At the close of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin reportedly described the new nation given to us by the framers of our Constitution. He called it "a republic." But he added a warning: "IF you can keep it."
Franklin knew that maintaining our new nation would not be easy, and that sustaining it would require diligence on the part of each citizen. And for 233 years, generation after generation of Americans has lived up to the challenge, if only imperfectly.
Now, we're forced to ask the question yet again: How much do we really want to keep our republic?
Sen. Jerry Moran had a chance this week to protect the republic. He blew it.
In the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 22, when almost no one was watching, Sen. Moran had the chance to bring trust to the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. Instead, he voted against SA 1294 denying a fair trial to the American people. This amendment would have given John Roberts (the Republican-nominated chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) the authority to determine the admissibility of witnesses and documents.
My heavens, that's a pretty low bar: allowing a Republican-nominated chief justice to decide WHETHER there should be witnesses at a trial. SA 1294 would have quieted the partisan chaos, affirming that we are a nation of laws, not of men — that we remain a republic, not an autocracy.
But in the wee hours of the morning, Jerry Moran didn't have the moral compass or the moral fortitude to do what he had to know was right. For Jerry Moran and his fellow travelers, the risk of allowing a fair trial was too high. 53 out of 53 Republicans, including Jerry Moran, were too scared to lose control of their political message. They were too scared to set up a reasonable guardrail to protect our Constitution. Too scared to lean on the words of wisdom set forth in the Gospel of John (8:32) that the truth is what sets us free.
This vote was so significant that in future years historians may view it as one which led to a fundamental change in the essential character of our country. White House Counsel Pat Cippollone, representing the president, said on the floor of the U.S. Senate that the president is entitled to "absolute immunity" to block all witnesses and documents — the view that Jerry Moran effectively endorsed. Think about it: absolute immunity. This is less the language of democracy and more a tribute to monarchy or worse ... much worse.
The vote taken by Jerry Moran and his GOP colleagues was one to ensure the role for the chief justice is nothing much more than a potted plant. Chief Roberts could have been enlisted to help soften the harder edges of our unstable times and their accompanying partisan processes and procedures. Instead, this vote said a president has immunity to rise above the law, without even the most minimal checks and balances.
I'm increasingly a single-issue kind of woman: If our Republic is going to continue, we must come together — not as Republicans or Democrats —but as Americans. Our representative form of government will fail, is already failing, if we don't share a foundation of trust. Without trust there cannot be hope. Without trust and the expectation of continued adherence to traditional democratic norms, such as our system's checks and balances, there cannot be a sustained hope.
Tragically, under the cover of darkness when Kansans were asleep, Jerry Moran effectively said, "Trust doesn't matter. The truth doesn't matter. And no, Mr. Franklin I don't believe America's democratic republic is worth keeping."
Heaven help us all.
Nancy Boyda is a former U.S. representative from the 2nd District.