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Ulmer: Senators choose politics over principle

Ulmer: Senators choose politics over principle

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As predicted my recent lecture, principle versus politics had no effect whatsoever on Senator Hoeven or Senator Cramer’s vote on impeaching Donald Trump. Both my loyal readers should recall that I had great hopes that our senators would come down on the side of principle but once again both of them have escaped the honor of being profiles in courage by choosing politics over principle.

I know both of these guys. I met Hoeven when Gov. Sinner appointed him to run the Bank of North Dakota. At one point John thought he’d run for governor as a Democrat but rumor has it that his dad convinced him that he was a Republican. I’ve worked with John when he was governor and senator; he’s a nice guy who sticks with the party line.

Cramer and I go back to times before John was a known quantity. Governor Schafer appointed Kevin to head of North Dakota Tourism Department where he did a good job helping us get Fort Lincoln underway and then he was appointed public service commissioner and eventually elevated himself to where he is today.

Although I’ve disagreed more than agreed with them, neither of these guys wants to leave this place worse off than they found it. Their jobs as U.S. senators are filled with all sorts of challenging trepidation, but most of their work is pretty mundane. However thanks to the auspices of their office they get to decide significant moments in history that demand a strong moral compass based on principles that are more important than their political careers. In the case of impeaching Donald Trump they set principle aside and voted to preserve their tenure. Although North Dakota voters aren’t likely to sanction either of them, history will remember both of them for their vote to ignore a president who lied and manipulated his followers into a murderous insurrection by falsely getting them to believe that his reelection was stolen.

Unlike most Americans who still have to work to make a living, I had the time to watch the entire impeachment process. As such there was no question in my mind that the 43 Republican senators who voted to ignore Trump’s egregious actions had made up their mind before the trial even started. Hoeven was one of them because he even ducked out of an afternoon hearing to prove my point. Senators were seated as jurors and therefore required to be present in the room during the hearings. If this had been a normal trial, the judge would have cited Hoeven for contempt.

Cramer on the other hand has always been a heavy duty Trump supporter, but he did sit through and participate in the trial even though his mind was made up long before the trial occurred.

I found it interesting that Senator McConnell lambasted Trump but voted to exonerate him. The Senate majority leader somehow managed to delay the hearings until Trump and the senator were out of office and then blamed the Democrats for making it unconstitutional to convict a person that was no longer in office. It seems to define hypocrisy (like a needle that heads one way while pointing to another) but his actions allowed his caucus to head for political cover under the claim that it’s unconstitutional to impeach a former president thus exonerating Trump. Then McConnell told us in no uncertain terms that Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection. But that’s politics and that’s what’s wrong with politicians that come down on the side of politics as opposed to principle. McConnell had to save his members from the wrath of Trump’s base.

In politics I’ve learned to agree where I can, disagree where I have to and do my best to walk away friends because tomorrow we might need each other. So I’ve once again disagreed with the results of Trump’s impeachment and done my best to express my feelings to my representatives in Congress. Here’s hoping that all of us can do better in the days ahead. 

Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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