A former Attorney General just wrote a powerful op-editorial in the USA Today explaining why today is the right time for citizens to speak out in defense of America’s democracy and the values that our nation holds dear.
Sally Q. Yates served a brief term as Acting Attorney General after the inauguration of Donald Trump and before publicly refusing to defend his first, highly unconstitutional attempt to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Now, Yates has lifted the pen to make the case for civic action by all Americans who want to see this country’s democracy protected, the rule of law upheld, objective truths recognized and to explain the vision of this nation’s Founding Fathers.
This is what Yates wrote in “What kind of country are we? Time to Decide” explaining why ordinary citizens must remain closely engaged in the political arena after a chaotic and painfully grinding year with Donald Trump in the White House:
We are not living in ordinary times, and it is not enough for us to admire our nation’s core values from afar. Our country’s history is littered with individuals and factions who have tried to exploit our imperfections, but it is more powerfully marked by those whose vigilance toward a more perfect union has prevailed.
So stand up. Speak out. Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions. That is what we stand for. That is who we are. And with a shared commitment to our founding principles, that is who we will remain.
Sally Q. Yates served in the Department of Justice for 28 years and was elevated into the role of Deputy Attorney General by President Obama in 2015 and confirmed with an 84-12 vote of the Senate.
She used her column in USA Today to highlights the utter necessity of apolitical law enforcement succinctly, but with an ominous conclusion in contrast to recent news that the DOJ has very intentionally leaked secret investigatory evidence for partisan reasons to Fox News, explaining that:
The rule of law depends not only on things that are written down, but also on important traditions and norms, such as apolitical law enforcement. That’s why Democratic and Republican administrations alike, at least since Watergate, have honored that the rule of law requires a strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House on criminal cases and investigations. This wall of separation is what ensures the public can have confidence that the criminal process is not being used as a sword to go after one’s political enemies or as a shield to protect those in power.
It’s what separates us from an autocracy.
Turning to the basis for America’s 241-year history of rational decision making, Yates explained why democracies rely on objective truth, as opposed to dictatorships:
And there is something else that separates us from an autocracy, and that’s truth. There is such a thing as objective truth. We can debate policies and issues, and we should. But those debates must be based on common facts rather than raw appeals to emotion and fear through polarizing rhetoric and fabrications.
Not only is there such a thing as objective truth, failing to tell the truth matters.
Her description of the bedrock foundation of the just administration and government of these United States explains the Constitution’s values, the American values which have bound this country’s states into a “more perfect” union for the last 228 years since it was ratified. Yates wrote:
What are the values that unite us? You don’t have to look much further than the Preamble to our Constitution, just 52 words, to find them:
“We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well).
Sally Yates is a patriot, and after spending her adult life serving America, it is obvious that she learned deeper truths about what it means to be an American citizen.
Everyone should read Yates’ editorial carefully and keep their eyes on the news this holiday season, and keep in mind the values of America’s Founding Fathers.
And speak out.