Wednesday, January 08, 2020

An Open Letter To: Senators Lisa Murkowski (R), Joe Manchin (D), Mitt Romney (R), Doug Jones (D), Susan Collins (R), Kyrsten Sinema (D), And Two Senators To Be Named Later

Re: The Senate Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Gang of Eight
  Proposed Impeachment "Gang of Eight"  
Dear Senators Lisa Murkowski, Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney, Doug Jones, Susan Collins, Krysten Sinema,

I am writing in regard to your imminent role setting the ground rules for and rendering a verdict in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. You've each publicly stated your intent to live up to the oath required of all Senators prior to the trial:
 “I solemnly swear, that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of President Donald Trump, I will do impartial justice, according to law.”
As regards the pending impeachment trial you've shown restraint in your public comments, expressed a willingness to keep an open mind on the proceedings, and a desire to treat the trial with a serious consideration of the facts.

In your respective careers in the Senate you have shown a pragmatic willingness to compromise on legislation with your counterparts across the aisle without compromising your Democratic / Liberal Republican / Conservative principles. That does not mean you don't support most of the partisan policies promoted by your party. You do. Presumably you choose to run as a Republican or Democrat because those party policies predominantly reflects your views and those of your constituents. That's expected.

Because of who you are, because of your willingness to compromise, because of your respect for the Constitution and the institution of the Senate, you are uniquely positioned to provide an extraordinary service to Americans, the institution you represent, and the country you love - Right Now.

I propose you form an Impeachment Gang of Eight.
Such an ad-hoc Independent Bi-Partisan Caucus of trusted independent Senate voices will ensure a fair and rational voice is heard above the partisan noise level in the Senate, the media, and the country at large.

Your caucus could pursue a good faith agreement to vote as a block on each aspect of the Senate Rules governing the Impeachment Trial. Such a caucus would wrest control of the impeachment process from both the Majority and Minority Leaders in the Senate who are widely perceived as hopelessly partisan and without any credible expectation of impartiality. Because the caucus would be bi-partisan it would stamp an imprimatur of legitimacy on the process that otherwise will not exist.

If you were to follow this path, and create a pragmatic, principled, bi-partisan centrist caucus on the Impeachment Proceedings, you create a North Star to guide open-minded Americans who have not prejudged how the Impeachment Trial should be conducted. You will be judged by history as representing the best of American representative government and take a step toward renewing American confidence in our governmental institutions.

There is a precedent. In 2005, in the midst of a partisan deadlock over filibustered Senate confirmations, the Republican Senate Majority Leader threatened to invoke the "nuclear option" to steamroll judicial appointments over Democratic filibusters. A bipartisan group of 14 Senators led by Senator John McCain and motivated by institutional loyalty wrested control of the partisan process from both the Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Minority Leader Harry Reid to force compromise on confirmations for the balance of the 109th Congress.

Senator Collins was part of the "Gang of 14" then. Perhaps she could lead the Senate back from the brink with a "Gang of Eight" now. Senator Graham was also part of the Gang of 14. Then he followed his friend and colleague John McCain's principled leadership. Graham's subsequent hypocrisy and partisan hackery carrying water for the President costs him the credibility needed to participate in a similar effort now.

Unfortunately the "Gang of 14" principled leadership did not last.  Eight years later, in 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threw the Senate down a slippery slope by finally invoking the "Nuclear Option" to steamroll GOP filibusters on judicial appointments. There was no similar profile in courage to emerge from the Democratic caucus in the 113th Congress to stop the procedure. This led inexorably to the inevitable "nuclear exchange" when Senate Majority Mitch McConnell killed the filibuster for Supreme Court Nominations in the 115th Congress. "Mutually Assured Destruction" of the legislative filibuster in the Senate is waiting in the wings.

The "Impeachment Gang of Eight" can stop a similar devolution of the impeachment process by taking a principled stand now.

I don't have to tell you the damage that tribal partisanship has done to the Senate, the government at large, and the consequent suspicion and loss of confidence with which Americans regard their government and representatives. As Senator John McCain implored you in his farewell address from the Senate floor:
"Our deliberations... are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we'd all agree they haven't been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren't producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they'll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect" 
"Our system doesn't depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than 'winning.' Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to triumph." - Senator John McCain
We could find so much good by walking this path: Minimally - legitimacy for the Senate impeachment trial and renewed American confidence in our government institutions. Potentially - the "Gang of Eight" could extend the mandate from the trial process into an agreed bipartisan verdict, validating the process and result. Aspirationally - the Gang of Eight could even extend their bipartisan, rational, moderated control of the Senate throughout the remainder of the 116th Congress. Wouldn't that be refreshing? If we further project this into the realm of wishful thinking, it could herald the beginning of a Wheelan-Lite "Centrist Manifesto" fulcrum strategy  extending into future legislative sessions. But I digress.

The issue is impeachment. The question is institutional credibility. The time is now.

I'll point you again to the hopeful words of John McCain. You know how he would approach this solemn responsibility:
"I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood. Let's trust each other." - John McCain
Thank you for your consideration and integrity. 

Sincerely, The Dividist

P.S. Why eight? Because four is the number of Republicans needed to control the vote and the caucus must be bipartisan and even. Why name only six of the eight? Because I can't figure out who the other two should be. You have several potential targets of opportunity. They're your colleagues. You figure it out.

Cross-Posted on Medium

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