My Letter to Rob Portman, Senator from Ohio, on Trump’s Insurrection against the United States

I sent letter below via Ohio Senator Portman’s web form, at Since he did not respond or acknowledge my previous memo to him, this morning I saved it on my hard drive before sending, to repost here as an open letter. If he responds, I will post his response.

Subject Head: Contacted You Earlier, about Recognizing Biden as President Elect, but You did Not Acknowledge or Respond

Senator Portman,

Some days after the initial vote counts in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona made it clear that Joe Biden was the President-Elect, I contacted your office, via this same form, and urged you to courage, to join with the two or three members in your party (Romney, as well then Sasse, Murkowski, to best of my recall) to acknowledge the election results. I warned you then that your inaction was dangerous. You never acknowledged or responded.

By calling for and then sending the mob on Jan. 6 against the Capitol building, some of them clearly intending to assassinate Vice President Pence, Minority Leader Schumer, and House Speaker Pelosi, the president has sacrificed any pretense he may have had about loyalty to the United States. You can discern the motives of these rioters by their social media posts, by their zip ties, nooses, molotov cocktails, pipe bombs, etc. They follow the words and the lead of the current President, who is engaged in open insurrection against the United States, its Legislature, the branch in which you serve.

I again urge you to gather up the courage to condemn the President who is identified with your party. If he continues as the titular leader of that party, in your lifetime, if you live another decade or two, you will likely have to confront the fact that yours is no longer a Party worth preserving in a nation that values democracy, the right to vote, the right of citizens to elect their own leader. Sean Wilenz, a historian from Princeton, makes the case in stark terms, in an editorial in Rolling Stone, posted yesterday (Jan 7), an editorial rich with the knowledge of a 19th-Century scholar.

The outgoing president, who is no longer worthy of the title, will come to his end as a living person, as we all must, but his name will live on in history, among rabid partisans and White Supremacists likely as a hero, among well-qualified historians as a blight on and threat to democracy, as anathema. There is another possible future. The rabid partisans and White Supremacists may eventually, within this decade or several from now, succeed at overtaking fully your party or some reassembled rump of it, building it again into a governing coalition. And if so, it could very well be that the opinions of well-qualified historians, within a few decade after that consolidation, won’t matter so much. They’ll be rounded up, marched out, as in Turkey in recent decades.

If Democratic governance survives in the United States, if academic historians continue to do their work–I think in long sweeps of time, a century or more–you have the opportunity to be footnoted as one who swelled the progress toward recognizing Trump as a threat to his country, a progress led in this moment by Pelosi, Romney, Murkowski, Sasse. That is, your task is to join them and recognize and speak out unequivocally that the outgoing president engaged in open rebellion against the United States. Not next week, NOW. I urge you to take that more direct path. I again hope that you can muster up the courage, despite the fact that immediately after the election you failed to do so.

Last time when you eventually spoke to acknowledge Biden’s election, a local wag in a Cleveland publication, said that your statement was like trying to fart through the eye of the needle. I will remember that phrase, for the rest of my days, as it applies to your previous statement. Do better this time. This is a historical crisis. Take the opportunity to be on the side of, and an uncompromising advocate for, democratic governance. My children, your children, our grandchildren, will be better for it.

Wesley Raabe
Department of English
Associate Professor, Kent State

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