Comes Now the Winter of Our Discontent

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Those words — written December 23, 1776, by Revolutionary War hero Thomas Paine — ring absolutely true to this day. The U.S. Senate, once called “the greatest deliberative body in the world” 150 years ago by President James Buchanan, now faces it’s greatest challenge in recent times to live up to that reputation as it takes up the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

If we look to history for direction in these difficult times of hyper-partisan divisions, we might take comfort in the admonition of James Madison, who wrote during the Constitutional Convention that the Senate should serve as “a necessary fence” to protect “the people against their rulers.”

While Madison and Paine directed their words toward the tyranny of the English monarchy — and the depredations and sufferings it leveled upon its colony in the new world — it’s impossible to ignore their applicability to Trump’s wildly authoritarian excesses and disdain for the laws, institutions, and the system of checks and balances upon which our nation was founded.

Those who have been following the progress of only the third presidential impeachment in 232 years would be absolutely correct to point out that the Senate’s Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has already foolishly blurted out that under his dubious “leadership” the Republican majority in the Senate would be acting in concert with the White House.

In essence, McConnell has already broken his oath to render “impartial justice” which was administered by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John G. Roberts, and signed by every senator. How, one might credibly ask, can someone who says they will coordinate their actions with the accused sit as an impartial jury during Trump’s impeachment trial?

Make no mistake, the eyes of history are upon the nation’s capital and will remain there for weeks to come. When Rep. Adam Schiff delivered the articles of impeachment last week he read them aloud on the Senate floor, saying: “President Trump warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” Schiff, who has been repeatedly insulted by Trump, added the president has “demonstrated he will remain a threat to national security and the constitution if he is allowed to remain in office.”

In McConnell’s futile attempt to protect Trump from prosecution for his crimes he is taking the radical step to intentionally shut the press out of the Senate proceedings by forcing them to remain in “press pens.” This bald-faced attempt to keep the truth from the American people is so outrageous that it even prompted Louisiana Republican Senator Sen. John Kennedy to call it a “huge mistake,” adding: “There is an effort to limit the press,” and saying: “U.S. senators are grown women and grown men. If they don’t want to make a comment, they know how to say ‘no comment.'”

With new allegations of his crimes revealed daily, rest assured the American people will not stand for those who “shrink from the service of their country” to protect Trump — and those senators who do so will be duly punished for their perfidy at November’s polls.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.