On Feb. 5, 2020, Senate Republicans truly became the party of Trump. They rejected the virtue of placing the national interest above the craven advances of one’s party. Their vote to acquit President Donald Trump for his iniquitous invitation to a foreign country to interfere in our solemn electoral process and his anomalous obstruction of congressional subpoenas will be forever remembered by our posterity as a cowardly mistake. They even acknowledged that it was inappropriate. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called the President’s actions as “shameful and wrong.” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee concurred and declared that the house managers had proven their case. However, the “elephant could not buck its mahout.” They are no longer the famed party of Lincoln.
An exception to the dogmatic and blind allegiance to the President emerged: Senator Mitt Romney of Utah. Romney shattered the uniformity of the Republicans’ abhorrent protection of the President by aligning with Senate Democrats and voting guilty. He spoke prior to his consequential vote about the duty as a juror in this rare constitutional mechanism. He described his oath to “do impartial justice” as an oath before God. Both as a public office holder and devout person of faith, it was extremely refreshing in this era of spin, sycophancy and punditry to see a representative of the people take seriously his oath of office.
Now, to some in our modern world of increased cynicism and deteriorating institutions, an oath of office is an anachronism or “ceremonial red-tape.” They are wrong. An oath is a formal public vow made in the witness of your fellow countrymen and Creator. An oath is what bestows the consent of the governed and public trust upon an official whose duty it is to serve his or her constituents. The founders of our great republic pledged “their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” in order to form a nation that was established not for the aristocracy or monarchy, but for the citizenry. Their allegiance was not to a man but to the interests of the people. In our current “tit-for-tat” modus operandi, we should be reminded that just because this president acts in a direct rebuke of his oath of office, neither should we.
Mitt Romney’s senatorial courage will be noted in the long pages of that distinguished chamber’s history. It will be akin to Margret Chase Smith’s 1950 denouncement of fellow Senator Joseph McCarthy for his disgraceful smears. Senator Romney now has the undesired title of being the only senator to vote for conviction against a president of the same party. The question remains: Will this act of political courage only have one act?