Andrew Bjelland: Mike Lee is not a great defender of the Constitution

No supporter of Donald Trump deserves the vote of Utahns.

Independent Evan McMullin’s attempt to unseat Republican Sen. Mike Lee affords a singular opportunity. Independents, Democrats and disaffected Republicans should seize the day and unite in opposition to Lee and MAGA-Trumpist dominance within the GOP.

Without far greater support from Democrats, McMullin’s challenge will prove in vain. From a progressive perspective, McMullin is by no means an ideal candidate. Reluctant Democratic voters, however, should acknowledge that a McMullin win could forestall the MAGA takeover of the Senate. A vote for McMullin is a vote against MAGA-Trumpist authoritarianism and Lee’s “just-say-no” obstructionism.

In 2015 Lee correctly judged candidate Donald J. Trump unfit for office. In 2016 he registered his opposition to Trump by voting for McMullin. After Trump’s election, he spun an about-face and became one of President Trump’s most ardent supporters. Lee’s loyalty has garnered the former president’s endorsement. Lee even participated in Trump’s attempted reversal of the 2020 election’s outcome.

While standing next to Trump at an Arizona rally, Lee politicized his own religion. He likened Trump to the Book of Mormon’s Captain Moroni, a champion of liberty. He then hailed Trump’s commitment to “the well-being and the peace of the American people.”

By his words and deeds, and by his silent complicity and inaction, Lee remains loyal to the former president. Lee refuses to denounce Trump’s Big Lie. He fails to publicly and forcefully condemn the January 6 Insurrection. He does not support a thorough investigation of the assault on our nation’s Capitol. He does not criticize Trump’s refusal to quell that riot in a timely manner. He exhibits no interest in identifying and investigating those who participated in the former president’s apparent coup attempt.

In the face of mounting evidence of Trump’s criminality — including his alleged theft, retention and improper handling of classified documents and other official papers — Lee continues to defend the indefensible.

Lee promotes himself as a champion of the United States Constitution. Surely, he knows the Constitution and our democratic institutions are ordained to protect citizens against the tyranny of would-be autocrats and against the tyranny of the mobs they enflame. Surely, he knows constitutional checks and balances are in place to ensure that no individual is sovereign — that no person is above the law.

As a student of history, Lee is no doubt aware that our nation’s founders identified major threats to constitutional order.

In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton cautioned that someone unfit for public service, but with a cunning mastery of “low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity,” might one day ascend to our nation’s highest office. Donald J. Trump, by his seasoned talents for low intrigue and those little arts, attained the highest office in our land. Mounting evidence indicates he is morally, psychologically and intellectually unfit for any office held in the public trust and has engaged in high crimes.

Surely a candidate who refuses to denounce the former president’s defiance of the rule of law is unworthy of your vote.

In 1798, John Adams warned: “[A]varice, ambition, [or] revenge ... would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”

After four years of Trump’s presidency and nearly two years of his post-presidency, is there any reasonable doubt that Trump is the most avaricious, ambitious and vengeful “whale” to ever rip the cords of our Constitution asunder?

Surely a candidate who swims within Trump’s pod is unworthy of your vote.

In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison opposed the “mischiefs of faction” which could readily erode our electoral system. He defined a faction as “a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Has anyone ever penned a more apt description of the MAGA-Republicans?

Surely a candidate supported by the MAGA faction is unworthy of your vote.

Sen. Mitt Romney, who twice voted for Trump’s impeachment and conviction, is a defender of the Constitution. Sen. Lee, not so much.

Our founders were sons of the Enlightenment. MAGA-Republican candidates are spawn of America’s Darkening. A vote for Lee or any other MAGA-Republican is a vote in favor of terminating our nation’s experiment in democracy.

Andrew G. Bjelland

Andrew G. Bjelland, Ph.D., is professor emeritus, Philosophy Department, Seattle University. He resides in Salt Lake City.