Opinion: American voters will have the final say, and they are watching

It is my habit, and my ethical obligation, to disclose a fact of my marriage when failing to do so could mislead you or diminish your trust in me.

Circumstances and subject matter dictate when this is necessary. If I’m writing about our two rescue dogs, my husband’s profession is irrelevant in his utter devotion to them. Likewise, his job has nothing to do with my insistence that no husband should speak for his wife without her permission, and by “permission” I impose the strictest of boundaries. Saying, “Yes, Honey, go ahead and order the curry for me,” does not mean my husband may start any sentence with, “What my wife meant to say…”

Fortunately, like all good men, he understands the difference.

So do I.

When I am writing about President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, I must disclose that my husband is one of the 100 jurors on the Senate floor. It is also necessary, in this most partisan time, to acknowledge that he is a Democrat.

I must include this disclosure every time I write about this proceeding. That leaves two options: I can never write about this historical moment in our country, or I can mention my husband, Sherrod Brown, every time I do.

You see my choice.

Plenty of journalists, including numerous columnists, are recounting for you what is happening right now in Senate chambers. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank caught my attention with this description of the president’s legal team in the first late-night round:

“They shouted. They spouted invective. They launched personal attacks against the impeachment managers. But they offered virtually nothing in defense of the president’s conduct, nor anything but a passing reference to Ukraine.

“‘These Articles of Impeachment … are not only ridiculous, they are dangerous to our republic,’ declared (lawyer Pat) Cipollone.

“‘It’s ridiculous,’ he added.

“‘It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous,’ he repeated, for those who may have missed the point.

“‘They’re here to steal two elections — it’s buried in the small print of their ridiculous articles of impeachment,’ he alleged.

“Cipollone closed with a request to ‘end this ridiculous charade.'”

It is challenging — let’s call it infuriating — to watch Republicans in Congress refuse to hold this president accountable, but is not surprising. They’ve been afraid of the bully-in-chief ever since he took office.

I have nothing to add to this play-by-play coverage, at least for now. What I do want to tell you is what happened the day before the Senate trial began, at a Costco in northeast Ohio.

We have shopped there often, and from experience, we know that not every customer is happy to see us. We support Costco because Costco supports its employees with a living wage and benefits, and this particular store is not nestled in a liberal bubble. On a number of occasions, some of the more conservative shoppers — almost always white men — have felt free to interrupt our shopping to make clear to Sherrod their unhappiness with him.

This is not a grievance. Our rule for our marriage: When we’re out in public, we belong to the public. Fellow Americans have a right to give us an earful.

On this particular Sunday, on the eve of the Senate impeachment trial, something different happened. We were approached by so many people that our time at the store was easily doubled. Every single person was kind.

Some said they were praying for Sherrod. Others thanked him for his service. A couple of people wanted to make clear that they may not always agree with Sherrod, but they “never voted for this.” I don’t know if they meant they hadn’t voted for Trump or that they regretted that they had. It doesn’t matter. I’ve shared my view on this before: We can’t ask people to change and then not give them the chance to.

I’m telling you what happened to us at Costco because it was clear that so many are paying attention. They are worried about where our country is headed and whether too much damage has already been done. They are the informed voters Trump fears most.

Our drive home felt lighter.

Around midnight on the first night of the trial, I posted on Facebook and Twitter that Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff was right: It seemed that Republicans were hoping that, by dragging this out into the wee hours of the mornings, most Americans were no longer watching.

Nearly a thousand responded, after midnight, and their message was virtually universal:

“I’m watching.”

And not just on the West Coast. They were watching in Ohio and Pennsylvania, in New Jersey and Maine, in Minnesota and Kansas. Many said that what they missed, they would watch on their DVRs. “Some of us have to work,” one person wrote, “but I watch when I can.”

Schedules were changed, bedtimes abandoned. It’s what a patriot does.

Republicans have done all they could to thwart a fair trial. At the end of it, they will have their say.

American voters will have the final word.

And they’ve been watching.

— Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with Creators Syndicate.

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