Dear Republicans: If You Don’t Like Impeachment, Tell Us How YOU Will Protect Our Democracy

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Yea, I get it. You are on the wrong end of an asymmetrical moral calculus. You were the ones who benefited from Russian interference, so to condemn it, you have to cast doubt on your own legitimacy. Democrats can be as partisan as they want to be while, at the same time, coming down hard on the side of integrity, the Constitution, and democracy. It’s just not fair. Deal with it.

This isn’t your fault. And it isn’t the Democrat’s fault either. It’s just the way that it worked out. Russia wanted to weaponize our partisan divide and use it to damage our democracy. They had to pick a side to help, and they picked yours. It’s a tough break (except that you got the presidency, a pretty whopping tax cut, and a couple of Supreme Court Justices out of the deal). But that doesn’t change our situation. We have been attacked, and we need to do something about it.

You have made it abundantly clear that you don’t think impeachment is the right response. I disagree with this, but let’s bracket that for now. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that impeaching and removing Donald Trump is not the right answer. What is? What are we going to do about the fact that our nation was attacked by a foreign power in 2016?

The Democrats are at least trying to answer this question. But you aren’t even acknowledging the problem. You aren’t telling us what should be done to protect our elections in 2020, and you have blocked any legislation that has tried. And most of you aren’t even acknowledging who it was that attacked us or that what they did constituted an attack at all.

This is a problem. Our military and civilian intelligence services are not conflicted about these questions. There is as much evidence that Russia attacked our election infrastructure in 2016 as there is that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 or that Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Towers in 2001. And yet the President of the United States and the vast majority of Congressional Republicans have suggested that, if it happened at all, the attack was carried out by Ukraine.

Really! You have access to high-level intelligence briefings. You know that Russia attacked us, but that narrative doesn’t look good for your side. So, taking a cue from your president, you simply say that it isn’t true. This epistemological model — that the truth is whatever the leader says it is — has no place in a democracy. It is how fascism works.

What would you have said to somebody in 1941 who insisted that Korea attacked Pearl Harbor? Or to someone in 2001 who said that a Jewish conspiracy brought down the Twin Towers to make the Muslims look bad (an actual theory at the time, though not one accepted in toto by one of the nation’s two major political parties. This is roughly how you sound to anybody who is even passingly familiar with the intelligence reports about the 2016 election attack.

And let’s please use the right word here. What Vladimir Putin and the Russian forces did to us in 2016 was not “meddling” or “interfering.” It was an attack on our information infrastructure — the most vital sector of our society.

Major attacks are always directed against a nation’s most important institutions. When agricultural societies attacked each other, they burned the crops and sowed the fields with salt. When industrial countries went to war, they bombed the factories. And when extremists wanted to attack the financial capital of the world, they brought down the World Trade Center.

We are an information society. Our information networks contain our wealth and our identities. And they regulate our elections — the most important activity in our democracy. And information systems — whether they regulate finances, traffic lights, or elections — only work if people trust them. Putin’s attack on those systems was every bit as devastating, and every bit as much an act of war, as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the Russian attack has yet to live in the infamy it deserves. And that is on you.

We all know and understand that, if the roles were reversed — if Hillary Clinton had been elected and we had evidence that a Russian attack helped her, and further evidence that she met with Ukrainian officials to demand investigations into potential opponents — you would be shouting “Constitutional Crisis” and “Impeachable Offense” as loudly as you did when her husband lied about an affair.

And, yes, the Democrats would probably be saying the same silly and dangerous things that you are saying. And they might have refused to investigate the Russian attack, or even admit that it was either Russian or an attack. If the situation were reversed, there is a very good chance that you would be acting as righteously and as patriotically as Democrats are acting now, and they would be as unpatriotic and dishonest as you have been in these hearings.

But that’s not how it turned out. For whatever reason, you drew a hand that requires you to be honest and patriotic even though it is hard. You have to decide, as the Democrats don’t, between narrow partisan interests and the good of the nation. It’s not fair. But lots of things aren’t fair. This is the choice that you have.

Please choose the country. It is important for your party. The confusion of today will not last forever, and history will get it right. If you keep to the course you are on right now, you will very soon be known as the party that surrendered to Vladimir Putin. This will not help you in the long term. Ask a Federalist.

But, more importantly, choose the country because it is the right thing to do. You have positions of public trust, and the public is not very trusting. If you think that impeachment is the wrong answer, then give us another one. But acknowledge that we have been attacked, that the attack had consequences, and that it can never happen again.

We are all, ultimately, on the same side, and we need our democracy to survive.

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