As of this writing, it is far from clear whether the Democrats in Congress will respond as the nation needs to the crisis of this lawless President. It is unclear whether the United States will pass this time of “testing,” as House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler described this crossroads, “whether we can keep a republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government, as other republics have over the centuries.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren might make an important contribution here. Already, on the subject of impeachment, Senator Warren has been a positive figure. I propose that she now take a next big step — delivering a speech to the American people — that would benefit the nation. (I also believe it would be to her benefit as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, but that’s not the main point of what I propose she do.)
I’ll skip the “Why impeachment?” question, which I’ve addressed in various pieces (since 2017), most recently this past weekend in “The Case for Launching Impeachment Is Overwhelming.”
As for “Why Warren?” – i.e. why she should be the one to step up and play this role — there are several points to be made.
First, the speech I propose is founded on two points that Senator Warren has already made strongly. 1) She’s come out strongly for impeachment. 2) And she has made specific reference to the moral obligation that falls on everyone in Congress, all of them having all sworn a sacred oath to defend the Constitution.
So this speech builds on her actual position.
Second, Senator Warren has abilities and personal qualities that make her the right messenger for this moment.
In addition to her having clarity about impeachment, she is a former law professor who has evident gifts as a teacher, which would make her exceptionally capable of conveying to the American people what they need to know about the threat to the Constitution and about the need for us Americans to protect the Constitution against that threat.
In addition to her pedagogic skills, she has a moral quality that will resonate in Middle America. Her genuineness and her moral earnestness are palpable. Born and raised in the American heartland, Elizabeth Warren comes across as an embodiment of the “woman of good character,” a cultural archetype that has a respected place in Middle America: morally responsible, genuinely righteous, and caring.
All of which make her quite possibly the right person to come forward to make the case to the American people for why impeachment is necessary.
At the end, here, I’ll offer a thought about how she could get the attention of the American people for her message. First, here are the general lines of the message I propose she deliver (at whatever length or brevity the forum she can find makes appropriate).
- It begins with the oath of office that our founders put into the Constitution, requiring every Member of Congress to swear, “I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic….”
- That means that if a President of the United States represents a threat to the Constitution, then we have a sacred obligation to protect and defend the Constitution. If that’s the case, there is no other honorable choice but to fulfill that solemn promise.
- Which means that if Donald Trump has shown himself to be a threat to the Constitution, we have no honorable choice but to protect the Constitution from him. So the only question is: has Donald Trump shown himself to be a threat to the Constitution?
- And unfortunately, the answer couldn’t be clearer. He has. Over 1000 former DOJ officials wrote an extraordinary letter saying that the Mueller Report shows clearly that the President committed multiple crimes – indictable crimes – and that it is not even a close call.
- These crimes committed by the President amount to trying to place himself above the law.
- This is precisely the kind of threat to the Constitution that most concerned our founders, and for which they made sure that – as a very necessary part of their system of “checks and balances” – Congress would have Impeachment as a tool with which to honor their oath should such a would-be tyrant somehow become President.
- Just as this lawless President is going all-out – we can see now that Trump will do everything he can to protect himself – the oath requires from Congress an all-out response to make as sure as possible that the lawless use of presidential powers will not prevail or continue.
- An oath implies doing everything possible to fulfill the promise to see that the Constitution is protected, not just what’s convenient, or going through the motions. A most serious offense like this requires the most serious response—the impeachment of the President.
- It matters greatly to every American that Congress fulfill its oath: all this about protecting the Constitution goes to the heart of why Americans have enjoyed considerable blessings these last two-plus centuries. And if we were to lose that constitutional order (our founders required us to pledge to defend) we Americans – all Americans –would descend into a darker future.
- An oath is a serious thing—the strongest way that humankind has developed to assure that someone will behave in a certain necessary way when the occasion calls for it—regardless of whether it’s easy, or to their advantage. That our founders put that oath into the Constitution is one more proof of their wisdom: They wanted to bind the people in Congress – to make them feel honor bound – in a situation like the unfortunate one we’re in now — to impeach a President when that’s necessary to protect our constitutional order.
- But an oath is only as strong an assurance as the political leaders who take that oath are honorable enough to be bound by their sacred promise. This is a test of the honor of everyone serving in Congress— Republican as well as Democrat.
- “I take my oath seriously. I do not welcome this constitutional crisis. The reason I am stepping forward now to talk with you, the American people, is not because it’s something that I want to do. But because I took that oath to defend the Constitution. That means that — along with all my colleagues — I am morally obligated to do everything I can to help protect the Constitution when it is under threat. And so, when I saw that I might help fulfill that oath by coming forward like this to tell you what the nation needs for you to know– and what President Trump and his handpicked Attorney General have done everything they could to prevent their knowing it—I understood that I must. (If I could do more to save our constitutional order, and didn’t, what kind of oath-keeper would I be?)”
I believe that Elizabeth Warren’s delivering that speech would be a service to the nation.
In terms of how she might get the necessary attention to have the maximal impact, one possible approach would be to team up with Tom Steyer, the billionaire who has been using TV ads to push for impeachment since 2017, and who could advance his own cause by putting the spotlight on Elizabeth Warren, with her gifts and assets and her rising status as a possible next President of the United States.
And in terms of how her taking such a bold action might impact her run for the presidency, I would say that it would be an opportunity for Elizabeth Warren to show her leadership potential. It is a historically important moment, and it is not clear that the nation is handling this crisis as it should. Our situation calls out for good leadership, and she can show how she would lead us by talking to us honestly, cogently, with well thought-out ideas that are morally responsible and that appeal to the better angels of the American people.