In 2018, I was the Democratic candidate for the Utah House of Representatives in House District 64 (South Provo and North Springville).
Spoiler alert: I lost.
When I was running, I believed that my ideas were better for Utah than my opponent’s. I still do. But more important than that, I believed that the people of my district had the right to choose their representative freely and fairly.
I still believe that, too.
But one person who apparently does not believe this is the president of the United States. On Jan. 29, one of his impeachment defense lawyers made an argument that anything a president does that he considers to be “in the national interest” — including gaining an unfair advantage in an upcoming election — is not impeachable conduct.
Or, as Richard M. Nixon once put it, “If the president does it, then it is not illegal.”
Not a single one of our Founding Fathers would have agreed with either statement. They enacted a Constitution based on the principle that fair elections, free from outside interference, are what define democratic republics. I agree with them. Anything less than a free, fair election is neither democratic nor truly republican.
But I think Trump agrees with his lawyer. He has so conflated the national interest with his personal interest that he doesn’t see any difference between the two. He has forgotten (or, more likely, never bothered to learn) that a president’s policies and political fortunes are always, always secondary to the people’s right to choose their own leaders.
Even if the people are 100% wrong, respecting their agency to choose the wrong is the single most important thing a democratic republic ever does. Without that feature, it ceases to be a democratic republic at all.
We have a president who apparently doesn’t believe that it is better to lose honestly than to win by cheating.
As someone who’s experienced an honest loss, I know differently. A loss can be bitter, especially when you see your opposition implement policies that you’re sure will hurt people. But it is better to live through that than to deny your voters their agency.
Trump’s attitude should automatically disqualify anyone who shares it from holding any public office, because if followed to its logical end, it will subvert our republic into a dictatorship like Venezuela’s. In fact, this is exactly what happened in Venezuela, in Turkey, and in every other democracy throughout history that has slid into dictatorship.
If anyone was not convinced that we are experiencing a constitutional crisis, this is your final wake-up call. We are in danger of losing our republic right now.
Daniel Craig Friend was the Democratic candidate for Utah HD-64 in 2018 and is the author of “Why More Mormons Should Be Democrats and Why America Should Pay Attention".