The men who were fortunate enough to be elected president of the United States make up a very small but prestigious group. Since 1789, only 45 men have held the office of president of the United States, and each was required to take an oath of office. Regardless of political ideology, the office of president is a position of honor and respect, nationally and worldwide.
Therefore, when an elected official such as the president takes an oath, it represents a public pledge and promise to the American people acknowledging they fully understand the position’s requirements and will work to meet or exceed those requirements. The president is a public servant to the people and is bound by their oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. In addition to the president, the vice president, senators, representatives, judges, political appointees, military personnel, and federal employees are also public servants bound by the oath they take.
What happens when these public servants, including the president, ignore their promises? What happens when public confidence in our institutions diminishes because a large segment of the public sits back and allows elected officials to disregard their oath without any accountability at the polls or otherwise?
Before Jan. 6, 2021, America had never experienced a domestic attack on the United States Capitol building. Of the 45 men who held the highest office in our government, only one has proven to be an election denier. Only one out of the 45 has ever developed a cult-like following at the detriment of the republic. How do we explain what we are seeing today in our nation? Where a former president — called to serve and defend the Constitution — seeks to remain in power by overturning a presidential election while supporting political violence, including the assassination of a sitting vice president?
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in New York on Feb. 6, 1964, about the civil rights movement and how people respond to calls to serve: “Negroes are human, not superhuman. Like all people, they have differing personalities, diverse financial interests and varied aspirations. There are Negroes who will never fight for freedom. There are Negroes who seek profit for themselves alone from the struggle. There are even some Negroes who will go over to the other side.”
“These facts should distress no one,” King explained. “Every minority and every people has its share of opportunists, traitors, freeloaders and escapists. The hammer blows of discrimination, poverty and segregation must warp and corrupt some. No one can pretend that because a people may be oppressed, every individual member is virtuous and worthy.”
Decency, honor and courage, King said, are the dominant characteristics to seek. King told the audience that the historic struggle for progress has always had “masses of decent people, along with their lost souls.”
What Dr. King described in 1964 remains an accurate depiction of American society today. There will always be men and women in positions of trust and power from all walks of life who are corrupt. While it is troubling, it should not surprise us when the masses support corruption. When we look for examples of public servants, consider Dan Cox and Michael Cox. These men are public servants on the state and local levels, bound by a public pledge of integrity. One man embraces the pledge and its meaning, and the other does not.
The recent results from the Maryland gubernatorial primary election prove that election deniers are not only on state ballots but also winning. As a first-term state delegate endorsed by former President Trump, Dan Cox won the Maryland Republican gubernatorial primary. He is the same elected official who attended and organized buses for supporters to attend the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. Despite having experience as a constitutional attorney, he is still an election denier who was critical of then-Vice President Pence for performing his constitutional duties of overseeing the Electoral College vote count. No vice president has the constitutional authority to overturn presidential election results, yet state Del. Cox tweeted, “Pence is a traitor” as rioters were rampaging inside the Capitol. Not only did his tweet motivate an already angry mob to harm Pence physically, but it violated his oath to the people of Maryland to defend the Constitution against domestic enemies. In maintaining political allegiance to an individual rather than the Constitution, Dan Cox is now in a position to become the next governor of Maryland.
Compare Dan Cox to Michael Cox, who is a member of the Boston Police Department. Officer Cox, who is Black, was working undercover in plainclothes in January 1995 when his fellow officers mistook him for a homicide suspect and severely beat him. They left him unconscious and bleeding after realizing who he was. The matter was covered up by the “blue wall of silence,” where officers shield one another from accountability. Cox spent four years fighting his department in court before any of his assailants were punished while being shunned and targeted for harassment. He would eventually receive $1.25 million in damages and legal fees from the city.
“After this incident happened, I had a choice — either quit or stay, and I chose to stay, because I believe in policing in a community-friendly way,” Cox said. “And I know the men and women that I work with believe in that same thing, too.”
Cox rose through the ranks within the department for over 30 years, only to leave to become chief of police in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Boston native, who exemplifies a true public servant with decency, honor and courage, recently returned home to become Boston’s next police commissioner. If the U.S. Senate members had the courage of a Michael Cox during the first impeachment of Donald Trump, Jan. 6 would not have occurred.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.