U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

February 12, 2022

Legitimate Political Discourse

February 12, 2022

Dear Fellow Marylander:

I write today to express my concerns about a fissure in our nation.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Americans gathered outside the White House to hear the outgoing president. The day was chosen specifically because it was the same day the Congress was ceremonially certifying the new president and vice president. There may have been some in that crowd who came for one last listen to the man who was defeated by Joe Biden. For many others, including, it seems, Donald Trump and other speakers, this rally was a culmination of a deliberate plan to delay and then disrupt the legal and orderly process of counting electoral votes from the states.

The fissure I speak of is not whether you support or oppose Donald Trump. No, the more serious break in this country is whether you support the rule of law.

America is an idea built on a system of laws, not men (and women). While imperfect, our Constitution reflects a strong desire to avoid the trappings of dictators and authoritarian leaders.

In Federalist Papers 51, James Madison notes that, “What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

The rule of law has made our nation a beacon for the world, and this includes our signature “peaceful transition of power” that started with George Washington voluntarily retiring after two terms in office.

On January 6, 2021, the mob pushed past security barriers, beat police officers with flag poles, sprayed them with bear repellant, and chased them through corridors. This was as far from “legitimate political discourse.”

The goal on that day was to breach the inner sanctum of our republic, disrupt the certification of our legally elected president and vice president, and overturn the will of the voters.

Yet, last weekend, at its winter meeting, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution by a majority of its members calling it “legitimate political discourse.”

At least six people died as a result of what happened on that day. Some invaders were armed. Some had zip-ties visible and were ready to take hostages. By most any measure, it was an attempted coup.

January 6, 2021 brought to an end the 233-year streak of the peaceful transition of power from one American leader to the next.

Although it does not happen often, I agreed with Mitch McConnell when he said: “We all were here. We saw what happened … It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next.”

Courts have consistently found no claims of discernible fraud in the 2020 election, yet #StopTheSteal continues to circulate like wildfire. According to Trump loyalist Peter Navarro, more than 100 members of Congress had “signed off” on the plan to disrupt the electoral count. We are more than a full year into the Biden-Harris administration and there still are elected officials and others who refuse to speak the words that Joe Biden won the election.

When a sitting president of the United States and his supporters intentionally scheme to find ways to keep that defeated leader in office despite the overwhelming will of the people — who voted in record numbers — we have a problem bigger than any one person.

My colleagues line up to condemn coups that happen around the world. They need to do the same in this country. Laws matter. This is fundamental.

The nonsense of labeling this day as benign or “legitimate political discourse” has to stop. Transparency is essential. We need to know exactly what happened on January 6, 2021, so that we can make sure there are adequate guardrails to prevent it from ever happening again. Ignoring or whitewashing recent events helps no one and diminishes our nation’s standing as a leader of the free world.

I may have had my differences with the positions that Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have taken throughout their careers, but today they honorably uphold their oath to protect and defend the Constitution. This is an oath taken by the president and every federal official. It is something I take seriously as I represent you in the United States Senate.

American-style democracy is not easy and it is quite fragile. Yet it has shown resiliency throughout our history. As we are tested, once again, I’m proud to travel this path of truth and good governance with you.

Thank you for your time. Please keep safe. Get your COVID-19 booster, if you have not already.


Ben Cardin