This week, I voted to impeach the President of the United States for abusing the power of his office and unconstitutionally obstructing the work of Congress.
At this important moment in our nation’s history, I can’t help but think back to my first genuine political experience — I was in middle school. It was 1972, and I was inspired by Senator George McGovern's campaign for president — no relation, by the way.
I found him to be dedicated to the same values that I was: He wanted to end the Vietnam War, feed the hungry, and help the poor.
His vision for America gave me hope, and I wanted to help elect him president. So that year, rain or shine, I left leaflets at the homes of potential voters urging them to support his campaign. I may have been too young to cast my own ballot, but I wanted every voter to make it to the polls to help change the destructive course I thought our nation was on under Richard Nixon’s presidency.
Senator McGovern came up short (even though I helped him win Massachusetts). And I was devastated that he wasn’t given the chance to be president of the United States. But instead of giving up on our democracy, I threw myself into our political process even more. I worked on races up and down the ballot, eventually asking voters to support me in my own campaigns.
I feel honored every single day to represent the people of Massachusetts’ Second District in Congress. I’ve taken the oath of office many times now, and to this day, there is no way to describe how it feels to walk into the United States Capitol and use the power of this institution to make life better for the American people.
Throughout this impeachment process, I’ve reflected a lot on that oath of office and what it means to support and defend the Constitution, as all members of Congress have sworn to do.
I believe the Constitution is more than just words on paper. With three simple words — “We, the people” — the founders who created this country also gave us the power to write our own future. To shape our democracy daily — door by door, vote by vote, election by election.
Sadly, I believe it is no longer possible to reconcile President Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress with the oath of office I took.
The facts are clear. This president withheld congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine, a country under siege, to extract a personal political favor. Not as a matter of US policy, but for his own selfish benefit in the 2020 presidential race. He tried to cheat and he got caught.
His actions are a clear and present danger to our democracy.
He has repeatedly rolled out the welcome mat and invited other nations to decide our elections for us.
I often think about kids today getting involved in the political process just like I did back in 1972.
What will they think if we say that the president’s actions don’t matter?
What should we tell them when, inevitably, they ask about bad actors a half-world away who were encouraged by American leaders to change the outcomes of our elections?
I’ve felt both the exhilaration of winning a campaign and the stinging defeat of losing one.
But I would take losing an election any day of the week when the American people render that verdict. I will never — never — be okay if other nations decide our leaders for us.
The fight to defend our democracy is the very meaning of America. Letting that democracy slip away or be diminished betrays the oath that each of us took to stand up for the Constitution.
The President of the United States has been impeached. But to be honest, this has never been about him. This is about us. About what kind of country we want our kids to grow up in. About protecting the precious gift of government of, by, and for the people that has been entrusted to all of us.
Democracy is not easy. It takes hard work. But it is now up to us to decide whether the United States remains a nation where no one is above the law — or whether America becomes a land run by those who act more like kings or queens, as if the law doesn’t apply to them.
In casting my vote in favor of these two impeachment articles, my conscience is clear.
I’m upholding my oath and defending our democracy. But I’m also doing something fundamentally as important: making sure the next kid who comes along and wants to make a difference in this country will know that their voice matters and their vote counts.
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress