Crossing the Line

Author: Gary Hart

These tumultuous times, encouraged by a chaotic president, have been a reminder of the best advice I ever received and have previously written about.  The late Senator Mike Mansfield, then Majority Leader of the Senate, approached me on the Senate floor and without prompting said this: “Draw a line.  Never cross it.”

It took little reflection to know intuitively his meaning.  If confronted with a choice between doing what is politically expedient and doing what is right, always do what is ethical and moral regardless of the cost.

I’ve thought much about this over the many years since.  He was saying at least two things.  Like much of life, politics is fleeting, but your conscience always remains.  And a political career, holding high office, is nothing if you lose your moral compass.

“Profile in courage” votes do not happen often.  Many votes do not have a moral or ethical dimension.  They are in the gray area where right and wrong are vague or not in evidence.

The one dimension that came easiest to me had to do with care for the needy, those to whom Fortune had paid no visit.  This is where my religious training and human instincts took over.   My principal purpose in office was to work toward a more just society.

This week, however, we had a monumental demonstration of almost an entire Party crossing a line.  Most offered little or no justification for doing so.  Others offered lame, even pathetic excuses that were transparent, even laughable.

One wonders whether those Senators will be invited to address classes in civic virtue at home universities of the sort now being offered at Metropolitan State University in Denver.  Probably not.

Out of the gloom of this self-serving, tribal era we must hope that a renaissance of civic virtue may emerge.  There are signs of a change of business ethics that puts customers, workers, and climate concerns ahead of profits and shareholder interests.  Young people are taking the lead in convincing parents and older generations to protect their future interests.  A few cracks, not many, are showing in the otherwise lockstep endorsement by evangelical leaders of every destructive action by the president.

One wishes that more would be heard from mainstream religious leaders about the great error of crossing the line, of calling untruths for what they are, of condemning divisive behavior, of passing judgment on racism.

Where is the leader with the soul of an Abraham Lincoln?  Instead, large segments of our society reward and chant the praises of an anti-Lincoln.  Whole societies and nations can lose their collective soul.  It happened to Germany in the 1930s.  It can happen even in America if the dogs of nationalism are loosed to devour the principles of our Constitution.

Every generation of Americans is called upon to redeem our nation’s promise, especially when it is under assault from leaders and their followers who cross the line every day.  This requires an inner compass that points true North and shows we lose our way and our reason for existence when we abandon our principles.

The large and growing divisions in our country are not happening by accident.  They are the result of a president who calculates every day how to drive the wedges ever deeper.  He appeals, skillfully and dementedly, to fear, anxiety, anger, grievance, and even hatred.  He consciously appeals, not to the better angels of our nature, but instead to our worst instincts.

Have other presidents and elected officials crossed the line from time to time.  Indeed, it is often a struggle to keep from doing so.  It is the age-old struggle of good and evil.  But that is a far cry from a national leader who consciously and purposely looks for every conceivable opportunity to cross the line and claim it as a badge of honor to his “base”.

Nations can and have lost their soul.  America must not let that happen here.

14 Responses to “Crossing the Line”

  1. Jack DuVall Says:

    Here is the short text of an introduction to Senator Hart’s post today, which I shared with friends on Facebook: “The article below by former Senator Gary Hart of Colorado is the clearest description that I have read of the crisis of our national conscience. We are led by a president who continually breaches the truth. If he is re-elected, our system of democratic government could disintegrate. The subjective toll this could take on our country would be dramatic. Please read the article. Thank you.”

  2. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Read the article and vote for Democrats!

  3. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Not For Publication

    Senator Hart, do you know why Biden doesn’t get the big endorsements and does the latest Bloomberg ad with Obama praising him mean that Biden’s campaign is indeed doomed from the get-go?

    For someone who has followed Biden’s senate career since 1987, I actually don’t find any of this very surprising – I just don’t understand and have never understood why …

  4. Michael Says:

    Activism on the part of good people is our only hope; even if that means nothing more than getting out to vote on election day. There is no hidden agenda with this president and this Republican Party. It is out in the open for all to see. If our national soul is lost it is because of who we really are.

