Since 1975, I have remained a proud, loyal member of the Republican Party through decades of winning and losing. But with Election Day fast approaching, my requested mail-in ballot from the nation’s most decisive battleground state – Florida – remains unopened after nearly three weeks.
A permanently sealed ballot would stand as a personal time capsule to what I believe was an egregious strategic error perpetrated upon this nation by my party on Feb. 5, 2020. That day Senate Republicans failed to convict President Donald J. Trump on the articles of impeachment approved by the House, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Given all that American voters have endured since — the double scourge of an out of control, mismanaged pandemic, resulting in great economic harm —Trump’s impeachment has largely been relegated to ancient history. Although only the third U.S. president to be impeached, Trump is the first to run for reelection after acquittal.
And because he was not convicted and removed from office, and legally allowed to run for a second term, I consider the Senate’s not-guilty vote to be the most egregious strategic error of 2020. Hence, if only the GOP had acted responsibly, today my sealed ballot might read the name of Michael R. Pence on top, in place of Donald J. Trump.
Before my fellow Republicans stop reading, let me explain and defend myself.
First, I know many Republicans will take umbrage with my suggesting that Trump was rightly impeached and should have been convicted over a “phone call” with the president of Ukraine. However, I believe the specific charges were emblematic of the president’s “anything goes,” “I can do no wrong,” and “no rules apply to me” attitude. This same attitude accounted for how he comported himself pre-impeachment and further emboldened his post-impeachment behavior and authoritarian-leaning tendencies.
On display now is how this “Trumpian” attitude is backfiring, especially among suburban women, evidenced by him pathetically asking voters at a Pennsylvania rally, “Will you please like me?” Well, they don’t.
That helps explain why the words “Biden and landslide” are increasingly linked in polling and news reports. And, why Drudge Report headlines recently screamed: “BATTLEGROUND MAP EXPANDS, SHOCK POLL: BIDEN +17, '91% CHANCE' OF WINNING.”
Furthermore, check out the RealClearPolitics “No Toss Up States” Electoral College map projecting Biden to overwhelm Trump by 375 to 163 electoral votes. Might it look more balanced if Pence had replaced Trump?
And what if the actual results are close to that RCP projection? I will point to the root cause as a self-inflicted wound from the trigger pulled on Feb. 5 by Republican senators, primarily out of fear.
Not all, but enough GOP senators voted to acquit Trump fearing blowback and name-calling attacks, especially those facing tough reelections. After seeing Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announce his intention to convict and the Trump treatment he received, they understood that casting an acquittal vote was a safer and quieter decision.
Many senators also feared retribution from Trump-supporting MAGA constituents about being “primaried” and voted out of office. Ultimately, those senators prioritized their political careers over what I believe was best for America. While selfishly doing so, they set an unimpeachable, unconstitutional behavioral precedent for future presidents to exploit. (Looking back to 1974, applying this 2020 standard to President Richard Nixon means that he might not have been forced to resign.)
Second, I am well aware that it is revisionist history to imagine “President Pence” topping the GOP ticket and most likely accompanied by a woman VP nominee. Still, I am confident that Pence would have successfully stepped in and made a valiant attempt to unite and heal the nation. Perhaps other Republicans think that Pence would not have been the strongest candidate to replace Trump on the ticket. However, in February 2020, keeping Pence in place as the new incumbent president would have been the more prudent and stable choice.
If only 19 more Republican senators had voted “guilty” on Feb. 5. Then Americans could have been spared what has evolved into a daily “theater of the absurd” — a chaotic White House reality show starring “Superman.”
Worse are childish and desperate statements from Trump’s Twitter account, or directly from his mouth. With utterances and behaviors more associated with banana republic dictators, Americans have come to accept and ignore them as “Trump being Trump.”
Here are three recent episodes that stand out and should not be ignored.
First, last week Trump asked (or rather, insisted) on national cable television that Attorney General William Barr issue indictments against Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Just another “normal” day on the campaign trail! But in America, an incumbent president does not ask for his predecessor and current opponent to be indicted. Sadly, Trump’s astounding request was not treated as a major news event.
Second, on several occasions and at the presidential debate, Trump has refused to state that he would leave office if he disagreed with the election results. He also has said that the only way he could lose is in a “rigged election.” Such outlandish remarks have prompted many Americans to hope Biden wins in a landslide so that GOP leaders will be forced to assist in a peaceful transition of power.
Fortunately, all Americans believe that a “peaceful transition of power” is a hallmark of who we are as a nation. The pride embodied in this foundational concept is always on display during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony when the incumbent (defeated or term-limited) is present, along with all former presidents physically able to attend.
Third, information leaked from Trump’s tax returns reveal that he is in severe financial distress. The president owes $400 million coming due during his second-term time frame. But unknown is to whom -- persons, groups, corporations, banks, or even countries (friendly or unfriendly) -- does he owe these millions.
The Trump financial revelation prompted Mike Morell, former acting director of the CIA, to write a Washington Post op-ed headlined: “Trump is in debt. We can’t ignore the national security risks that come with that.” Morell noted that if the president were instead an applicant seeking a sensitive job, “Trump would have been denied a [security] clearance” over concerns that “high levels of debt would create an unacceptable counterintelligence risk.”
Still, matters such as these three and many more are of no consequence to my GOP friends (who might not be my friends after reading this piece). I have written twice during 2020 that my party has turned into a “Trumplican” cult of personality where reasonable, educated, successful, patriotic Americans dismiss or rationalize Trump’s behavior for reasons spelled out in a recent text sent to me by a VIP Republican and longtime friend:
“Quite frankly, Myra, I don’t know how you can call yourself a Christian and not support Trump. Pay attention to ISSUES, not personalities. You judge a tree by its fruit, not how pretty its flowers are.”
As I see it, the truth is Trump only cozied up to Christians for political expediency and certainly does not comport himself as one. But yes, a big yes, is how his policies and judicial selections have been pleasing to conservative Christians. Nonetheless, I know Mike Pence is a Christian — a real-deal prayer warrior and humble man of God. But, because Pence’s name is in second place on my unopened ballot, I cannot, in good conscience, vote to reelect Trump after supporting him in 2016.
Conversely, neither can I bring myself to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. That would be a vote to support a future beholden to the anti-Christian left — transforming the American economy and culture into one with socialist leanings and empowering a Democratic Party that worships at the altar of climate change and secular humanism.
“Thy will be done” is my response to my friend.
On Election Day or soon after, I fully expect my party to lose the White House and Senate, stemming from the controversial consequences of the majority of GOP senators’ reckless decision back on Feb. 5.
Finally, it pains me to write that I will not be casting a presidential vote for the first time since age 18. Instead, I will pray on Election Day that God helps and blesses our nation.