An Open Letter to Charles Grassley

 Dear Senator Grassley:

 Let me get right to the point. Here’s what you said in February of this year, shortly after the January 6 Capitol insurrection: "President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn't back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count....There's no doubt in my mind that President Trump's language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible."

 In October of this year, on the eve of Trump’s endorsement of your bid for an eighth term in the Senate, here’s what you said, referring to Trump: "I was born at night, but not last night. So if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91% of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement."

 Senator, you’ve been in the Senate for over 40 years. You are 88 years old. It might be thought that you would be less concerned with maintaining the perks of senatorial power and more with your legacy and the welfare of the country. The fact that you welcome the endorsement of the man whose Big Lie about the stolen election has done more than any person in recent history to undermine our constitutional democracy strongly suggests that you are nonetheless addicted to those perks of power, apparently above all else.

 The Founders of this country were realists, striving to establish a structure of government that would contain ambition and check public iniquity. But they knew that the nation couldn’t survive without its citizens and public officials doing the right thing, at least a good part of the time. As James Madison said in Federalist No. 55: “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.” If “there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government” then “nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

 Although this country has had its share of depravity, it also has been fortunate to have benefitted from men and women of great public virtue who sacrificed convenience and life itself for the public good.  Not only those who lie in soldiers’ graves, but the civil rights leaders of all kinds, and labors leaders, who fought for a more perfect union. If people like you, who have little to lose but the trappings of power already long held, don’t stand up to the authoritarian person and ideology that has overtaken the Republican Party – to stand with courageous conservatives like Liz Cheney – then the Republic is brought that much closer to forfeiting its democracy.

Senator Grassley, the signers of the Declaration of Independence accounted their honor “sacred” and did what they did mindful of how posterity would judge them. I am confident that, however long it takes, American democracy will ultimately survive this shameful authoritarian episode that is Trump and Trumpism, and when it does, those who abetted it will be viewed as cowardly at best, treasonous at worst. Will you not do that for which the generations will remember you as an honorable and courageous man, instead of as someone who sold his dignity and reputation for an eighth Senate term?

By Robert Katz

Robert Katz served as a staff attorney and supervising attorney at the California Supreme Court from 1993-2018. Before that he was in private practice representing public agencies, and worked as a newspaper reporter covering local government in Santa Cruz County. 

 Follow our blog at www.renewingdemocracy.org

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