Fred Kowal: How Shall We Teach, Ms. Congresswoman And Mr. Congressman?
It was with some trepidation that I read a column recently in The Washington Post. It listed the names of over 120 Republican members of the House of Representatives who joined the ridiculous suit brought by the attorney general of Texas on behalf of President Trump to throw out the votes of millions of Americans because… well, because those Americans had the temerity to vote for Joe Biden for president.
My fears were realized when I found the names of two members of New York’s congressional delegation in the list: Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin. I was bitterly disappointed but not surprised. After all, they attended Trump’s super-spreader rallies prior to Election Day. I figured if they were willing to risk their health and their family’s health, joining a lawsuit based on literally nothing would be no big deal.
Still, I wish I could ask them a few questions. As a professor who has taught introductory courses in American Government, I need to ask: How shall I teach in the future?
How can I teach my students that Congress is the institution responsible for lawmaking when so many of its members reject democracy and voting processes established by the 50 states—after taking an oath to uphold the Constitution, no less!
How can I teach about elections, the process by which the majority of Americans—filtered through the archaic Electoral College—express their will by choosing leaders that we all accept when a majority of House Republicans reject that principle?
How can I explain that those members of Congress, in the most cynical way imaginable, actually believe in the Constitution—except in those instances when their party loses a national election?
Representative Stefanik, I wish I could remind you in person that the Constitution does not contain conditional principles nor does it contain exceptions to the rule of law.
The states have established laws to regulate their elections. When the states, following legal procedures established by their elected officials, have determined the winner of an election, the Constitution is clear: The election is over and the winner is to be acknowledged. That’s Government 101.
I’d also like to ask how they foresee President-Elect Biden as commander in chief and the paramount representative of these United States operating on the world stage? How will he fare when a majority of the elected representatives of the opposition party won’t publicly acknowledge him as president and rejects his taking that role?
As Republicans, do they not understand the threat to American interests and national security when they take this position?
The situation is very simple, as any student in one of my International Relations courses could explain. The American president must be seen by foreign leaders, both friend and foe alike, as the true voice of our nation. Will the leaders of China, or Russia—or for that matter, Turkey, Iran or even Israel—accept the messages delivered by President Biden given the rejection of his legitimacy by so many in the Republican Party?
How is he to conduct negotiations from a position of strength? How is he to project American power?
In the international arena, it is most dangerous when the leader of a major power is not respected for the power they wield. If Kim Jong-un threatens his neighbors and President Biden reacts with a warning, could the North Korean leader defy Biden if the warning is not seen as meaningful?
After all, according to roughly two-thirds of House Republicans, the President is not legitimate. Such a situation could quickly escalate into dangerous territory.
I wonder if the Republican officials who have rejected the legitimate election of Joe Biden considered all the ramifications of taking such a stand? As they clamor for blessings of approval from Donald Trump, do they realize that they risk the future of our democracy, of our Constitutional government, and of the national security of our nation?
Does their own electoral necessity override their duty to our nation? It’s regrettable. But it is where we are as a nation.
Indeed, our nation is at risk, because of choices that have been taken by political leaders like Stefanik and Zeldin. I must ask: Where does their loyalty lie? Are they loyal to their cult-like party or the nation they claim to serve?
Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
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