If We Lose The Rule Of Law, We Might As Well Tear This Capitol Down

This is from a speech Marc Murphy delivered at a Frankfort rally last week as the General Assembly opened its legislative session.

This is a beautiful building. [Looking around the Capitol Rotunda] You all made your way through security to get to see the marble, the amazing skylights, the panes. And when you came in this building, which is our Capitol, which is meant to do the same work as the Capitol of the United States in Washington, D.C., they didn’t ask you how much money you had; they didn’t ask you how much power you had; they didn’t even ask you who you knew. They just asked you why you were here. And when you told them, you told them this [gesturing at the rally], they allowed you in. Because this is a house of law.

If Mitch McConnell won’t allow a fair Senate trial to proceed, and if the president of the United States can get away with what is clear that he has done, then we might as well not have houses of law any more. We might as well tear this building down stone by stone — stones that ordinary men and women put here, the actual stones and the laws that they made to establish these democracies in our states and in our federal government. We might as well tear them down. Because they will become just museums to the past, of what we had and frightening reminders as we go forward into the new future, which is the new America. You might as well take that flag too.

[Pointing at the rally crowd] This is America. This is my America, this is your America, this is her America, a high school student. It’s not any one man’s America. It has never been that way. It’s not any one party’s America. It was never intended to be that way.

Without the rule of law, it has become that man’s America. And this man, Sen. McConnell, has allowed it to occur. And daily he allows it to occur. He knows enough, and he knows better, and he could have told us three years ago, “Listen, people, this is a problem. Listen, everyone, this man is dangerous.” And he knew that. But he cared more about his own power, and he cared more about his own party’s power than he did about the United States of America.

Some of you are literally in the shadow of the statue of Abraham Lincoln. He rises above the floor of this Capitol, majestically. And he warned us, as he stood on that bloody graveyard at Gettysburg, all those years ago, to honor those who had already died on that battlefield: “It is our job preserve a government of the people and by the people and for the people.” And every time, every day that we allow Mitch McConnell to stand in the way of the rule of law, we dishonor those patriots. We dishonor everybody currently serving in the United States military. We dishonor all Americans. And we dishonor our own Kentuckian’s words.

When the rule of law doesn’t prevail, you are being ruled, not governed. There have been imperfect presidents before, there has been imperfect leadership and there have been bad laws. This country was founded with the original sin of slavery, among other things. Which sin was perpetrated and continues to be perpetrated today.

But still, above everything else, there were two constants. There have always been two constants in the United States of America. One of them is that when the law is broken, whether it’s by a president or by someone else, there were consequences. And the other is that the leadership of this country was loyal — it seems ridiculous to have to say this — loyal to the United States of America.

Mitch McConnell calls himself, proudly, oddly, terrifyingly, the Grim Reaper. He likes that; jokes about it. But it’s no joking matter, and he’s no Grim Reaper. He’s nothing more than a common doorman. Mitch McConnell has posted himself behind a velvet rope outside the Oval Office, and he’s made it his office. He’s made it Donald Trump’s office. He’s made it the Republican Party’s office.

And this isn’t a partisan screed. This isn’t an argument for or against a particular party. But we know what’s happening. Inside that Oval Office, that Mitch McConnell is the doorman for, are traitors, the greedy, those who would sell out the United States for their own interests, racists, cheaters, liars and criminals. That’s what’s on the inside. But the reason Mitch McConnell stands, as the world’s worst doorman, outside the Oval Office, is to keep us out. To keep America out. To keep you out. To keep out democracy. To keep out nothing short than the rule of law.

While Mitch McConnell stands on the other side of that Oval Office door, as the president’s doorman, inside that office we have tweets of intended war crimes. We have self-enrichment. And on the outside, what makes it even worse, is that he stands in the way of legislation. He stands in the way of judgment. He stands in the way of impeachment. And he stands now in the way of the rule of law. That’s what Mitch McConnell is doing today.

But there’s more than that. While we struggle, while we meet here today to join with others across the country to save the soul of this nation and to save its future, we’re not talking about the poor. We’re not talking about global warming. We’re not talking about our infrastructure. We’re not talking about the underserved, the people who don’t have healthcare. We’re not talking about rendering true service to struggling nations, to raise them up, instead of assassinating their leaders and tearing them down.

A moment about impeachment itself. I realize that there are many reasons to wonder about why I was asked to speak. But I think one of the reasons is because I’m a lawyer, I’m a former prosecutor, I’m a former military prosecutor, and I deal with the courts. Why is impeachment, and why is now the removal of this president, so important from a legal perspective? The fact is we’ve long struggled with respect for the law, anyway. And I can tell you, and you won’t see the president defend this and you’ll never hear one word from Sen. McConnell actually defending on a factual basis — and he’s a lawyer too — the offenses with which Donald Trump has been charged and has largely admitted. The facts are no longer an issue. And that’s the danger.

Because, accepting those facts and doing nothing about them, he will change forever, fundamentally, the character of this nation.

Because no longer will it matter that you voted for a particular man or party — if you can trust those votes. No longer will it matter any more that you marched for civil rights, and you changed the law. Because, in the end, all that will matter is the man in the office. Maybe the woman in the office. Definitely the political party. That’s not your America. That’s not my America. That’s not our America.

And that’s what has always distinguished our country. America hasn’t been great for everyone; those hats are a lie. It’s never been great for the slaves; it’s never been great for their descendants; it’s never been great for women. I’m not sure if the Equal Rights Amendment has even been ratified in the state of Kentucky. [Shouts of “No!” from the crowd.] So, it’s 2020 now, and we can’t get a state legislature to say that women have equal rights as a matter of law.

So, America hasn’t been great. But it’s always had the potential. And the thing that distinguished us was the rule of law. When we no longer have that…

America hasn’t been about its GDP. It hasn’t been about its moon landings, it hasn’t been about its purple mountains’ majesties. It’s been about that — it’s been that in the end, if the laws put you down, you could work — it may take generations — to change those laws. But in the end, everyone was subject to that. And not to the whims of one man, whether that man was good or evil.

Mitch McConnell has made the shining city on the hill a dark prison full of hate, fear and greed. It’s time to make the People’s House our house again. It’s time to make America our America again. Throw open the doors of the White House and make it our house again. Stand aside, Mitch McConnell and make the Senate our Senate again. So when our children, when they read their history, will understand the words of this man standing above us that are on that plaque right over there, that a government of the people and by the people and for the people did not perish from the face of the Earth. •

Marc Murphy is a trial lawyer and editorial cartoonist for The Courier Journal.

This piece was published first in Forward Kentucky.