What would Virginia’s Founding Fathers think of Ben Cline’s actions?

Letter

All 50 states have contributed to making the United States the world’s greatest nation, and the principal reason is our support for DEMOCRACY, which is basically a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” As a Virginia resident for many years, I believe that democracy exists in our nation in a large part thanks to those smart Founding Fathers, most of whom were born here in Virginia.

Think about it. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, Madison authored the U.S. Constitution, Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, and John Marshall changed the way the Supreme Court worked and established it as an equal third branch of the government.

These Virginia statesmen achieved a high standard of excellence, and the many Virginia statesmen who have since followed them as members of Congress, Presidents, and Justices have sought to be worthy of their predecessors’ leadership and contributions for democracy.

Other countries have even based their own governments on the U.S. Constitution and our democratic principles. Although democracy isn’t perfect, experts agree that it’s the best governmental system globally because it simply works.  In a nutshell, democracy is a system of rules by laws that were created by the citizens — not by leaders or individuals. These rules of law protect the rights of citizens, maintain order, and limit the power of government. All citizens are equal under the law, and no one may be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender.  In short, democracy is why the U.S. is a great nation.

The most powerful tool behind our nation’s laws is the right for eligible citizens simply to vote, and the majority rules for us to choose our leaders, members of Congress, many justices, and State, county, and local government officials. That’s true power in this troubled world — and I’m proud that I helped choose whom I want to represent me simply by voting.  No monarchs, rulers, presidents (former or current), tyrants, dictators, emperors, or kings/queens need apply.  

We have historically been able to achieve all our presidential elections without coups, revolts, overthrows, and most important — nobody gets killed. But, we must never forget that Americans have fought and died in wars and military actions to defend democracy; as the bumper sticker on my car says, “People Died for Your Right to Vote.” So, we don’t take that right lightly. 

So, what the hell happened in 2020 when all four of the Republican Congressmen from Virginia — including our own Rep. Ben Cline (R-Virginia’s Sixth District) here in the Shenandoah Valley — revolted, turning their backs on democracy, and supported a post-presidential election lawsuit instigated by the defeated Donald Trump and filed by the State of Texas?

Can you imagine what the Founding Fathers would have thought about these current Republican Virginia legislators violating the principles of democracy they had worked so hard to create 250 years ago, especially during a time when these patriots knew that their actions against the king of England would likely get them hanged? And, these 21st Century rebels sought to overthrow our principles of democracy solely for political reasons? Unbelievable.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney called the Texas legal action “simply madness,” and former N.J. Republican Governor Christine Whitman compared the lawsuit “somewhat to Jonestown,” which ended in a tragic mass suicide of 900 disciples after their leader convinced them to drink poisoned Kool Aid.

This “revolt” was the sole creation of defeated President Donald Trump, who for years has claimed, without a single shred of actual, credible evidence, that our election system, based on a variety of rules created by each of the 50 State legislatures, is full of flaws and illegal actions. His constant and prolonged charges of election fraud have convinced millions of his Republican disciples — known as his base — to agree with his lies, even after they are proven false. I find it hard to believe that reasonable people have been swayed solely by a powerful leader who lies constantly, but history does really repeat itself when people blindly follow their leaders’ charges and rebel.

Even more threatening to our democracy is Trump’s “success” bullying his fellow Republicans in Congress and other elected officials to support his invented conspiracies under the threat and reality of his reputation for revenge against those who disagree with him. Democracy wasn’t designed to threaten and scare citizens, but tell that to the meek Republicans in Congress who let Trump walk all over them.

Thanks to Trump’s phone calls, “tweets,” and direct threats to state employees and Republicans, amazingly Ben Cline and his Virginia Republican cohorts joined the Texas lawsuit along with Republican attorneys general from 18 States and 126 other Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives. Did we witness the first rebellion against the U.S. Government since the Civil War actually occurring in 2020?

The Texas lawsuit argued that 20 million ballots supporting President-elect Joe Biden’s election from four key states should be discarded, based simply on Trump’s spurious charges that alleged voting illegalities in those states caused him to lose the presidential election. Trump’s has hoped the State and Federal courts, even including the Supreme Court, would overturn Biden’s successful election so that he could be re-elected to a second term even after losing the popular vote by 6 million votes and not obtaining the necessary electoral college totals. Imagine how the 20 million voters in those key states would have felt to find out that their right to vote wasn’t much of a right at all.

Over the course of history, political revolts are referred to as a coup d’état, basically an illegal attempt to overthrow and seize power from a government. Coups tend to be driven by persons seeking to incite people to rebel against the authority of the government. This is called “sedition”— and it violates the U.S. Constitution.  

In fact, constitutional experts have observed that the Constitution doesn’t even include references on how to deal with a sore-loser President legally, mainly because the Founding Fathers couldn’t even fathom a President behaving so badly or daring to put his own interests above the country’s, as well as undermining the legitimacy of democracy without already having been impeached for these offenses by his peers.

Trump’s obsessive election fraud charges led to nearly 60 lawsuits being filed around the country — ALL of which were tossed by the responding courts. The Texas lawsuit differed by being submitted directly to the Supreme Court, and it was considered by Trump to be his last hope.  Fortunately for supporters of democracy and the wisdom contained in the Constitution, Trump’s hopes that “his” Supreme Court would back up his charges went nowhere. Because of their extensive knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and understanding of democracy, the Supreme Court justices — three of whom were nominated by Donald Trump — tossed out the Texas lawsuit, simply because Texas doesn’t have any right to tell other States how to conduct their elections. Again, not a single piece of evidence of voting fraud has been confirmed by courts nationwide — yet the disciples continue to believe Trump’s lies. Trump responded by saying “We have just begun to fight.” Time to pass out the Kool Aid.

The supporters of the Texas “coup” have been roundly criticized by legal experts and the media, who were frankly amazed that the rebellious Republicans would even attempt to challenge a citizen’s right to vote — the cornerstone of our democracy.  

Rep. Cline’s office and website have been flooded with criticism from his constituents of his decision to rebel. It didn’t help that his feeble response for his lapse in judgment was that he supported President Trump’s right to “have his day” in court. Giving a losing President his day in court is one thing, but 60 losing lawsuits seems a bit much.

Ben Cline must have forgotten those oaths of office he’s sworn to follow — supporting the Constitution and performing his congressional duties to the best of his ability — once when he received his law degree, and the second when he became a U.S. Congressman. He pledged this oath when he first became a Congressman, and he will likely swear the oath a second time when the new Congress convenes in 2021.  

I think that Cline’s decision to be a good Republican, instead of being a responsible legislator who abides by his promises to support democracy first, demonstrates a major flaw in his character and raises questions about his loyalty to the U.S. I submit that he already has damaged his reputation permanently as a Congressman from Virginia.

An elected official with no integrity has no business being in Congress. I worked for the U.S. Congress for several years; the powers-that-be will likely call Cline’s lapse in judgment an embarrassment to the citizens of Virginia; the media has already called it “political suicide.” It certainly would have driven Virginia’s Founding Fathers nuts. 

I believe Ben Cline ought to apologize, resign, learn some humility, and try to repair his reputation. I hope that he will learn that supporting our nation and democracy comes way before political party loyalty. 

I believe our Founding Fathers would have agreed.

Don Feliciano ~ Luray, Va.  

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