In Federalist Paper No. 62, James Madison wrote, “It is a misfortune incident to republican government, though in a less degree than to other governments, that those who administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust.” Yet the author of our Constitution wasn’t merely lamenting the potential failures of dutiful governance, he was prescribing a structural solution.
Madison continued, writing, “In this point of view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient.” Ultimately, Madison knew that if the lamp of American liberty were to remain lit for centuries, it needed a layered institutional defense.
One of those carefully-constructed sentinels was the United States Senate, an inherently-scrutinous organization conceived to ensure that sovereignty survived the threats generated by manifestations of swift-moving populist tides. It was never intended to serve as an anemic legislative scribe, a veritable second set of acquiescing congressional eyes.
Now, over two centuries later, a body Madison—and his fellow Founders—entrusted to “protect the people against their rulers” and “against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led”, has willfully allowed itself to become derelict. For years, the Senate has courted operational paralysis, but now, the fruits of its negligent labor have ripened. Today, the Senate has become a mere instrument of deference, bowing before the might of an engorged executive, imperiling its hallowed mission.
To view the despondency-inducing extent of the Senate’s assertive rot, one only need look to the events of the recent past. Amid a rising tide of diplomatic tension promulgated by President Trump, Jeff Flake took to the floor of the United States Senate and delivered a sharply-worded critique of such destructively-crass doings. A few days later, the president—clearly unmoved by Flake’s condemnation—stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladimir Putin and assailed his own country.
With each passing day’s presidential outburst, and every injurious act levied against America’s national interests, the abject cowardice of the Senate’s controlling party becomes even more putrid. So let’s be clear, there’s nothing conservative about economy-crashing trade wars, impugning the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities, or dismembering valued alliance systems. And there’s nothing American about embracing hostility toward immigrants, attacking the free press, assaulting truth, or praising dictators. And to permit such toxic behavior is to endorse its inevitably ruinous effects.
To the Senate GOP, particularly its retiring members, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and Orrin Hatch, do you really consider yourselves blessed to be in the service of your nation? If so, enough with the feeble statements of disapproval, and enough with the charade of helplessness. Words are nice, but action is better.
So do what those in positions of power are supposed to do, provide a check against a president actively working to sacrifice our security, prosperity, and values. The three of you alone possess the power to send a forceful message, the power to stifle the president’s corrosive agenda and constrain his devastating conduct. Clog committees, stall confirmations, thwart reconciliation votes, and exert influence to bring beneficial legislation to the floor.
Be the mavericks your country now needs.