Drawing freely from the Declaration of Independence and the passing scene, and dividing roughly by topic, I hold these truths — these American ideals — to be self-evident:
Individual Worth and Dignity
That all men and women should be equal before human law, as they are equal before the law and mercy of God.
That each human individually is endowed by the Creator, not by earthly government, with certain inalienable rights.
That among these rights (it’s a partial list) are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This is the fundamental American ideal: we should be free to live our lives according to our own individual senses of happiness, as far as that is compatible with a free society which credibly attempts to balance the competing, legitimate rights of all individuals and to defend itself from enemies foreign and domestic.
I have a Democratic primary ballot in front of me. I’m not a Democrat, and I’ve never voted in a Democratic primary before. But the Democrats want me to vote in their presidential primary, so I will. Utah is a Super Tuesday state this year, and that’s tomorrow.
Has enough time passed that we can look calmly at certain aspects of President Trump’s impeachment and trial? Locally, the Utah legislature has backed off; they’re not pushing through a resolution censuring Senator Mitt Romney for voting yea on one article of impeachment. There are still a couple of electronic billboards along I-15 in Salt Lake County which are inviting him to quit, but that could go on for years.
[Later note: For some reason this post did not become visible to the public generally when it should have. One way or another, it’s my mistake, and I apologize. The billboards on my commute telling Senator Romney to resign seem to have disappeared by now, and our minds are on other, bigger things. But the lessons here are portable, and the experience bears remembering, even if you’re reading this in March, not February, 2020. As ever, thanks for reading!]
Several weeks ago, the US House of Representatives impeached the President of the United States by a close and almost entirely partisan vote. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally held another vote, on a resolution appointing the House managers for the Senate trial and formally sending the impeachment to the Senate. Now the Senators have been sworn in and the rules established, and the trial is beginning.
Meanwhile, and closer to home, I haven’t blogged here in slightly over a year. In case my reasons interest you — they have a lot to do with the present political climate — you’re welcome to peruse another article I’m posting simultaneously, “On Blogging and Not Blogging in the Trump Years.”
I’m looking forward to blogging on other topics, but …
If the proverbial cross between an elephant and rhino is an “elephino,” then this impeachment is … what? A giant elephonkey in the room?” So let’s talk about impeachment generally, and this impeachment specifically. I’ll mention revolution and counterrevolution before we’re done.
Impeachment Is Political
The impeachment we’ve been watching is a political process. That sounds like a bad thing, but it’s important to realize that it’s inherently political. Because of this, some things matter and some don’t, in a procedural sense. I’ll tell you what I mean.
I haven’t blogged here since the aftermath of the 2018 midterm election. If you’ll forgive the possible narcissism, I’ll tell you why. Then I’ll examine two of the reasons in the context of our current politics. President Trump’s name will come up, as it also does in a separate, simultaneous post about impeachment and due process.
One reason for my long silence is, I’ve been writing other things:
several posts on local issues and elections at afelection.info, which involved many hours of work;
occasional posts on non-political topics at bendablelight.com, where I write about books, religion, high school bands, etc., but not a lot lately about anything; and
some fiction, including some (local) award-winning short fiction and my first novel, which is now ready for beta readers.
I’ve also been busy at work.
My supply of mental and physical energy is not increasing with age.
And sometimes life gets complicated, despite my efforts to simplify.
But it’s more than all that, which brings me to our topic.
I haven’t been ignoring national politics. I consume about as much content as before, from across the political spectrum. I’ve outlined and even drafted a few blog posts along the way. I still discuss issues with friends, family members, and acquaintances of various political stripes, in person and online. But I’ve left blog posts unfinished and unposted, and I’ve discussed issues with others a lot less than before.
The 2018 election is mostly behind us by now. In the past I usually haven’t waited a week to recap an election and inject my own mordant thoughts. In the past we almost always had firm results on Election Night. But this is the age of the mail-in ballot, when Election Day is too late to vote by mail, and Election Night is too soon to draw firm conclusions.
So locally we’re waiting for Utah County in particular, which our governor dubbed “an epicenter of dysfunction,” to finish counting ballots (not just the ones which come late but properly postmarked in the mail). The highest-profile race yet in doubt is in the Fourth Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Mia Love trails Democratic challenger Ben McAdams by a few thousand votes, with some Utah County (read: heavily Republican) votes yet to be counted. We may know that result today.
Nationally, we just got final results in a tight US Senate race in Arizona, where Republican Senator Jeff Flake’s seat has taken a bizarre and dispiriting turn to the nutty left.
We’re waiting for a November 27 runoff election in Mississippi, where neither major party’s US Senate candidate got 50 percent of the vote.
And we’re waiting on the outcome of another circus in south Florida, where gubernatorial and US Senate races apparently won by Republicans are subject to a perverse, familiar drama in – where else? – Broward County (with a sideshow in Palm Beach County), where election law is merely a set of inconvenient suggestions, to be ignored as long, as defiantly, and as comprehensively as possible. It’s anybody’s guess whether they’ll have time to “discover” enough boxes of mysteriously “misplaced” ballots to turn the results Democratic before the long arm of the law arrives.
Readers have been asking for my thoughts about Thursday’s all-day Senate Judiciary Committee hearing since Thursday morning, when the committee was still questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford about her allegation that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. I’ve put off everyone who’s asked, until I could finish these notes. (I was hoping for Saturday, but it turns out that I have a life.) Six days later, off we go. I know this is a lot.
First, my starting point: I awoke that morning willing to believe Dr. Ford and to conclude that President Trump should withdraw his Supreme Court nomination. I was also willing to believe Judge Kavanaugh and to declare that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate should just vote already.
The hearing ran through the afternoon. I watched or listened to about half of it live — some of it from my dentist’s chair, and the dental work was a lot less painful. By Friday evening I had watched the rest of it. Parts of it I watched a second time, or even a third or fourth.
This all would have been easier, if I were willing to believe that he is lying simply because he’s a man (and a conservative), and that she is telling the truth simply because she’s a woman. Some folks are wired that way, I guess, but I still see guilt and innocence as individual matters, not a tribal thing.
Let’s start with this: I don’t know who, if anyone, is telling the truth about Brett Kavanaugh and who isn’t. Nor do you.
I am aware that in our hyper-tribalistic political climate, I have just invited accusations that I am disrespecting the victim — here still the alleged victim, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — or that I am a misogynist, or that I have insulted all women or at least all abuse victims by not instantly and automatically believing this one.
I choose to believe that American society has not disintegrated so far as to think we can determine truth by reading the labels we put on people. I choose to believe that more of us than make a fuss about it are still capable of rational thought, civil discussion, and patiently weighing all the evidence before drawing any conclusions.
I’ve been poking at these thoughts on why I love America for a while now. Once you see what they are, you’ll see why Constitution Day seems appropriate for posting them.
More broadly, this is either an especially good time or an unusually bad time for these reflections. We’re several weeks from a midterm election; those are never pretty. We’re two weeks into the Kneel for the National Anthem regular season. We’re in the throes of another nasty Supreme Court nomination battle. We’ve been watching — has it been forever yet? — the ongoing attempt to overthrow a duly elected President I heartily dislike by a bureaucratic coup I dislike even more. We’re seeing (still? again?) just how ugly our politics can get, when we’re more committed to obtaining political power over each other than we are to truth, justice, freedom, and the rule of law.
And yet I love my country. Here are some of my reasons. (They don’t have to be yours.)