Counting my home in East Tennessee and a small summer cabin in Wisconsin in an old pasture where my Mom grew up, I have four Senators and two Congressional Representatives. By extension I have skin in the game in one swing state (where I wish I could vote) and another state that one day might possibly be in play, like Georgia, although on most issues this will take a long time.
Five of my six representatives started their day on January 6 in the “sedition caucus” — proposing to invalidate the election and install Trump in power. The Senators were in the group that backed off by the end of the day, after the mob action part of the coup attempt, following Pence instead of drinking the poison down to its dregs alongside Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.
One of those three, Bill Hagerty, is newly sitting in a seat vacated by Lamar Alexander, who if he were still there might be in the discussion about occasionally voting with Democrats, somewhat like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney.
I wrote to Hagerty today and thought I might share it here. I’m not sure if I will continue engaging with him in this vein, but I do think that people in swing states sometimes have perspectives slightly different from the punditocracies on the coasts, where people are less likely to interact with Trump voters on a daily basis.
Dear Senator Hagerty,
For four years, I have been writing to Lamar Alexander regularly to urge him to defend our the people of our country and the rule of law, more or less against an enemy which is his and your party leadership. I asked him if he wanted to be remembered like John McCain (whom I rarely agreed with but who does deserve respect) or to be forgotten as just another one of Trump’s lapdogs. Before that I wrote in the same vein to Bob Corker.
Another way to say this is that I understand how Republicans are not all unpatriotic traitors, and I try to convince my friends on the left of this same point — not to be so indiscriminately hateful and dismissive, but rather to see that there is considerable goodwill and complexity among many rank and file Republicans, as well as some subset of elected Republicans. As Neil Young said a couple of days ago, a lot of the Republican base, even extending to some among the protestors last week, deserve a degree of empathy because they have been deliberately misguided.
But Trump has for a very long time been beyond the pale. You are surely well-informed enough to know that. And insurrectionist lynch mobs are even further beyond the pale. It it is outrageous that anyone in the Senate is giving them cover. A commentator I read yesterday said it well: both sides of our country may each think that the other side is floating on a river of false information, but one good rule of thumb to discern which side is persuasive is this one: if you look around and your side has a large contingent of Nazis, you are likely on the wrong side.
Yet today the Republicans are on TV defending the attempted coup led by Trump and outright Nazis! If this is was not impeachable, then nothing can ever possibly be impeachable.
Long ago I gave up on writing to Marsha Blackburn, because I suspect that she, too, is beyond the pale and appealing to her morality and reason would be a waste of my time.
But I don’t know you well; your legacy in the Senate is open-ended. Thus I want to address you with respect and give you a chance to keep this respect. I think the future of our country depends on rebuilding this sort of respect. But– this should be obvious– it cannot happen if there are no serious consequences for the insurrectionists, nor for the flagrantly criminal and traitorous behaviors of Trump and his close allies.
Nor can calls for unity simply mean, in effect, lobbying Biden to be even more centrist (center-right in global terms) than he already is. Obviously this is a cynical argument made in bad faith, as long as it does not come with serious changes in behavior on the far right.
Please do the right thing. I do thank you from backing away from the “sedition caucus” group lead by Hawley and Cruz. But this is not anywhere near enough by itself. Please break unambiguously with the Trumpist wing of your party and respect your oath of office. This is an astonishingly small ask, that I am simply encouraging you not to be in open rebellion against the rule of law, and further enabling someone who clearly would like to be a dictator along the lines of Putin. We deserve to ask you for a lot more than this! But please at least do this little bit in the current crisis.
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