In an open letter in the Washington Post Monday, 44 former U.S. Senators issued an ominous plea to current and future members of the upper chamber: defend American democracy. “We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” the senators warned.
The inflection point is not just President Trump and his administration’s conduct writ large, but the coming reckoning over whatever it is that Robert Mueller ends up finding after rooting around in felonious life and times of Donald J. Trump. “We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration,” the letter reads. “The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.”
It is a bipartisan call that doesn’t exactly single out Donald Trump and is enablers directly, and could conceivably be read as an appeal to better angels on both sides, but the subtext of the letter is pretty clear as are the leanings of the former senators who signed. Of the signatories to the letter, just 10 are Republicans and not frothing-at-the-mouth Fox Newsified Republicans of the post-Tea Party era. The GOP senators who signed on are more the Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), William Cohen (R-Maine), and John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) type of Republican, which, in itself, feels like a a throwback to a simpler time.
The complete list of signatories includes: Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry(D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)
“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy,” the letter concludes. “Today is once again such a time.”