically the job description of a United States Senator. When Congress goes through the process of impeaching and removing a sitting President it is done not because people don’t like the person in office, but because they believe that person violated the constitution. These senators had the chance to defend the constitution and given the opportunity, they punted. They had one job and they blew it.
Many of the Senators up for reelection this year are not bad people. I know they usually take their job as a Senator seriously. I also know that in the era of Trump there were risks for going against the President. I understand. But nevertheless, they still had their oath to uphold and they didn’t. That’s not the type of thing you sweep under the rug. If we don’t make it clear that what they did was wrong and that it negated their right to hold on to their office, then we are telling future Senators to just ignore that whole defending the constitution thing.
I know that means giving the Democrats total control of the government. But this isn’t the end of the world. This is what happens in democracies: sometimes the other guy wins. I don’t have to agree with the Democratic agenda, but as Americans, we have to trust that the other party will govern wisely and realize that they love this country as much as we do.
None of this means going down a John Weaver-esque path of supporting the Biden agenda or supporting Democrats in 2022. In two years, I hope to see a new generation of Republican candidates running for office. But for now, I think for the good of the nation and for the good of the constitution, the GOP must fall on its sword and let the Democrats rule.
After all, letting them win won’t lead to the end of America. But the continued undermining of the constitution could get us there.