When asked what the Constitutional Convention had created, Benjamin Franklin replied, "A Republic if we can keep it."
On Saturday, by an unprecedented bipartisan vote of 57-43, the Senate voted to keep the Republic and convict Donald Trump of his seditious incitement of the sacking of the Capitol.
Sadly, that vote did not meet the constitutional requirement of a two-third vote for conviction because 43 Republican senators chose to save their careers over saving the Republic. This was a profile in cowardice. Had there been a secret ballot, the vote to convict would likely have been overwhelming.
America is now in a fierce struggle for the very survival of its democracy.
America, we say, is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but a vast majority of Republican senators reside in the land of fear and the home of the cowed. During the Civil War, the nation chose to save the Republic. Americans lost more lives than in any other war to defeat the Confederates, end their sedition and free the slaves.
On Jan. 6, the new Confederates stormed the Capitol, some bearing the flags of the Confederacy, some bearing the flags of Trump who—intent on overturning an election that he lost badly—sold them the lie that the election had been stolen. Trump assembled the mob, targeted the mob and set it on the Capitol to stop the certification of the election and the peaceful transfer of power. The senators and Trump’s own vice president were their target. The Capitol was sacked. Brave officers died and were wounded struggling to defend it.
And 43 Republican senators chose to stand with the seditionists rather than defend the Republic.
They betray their own party’s history. It was Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, who led the forces fighting to keep the Union together—and against the confederates who wanted to divide it. It was Lincoln’s adversary, Jefferson Davis, who led those who would destroy the Republic. This year, the majority of Republicans in the Senate and House chose to stand with Donald Trump, the modern-day Jefferson Davis.
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These are the same senators who send the sons and daughters of working families across the world to risk their lives fighting against terrorists or fighting against regimes they do not like. Yet when the terrorists are home-grown and the would-be tyrant leads their own party, they choose not to stand up. They fear losing their seats more than losing the Republic itself.
These conclusions are inescapable. The facts of Trump’s sedition are not in dispute. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted as much, even after voting to acquit. The House managers—led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (whom I am proud to say once served as counsel to the Rainbow Coalition) and the formidable Rep. Stacey Plaskett—put forth an irrefutable case. Trump’s sedition—the effort to overturn a presidential election and end a 200-year history of peaceful elections—struck at the very heart of the Republic’s existence.
There is no explanation other than self-interest and cowardice to stand with Trump and the mob against the Republic and democratic elections.
America is now in a fierce struggle for the very survival of its democracy. A majority of Republican senators stood with the sedition. The Republicans who had the courage to vote for conviction have been censured by their state Republican parties. Across the country, Republican office holders—understanding that they are a minority party—are moving systematically to make voting more difficult, to purge voter rolls, to close polling stations in minority areas, to gerrymander districts, to open the sluice gates to secret money. They want only those they consider "real Americans" to be able to have their votes count.
And now they embrace and defend a leader whose attack on the Constitution he was sworn to defend is an act of treachery without precedent in our history.
Americans must now decide if they will continue to elect those who will not stand up for the Republic. They may rig the rules and tilt the playing field, but the decision will still be in our hands. Let us hope that with Ben Franklin and the Founders we decide to keep the Republic and continue to build a more perfect Union.