September 28, 2019

COUNTRY MORE THAN SEAT:

'It Feels Like a 1776 Kind of Fight': A freshman congresswoman reckons with the historical weight of standing up to the president. (MICHAEL KRUSE, September 27, 2019, Politico)

She just knew.

"The President of the United States," Sherrill wrote on Monday night in a separate statement that she posted on her Facebook page, "is threatening our national security."

Late Wednesday afternoon, I walked with her from her office to the Capitol, where we stood outside the doors to the floor of the House.

"It's so incredibly offensive," she said, "because we, in my mind, are not a democracy--we are the democracy. We have always protected democracies across the world. I don't have rose-colored glasses about some of the things the United States has done that have been bad for the world--but, my gosh, we've protected democracies from foreign influence. We've helped nations become democracies. And so, to have the president now try to use a foreign government to harm our democracy at home ..."

"It's just so beyond the pale," she continued when we got back to her office.

She likened the president's actions to those of the Mafia.

"To hear the president kind of shake down a foreign power, it's just egregious conduct," she said. "And so, the bright line, of course, is the fact that, in very basic terms, the president of the United States withheld congressionally directed military funding, illegally, from the foreign power, and then went to that foreign president and said, 'Could you do me a favor? Basically, look into this guy running against me.' That's the bright line."

She was sitting in the middle of the couch in her office, and I was sitting on a chair across from her with a coffee table between. On her shelves were her helicopter helmet and a doorstop of a history of the Navy and a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution given to her by a constituent, and I asked her whether she knew that her op-ed with the other "badasses and the guys," as she called the seven of them, was going to lead to ... all of this? To more and more Democrats voicing similar support? To the dam breaking, so to speak?

She was, at first, the calm, cautious controlled Sherrill I've become accustomed to.

"That wasn't part of the calculation," she started.

"But I think we suspected that our decision would have an impact," she added.

Here, though, after practically reflexively mentioning people's tax burdens and health care costs and the importance of the funding of tunnels and roads for the many commuters in her district, she found herself grappling with the breathtaking stakes of this now much larger fight. And for Sherrill, it became clearer and clearer as she kept talking, this is far from merely about checking the 45th president.

"It's critical for people to believe in our democracy," she said, "and to not feel like ... the whole thing is rigged."

This is when her chin started to quiver.

"I think it's incumbent upon me to be able to explain to our country why this is different and why we have to act.

"This is against everything we fought for in the military," she continued, "as somebody who invested in her country from the time I was 18 years old. Um, so I think we all knew we had to stand up for these values, but now we have to remind people in the country"--she stopped, trying to gather herself again, to little avail--"who don't seem to be coalescing around our values right now. We have to remind people that these aren't just kind of a set of, um, you know, these aren't just kind of things that somebody worked out on the back of an envelope in 1776. I mean, these are, these are things that a group of people who were deciding that they didn't want to operate under tyranny, a group of people who were deciding that they wanted to try this experiment, where individuals, um, could actually have a say in the government ..."

Sniffling, she kept talking. "I'm trying to talk through this," she said. "I hate that I'm getting emotional about it, but I just think that, um, we as Americans are--it's just there's a little bit of a lack of faith right now, and I think it's important that we remind people of the sacrifices that"--she paused again to try to settle her voice--"I think it's important that we remind people of the sacrifices that have been made for the Constitution and for what we believe in."

It feels, Sherrill said, like a "1776 kind of fight."

Posted by at September 28, 2019 7:15 AM

  

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