The guardrails of our democracy have been badly rocked over the past 24 hours. For only the second time in the history of our Republic, the United States Capitol was attacked, breached and violated, but not by a foreign enemy. This time, it was a a pro-Trump mob of rioters and insurrectionists intent on disrupting the Congressional counting of electoral college votes.
At 3:41 a.m. on January 7, 2021, Vice President Pence formally declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election after a day of violence and anarchy.
…we’ve seen the evolution of a political environment that has been fueled by bitter partisanship that has put party over country.
For me, the attack on our nation’s Capital was deeply personal. I had the privilege of working on Capitol Hill for the late Morris K. Udall (D-AZ), affectionally known as “Mo,” who was Chairman of the House Interior Committee and authorized some of the country’s most influential pro-environmental legislation of the time.
When I was 16 I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. as a Congressional intern for Mo. Several years later in my early 20’s, I was a part-time staff assistant in his office while in college.
For those who have been Congressional observers over the past 30 years, we’ve seen the evolution of a political environment that has been fueled by bitter partisanship that has put party over country. As I watched yesterday’s shocking images, the irony was not lost on me that the crescendo of the violence occurred just as the Senate was beginning debate on the certification of the electors from my home state of Arizona.
I had the honor of working for a true leader in Congress whose purpose was to serve the people of his state and leave the country in a better place after his time in office. Mo first came to national attention in October of 1967 when he gave a major speech opposing the Vietnam War in my hometown of Tucson. What made that speech so unique was that this young Congressman’s brother, Stewart Udall, was serving in President Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet. Udall’s strong stance against the “mistaken and dangerous road” the administration was taking made national headlines. Mo clearly put country over party.
Arizona has a rich tradition of electing maverick representatives to serve the state in Congress. Mo worked alongside and built deep friendships with the late Arizona Republican Senators, Barry Goldwater and John McCain. Both Senators, towards the end of their political careers, had the courage to stand up to party by speaking truth to power. All three of these men also ran for President. Mo who was known for his witty sense of humor and often joked that Arizona was the only state in the Union where mothers told their sons that they would not grow up to be President.
Through his actions of leadership and bipartisan approach to crafting legislation, Mo Udall taught me that the essence of public service is always to put country over party and to work for the common good of our fellow citizens. If Mo were still serving in Congress, he would have shed a tear yesterday as the foundations of our democracy were badly shaken.
Now, it is up to all of us to put aside our bitter partisan differences, to engage our neighbors not as enemies, but as fellow citizens as we continue on the sometimes challenging journey of the great American experiment, democracy.