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Impeach or wait? It’s an oath-of-office question

Some things have time limits. Constitutions, the rule of law, and democratic republics can disappear in the twinkling of an eye. This is no time to blink.

We the People
Constitution of the United States
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Impeach or wait?

It’s no longer a partisan question. It becomes clearer every day. It’s not a strategic question. It’s no longer a question of how much more, or when is enough enough. It’s a constitutional question. It’s an oath-of-office question, the oath taken by every member of Congress under the U.S. Constitution, which states:

The Senators and Representatives … and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution …

— U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3.

Here is the form of the oath of office that members of Congress have taken since 1966, as prescribed in the U.S. Code:

I, __, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

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Assaults on the Constitution

With every passing day, some who have taken the oath of office sidestep the duties of their offices by “purpose of evasion” in the face of the growing constitutional crisis. It is no longer a question of which side of the aisle you are on. Supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution means, at very least, upholding the constitutional checks and balances among executive, congressional, and judicial branches designed to protect a democratic republic from its implosion. Assaults and circumventions around that division of powers are assaults on the Constitution and the rule of law it protects.

Purpose of evasion

EVASION. A subtle device to set aside the truth, or escape the punishment of the law; as if a man should tempt another to strike him first, in order that he might have an opportunity of returning the blow with impunity. He is nevertheless punishable, because he becomes himself the aggressor in such a case. Wishard, 1 H. P. C. 81 Hawk. P. C. c. 31, Sec. 24, 25; Bac. Ab. Fraud, A.

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart
Rev. Gordon C. Stewart
The British idea of “loyal opposition” — loyalty to the nation and to the oath to “support and defend” the Constitution — is a longstanding tradition. The loyalty is to the Constitution. Faithfulness is to one’s oath of office, not loyalty to a person. Loyal opposition holds the party in power accountable. Loyal opposition infers loyalty to the Constitution by members of whatever party is the majority.

Partisan stonewalling against the constitutional duty of constitutional oversight — whether by a president, the House of Representatives, or the U.S. Senate — constitutes violation of the oath of office by “purpose of evasion.”

No time to blink

Some argue that an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives, regardless of its findings, is destined to fail because the majority party in the Senate will exonerate the president of the majority party.

We would do well to remember the wisdom of an earlier American president:

Democracy … while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

John Adams

Some things cannot wait. Some things have time limits. Constitutions, the rule of law, and democratic republics can disappear in the twinkling of an eye.

This is no time to blink.

Gordon C. Stewart, the retired pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, is a social commentator, writer and radio commentator. He is the author of “Be Still: Departure from Collective Madness.”

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