Burt Bacharach’s lyrics from the 1967 hit song and movie seem an appropriate inquiry contemplating the content of the presidential period from the 2016 campaign to Election Day 2020.
What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule?
With about 4 weeks to the inauguration of the 46th POTUS, the few weeks between November 3, 2020, and the January event were riddled with puzzling, sometimes frustrating, often mind-boggling events.
The absence of profiles in courage among 126 Republican House members whose challenge to the presidential election, in fact, also challenged the votes that seated them in Congress. Each of them swore a solemn oath of fidelity to the nation:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God
Resignation as a principled stand is one method of expressing the depth and extent of commitment to one’s oath. Federal law requires a similar, more extensive commitment from newly admitted citizens:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure (or renounce) all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
In political terms, this may be the soul of the message – that Republicans are committed to resist governing the nation and plan to sit in Congress with arms crossed, faces defiant, and a “make me” sneer on their lips.
Whatever mental and moral gymnastics Republican House members performed to attack the fundamental democratic values of the Constitution and the votes of 165 million citizens is certainly not an act of courage. After due consideration, it may be concluded that fear of retribution form a vindictive White House incumbent may be one reason. That possibility violates the sworn commandment to “defend” the nation against all enemies. It may also be deemed to violate faithful “discharge of the duties” of office.
As friends of the court (amici curiae) to the Texas lawsuit, the 126 Republican House members are expressing a willful determination not to govern, again a failure to discharge the duties of office. In political terms, this may be the soul of the message – that Republicans are committed to resisting governing the nation and plan to sit in Congress with arms crossed, faces defiant, and a “make me” sneer on their lips.
When P45 was elected, Republicans, mostly from the far right, jeered disappointed opponents with “get over it” brickbats. In contemporary civic culture that is not a two-way street.
P45 has unabashedly and shamelessly attacked members of his nominal party and received support from the most loyal of his cult band. Sen. Lindsey Graham urged, “If you’re not fighting for Trump now when he needs you the most as a Republican leader in Georgia, people are not going to fight for you when you ask them to get re-elected.” This challenge goes to the heart of violating the oath of office.
For Republicans, as the song reminds, “it’s wise to be cruel;” and “take more than we give.” And if life belongs only to the strong, mortgaging the “golden rule” is fitting. Many remain as confused as Alfie, unable to sort it out.