  5. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    I often hear about ‘Get Out the Vote’ efforts. Are these GOTV campaigns doing any good? I mean, the turnout in Iowa wasn’t a very impressive indicator for what may happen on November 3rd.

  6. Michael Says:

    Elizabeth, turnout on Iowa was flat, but I don’t think that means anything for the general election. Turnout was high in the midterms and has been in just about every election since, with swings of 10% top 30% to the Democrats. I can’t believe, given those numbers since Trump has been in office, that people are just going to decide to sit out the big one when the time comes. So, yes, I think GOTV efforts are very important, as they always are in any campaign, but particularly this year.

  7. Paul G Says:


    “I feel like Romney crossed that line for me … because I thought Trump was very good to support Romney for Senate (2018); I’m mad, and yes, I’m voting for Trump again in 2020. Trump’s got a big mouth but that’s ok,” said Vickie Johnson of Kaysville, Utah. Her husband, Duane, was more forgiving, saying, “I still like Romney, I support him, I just don’t like what he did. I don’t like Trump personally, but I like his policies.” – NBC News 2-10-2020

    Let’s hope for our country’s sake that such transactional voting will be trumped by voters of conscience; unswayed by the loudest voices but attentive to the fake budget numbers masquerading as policy fairness for wolves and foxes at the flock’s expense.

  8. Andre Santos Says:

    Sou brasileiro e estou aqui porque vi o filme The Front Runner. Acabei achando uma prssoa que tem ideias politicas bem interessantes. Aqui no Brasil também vivemos um pesadelo politico semelhante ao Trump, esse pesadelo se chama Bolsonaro.

  9. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    It is our Republic if we can keep it! Those are not mere words from ancient history! They are today’s reality! We must preach this reality everyday by whatever method is available to us!

  10. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Mr Pritchard,

    Would you care to elaborate on how preaching reality will allow Americans to keep their Republic?

    Because, clearly, there is no rule of law left in your country.

  11. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    Upon entering office Donald Trump expressed admiration for the skills of autocrats around the world from Russia, North Korea, Turkey and the Philippines to name a few. He lusts for that kind of power. The signs of an autocrat in the making are abundant! Attack the media, Congress, the FBI, the Justice system all potential obstacles to autocracy. At least 40% of the public are blind to his goal! The media by their actions are normalizing his actions and Congressional Republicans with the exception of one Senator are scared to death of this bully!

    These are serious warning signs that to a degree have largely been ignored or infrequently been discussed. Trump is in the process of hollowing out the State Department; ignored the Intelligence agencies unless its to his benefit; and is now attacking the Judicial system.

    Trump had dodged the bullet of a Special Investigation and an Impeachment because people who should have read and acted on the findings of the Mueller report didn’t. Republican Senators who swore an oath to judge all the Impeachment evidence impartially didn’t out of fear. They grabbed at any straw to excuse their vote for acquittal. Trump did not change nor will he. It is not in his DNA. The mainstream media initially tried to normalize his behavior to no avail! They continue to provide a megaphone for his lies and an avenue for his racism and hatred by coverage of his rallies! Perhaps they feel the need for the ratings and subscriptions!

    The only apparent course left to us to impede the march to autocracy is the election in November with hope that process will not be subverted. Democrats no matter you’re ideological desires, Independents who are appalled and opposed to a Trump autocracy, and disenfranchised Republicans must come together in unity without exception to defeat this despicable abnormality in our body politic! The moment is critical and the mission is clear and three fold: defeat Trump, hold the House, and flip the Senate.

  12. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Very well said, H Patrick.

    And, I was a bit over the top in that last comment, I hasten to add. 🙂

  13. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    In this day and age Elizabeth over the top is not uncommon! I’ve been there several times!

  14. Elizabeth Miller Says:


Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.