When I came of age politically in the mid-1970s, the nation was recovering from the Watergate scandal that shook confidence in our constitutional system of government.

Fortunately, some key Republican members of Congress put our country above their party.

Republican Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee and House members Lawrence Hogan of Maryland, Hamilton Fish of New York and William Cohen of Maine considered the incriminating evidence against then-President Nixon and called for Nixon’s impeachment.

Former U.S. Rep. Claudine Schneider

The integrity and political courage of these Republicans 46 years ago helped save our constitutional democracy — and the Republican Party itself.

When I first ran for Congress in 1978, the integrity of these Republicans in Congress reinforced my own decision to run as a Republican, as I always believed in key Republican principles such as fiscal responsibility, free trade, the rule of law, states’ rights, family values, individual rights and environmental protection.

When I was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980, I set about to put these Republican principles into action.

While I had no experience in government, I knew the difference between right and wrong.

Today, almost every Republican in the U.S. Senate has lost his or her sense of integrity.

Republican senators have, in effect, sold their souls.

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For example, when he was campaigning for office in 2014, Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner made a vow to Colorado’s voters to be independent and act with integrity.

He said, “When my party is wrong, I’ll say it. When something is broken, I’ll fix it!”

Cory Gardner has not said anything, nor has he fixed anything in his six years in the Senate.

Rather, Gardner has become a meek enabler of the corruption and abuse of power that have come to characterize today’s Republicans.

Gardner has sacrificed many other principles during his time in the Senate. Here are a few more examples:

  • Gardner strongly supports Trump’s continued efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act, which protects against pre-existing conditions. This, along with expanded Medicaid coverage made possible by the ACA, provides health care for nearly a million residents of Colorado. A Supreme Court decision on the Trump case to kill the ACA is due after the election.
  • Gardner defends federal negligence in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 130,000 Americans and shows little sign of slowing down, as compared with other countries that have managed to bring it largely under control.
  • Gardner was silent when news broke that Russia was paying bounties to Afghan Taliban fighters to hunt and kill American soldiers!
    • Apparently Gardner was waiting for his “talking points” from Donald Trump!

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner should be defending America’s national security, American soldiers’ lives and Colorado’s interests.

Instead, Gardner is too busy making excuses for Trump.

Despite Gardner’s claims of bipartisanship, we know he votes for Trump’s agenda 88.9% of the time. Pay attention to words vs. actions! Check the non-partisan www.VoteSmart.org for the facts.

Where did Gardner’s integrity go? When will he say his party is wrong on DACA? When will he attempt to fix it?

As a member of Republicans for Integrity, I long for a return to the days when Republicans put country over party, defending our nation against threats to our constitutional democracy, whether these threats come from the president or from foreign nations – or both.

The Republican Party will need to live in the electoral wilderness until its leaders can regain integrity and return to the principles that attracted so many people to the party in years past.

Claudine Schneider is a Republican former U.S. congresswoman from Rhode Island, a 20-year Colorado resident and a founding member of Republicans for Integrity which brings together former Republican Members of Congress who put “country before party.” She was one of the founding members of www.VoteSmart.org.

The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.