Mike Lee, Utah’s senior U.S. senator, hasn’t said or done much of note in his nine years in office. The past two weeks have been busy for him, though.
First, Lee was one of 34 people to test positive for COVID-19 after attending a White House event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in which the attendees sat cheek-by-jowl without wearing masks.
Not to be outdone for his personal recklessness the previous week, on Wednesday, Lee tweeted that “rank democracy” is not the intent of the United States government. Instead, he said, liberty, peace and prosperity are the goals.
The former has long served as the predicate for the latter. Without democracy, the right of the people to choose their government and their leaders, all the objectives laid out are functionally impossible.
In subsequent statements, Lee’s office tried to clean up his missives, but the truth wins out: Lee doesn’t believe in our voices. He believes in his own and those with whom he shares power and authority. He is now hiding behind the distinction between a “democracy” and a “constitutional republic.”
This is doublespeak and Lee knows it. Americans believe we are a democracy. The greatest the world has ever known. Franklin Roosevelt isn’t lauded for building the “Arsenal of Constitutional Republicanism.”
This is the height of irony or, perhaps, hypocrisy coming from a man elected during the tea party wave of 2010.
Mike Lee is no ordinary guy. He didn’t pull himself up by his bootstraps and tough it out in Delta or the coal mines of Emery County. He’s the son of Utah gentry — his path was laid out for him, and now he wants to make sure only his path leads to success.
The timing of Lee’s statement is also troubling. With less than four weeks until Election Day, President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he will not accept the outcome if he loses, believes mail-in balloting is illegitimate and won’t commit to a peaceful transition of power. Is Lee telegraphing that he will stand with Trump in such an eventuality?
The people of Utah, and of the United States deserve to know where all their elected officials — Republicans and Democrats — stand on these threats. Trump is inciting sedition among right-wing terrorists, encouraging red state governors to ensure votes are counted only long enough to show him winning and position Republican legislatures to file Trump-friendly slates of electors.
Given that Lee voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, despite knowing that the president’s 2016 campaign was playing footsie with the Russians, we shouldn’t be surprised. Though Trump knew how dangerous COVID-19 was in January, he downplayed it. Lee, as a member of the Senate, must have had the same information.
Did our senator once take to the well of the Senate to demand action on the pandemic? No. Did he go to the Oval Office, pound his fist on the Resolute Desk and tell the president to act? No.
When the president incited violence and invoked the words of George Wallace and Bull Connor in the wake of George Floyd’s death, did Lee stand up for civility and decency? No.
When Trump called members of the military “suckers” and “losers” did Lee pipe up? No. When Trump deployed masked, unnamed federal officers into American streets, did Mike Lee, constitutional conservative, demand they be sent home? No.
Mike Lee doesn’t talk all that much and certainly not when he should. So, when he does speak up, we should listen to him. Lee doesn’t care much for democracy. He also doesn’t care much for what you think about it, either.
Reed Galen is an independent political strategist and co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a group of current and former Republicans working to defeat Donald Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box next month. He lives in Park City.