House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff [D-CA] has published an open letter to his Republican colleagues, urging them to, at long last, break their silence and speak out against the democracy-killing actions of Donald Trump –actions that they privately acknowledge as dangerous, but have been afraid to talk about publicly.
“The president has just declared a national emergency to subvert the will of Congress and appropriate billions of dollars for a border wall that Congress has explicitly refused to fund. Whether you support the border wall or oppose it, you should be deeply troubled by the president’s intent to obtain it through a plainly unconstitutional abuse of power,” writes Schiff.
Noting that many Republicans have expressed alarm about Trump’s actions — but only in whispered conversations behind closed doors, Schiff issues an urgent plea to these concerned Republicans to come out of the shadows in the interest of preserving America’s democracy.
To my Republican colleagues: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse.
Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private.
That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.
Then he asks for courage — the inner strength and concern for something greater than oneself that supersedes political loyalties and the short-term, self-interested need for re-election:
This will require courage. The president is popular among your base, which revels in his vindictive and personal attacks on members of his own party, even giants such as the late senator John McCain. Speaking up risks a primary challenge or accusations of disloyalty. But such acts of independence are the most profound demonstrations of loyalty to country.
And if not now, when, asks Schiff.
If we cannot rise to the defense of our democracy now, in the face of a plainly unconstitutional aggrandizement of presidential power, what hope can we have that we will do so with the far greater decisions that could be yet to come?
Although these times pose unprecedented challenges, we have been through worse. The divisions during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement were just as grave and far more deadly. The Depression and World War II were far more consequential. And nothing can compare to the searing experience of the Civil War.
If Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, could be hopeful that our bonds of affection would be strained but not broken by a war that pitted brother against brother, surely America can come together once more. But as long as we must endure the present trial, history compels us to speak, and act, our conscience, Republicans and Democrats alike.
Republicans, Trump propagandists and Trump-TV commentators will undoubtedly give Adam plenty of Schiff over this. I think he should be applauded for doing exactly what he’s asking his Republican colleagues to do–what we all should be doing — speaking out for democracy.