House Democrats introduced two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump this morning: one for abuse of power, the second for obstruction of Congress.
In response, gay Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) was the only LGBTQ member of Congress to tweet about the articles of impeachment by press time, and in just seven words he reminded us of the gravity of this situation.
Cicilline, who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee which oversees the impeachment of federal officials, wrote, “A republic, if you can keep it.” It’s a paraphrased Benjamin Franklin quote that suggests that our nation is only as strong as the citizens and leaders who fight for its healthy functioning.
This past September, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) explained the relevance of the full Franklin quote and the story behind it in announcing the start of the formal impeachment inquiry of Trump. At the time, she said:
On the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when our Constitution was adopted, Americans gathered on the steps of Independence Hall to await the news of the government our founders had crafted. They asked Benjamin Franklin, “What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our responsibility is to keep it.
“A republic, if you can keep it.”
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) December 10, 2019
As the National Constitutional Center explains, Franklin said the quote at a time when division and individual interests seemed likely to rip the newly founded country apart. Slavery and genocide planted a dark and bloody foundation under the “vast collection of independent [states]… each extraordinarily diverse in their economic interests, regional loyalties, and ethnic and religious attachments.”
So when free, white Americans asked Franklin whether they’d be ruled by a king or representatives, his reply suggested that “Democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”
As such, Cicilline is saying that Trump is trying to act like a monarch, and we’ll only oust him and keep our representative democracy if we remain actively opposed against his attempts to unlawfully retain power at any costs.