It doesn’t matter that you and I think Impeachment is a slam-dunk. It doesn’t matter how egregious Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales have been in their assault on our constitution.
What matters directly is do
6067 Senators see it that way. And indirectly but equally important, does a strong majority of the country see it that way. And by that measure none of the three are impeachable.
Nixon did not resign because of the Democratic votes for impeachment. Nixon resigned because of the Republican votes for impeachment. It was the clearly anguished votes of people like Hamilton Fish and the support for impeachment from people like Barry Goldwater.
At present an impeachment proceeding would play out like Clinton’s impeachment. It would probably pass the House on a party line vote and fail in the Senate on a party line vote (67 votes are required in the Senate). And the Republicans would spin it as Clinton redux, a raw political move with no real impeachable offenses.
Bush would emerge from such a travesty even stronger. Because politically you absolutely could not impeach him again, even if on live TV he walked in to the National Archives, burned the constitution, and declared himself dictator for life.
Yes this is harder than Nixon because the Republican party has made politics so toxic and partisan. And the Clinton impeachment debased the idea again requiring even more egregious grounds for impeachment.
And so to be successful, we must go step by step. As an example, look at Lincoln during the Civil War. At the beginning he repeatedly stated that the war was not to end slavery, it was solely to preserve the union. He famously said "If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." When he declared the Emancipation Proclamation it stated "all persons held as slaves within any state then in rebellion against the United States, shall then become and be forever free" – it only freed slaves in areas controlled by the Confederacy.
So why is Lincoln now viewed as the great Emancipator? As Frederick Douglas wrote: "Within the context of public sentiment, ‘a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult,’ Lincoln had acted on slavery as swiftly as possible." The abolitionists found Lincoln to be slow and proposing half measures. But he correctly judged just how far he could take the country at each step.
Representative Pelosi and Senator Reid are moving us toward impeachment. And they are doing so in a way that impeachment can succeed. But we are not there yet, even for Gonzales. The majority of the country is not ready to consider impeachment, although I think they are getting close in the case of Alberto Gonzales. And we do not have 67 votes in the Senate, but again, we are getting close in the case of Gonzales.
So yes, keep clamoring for impeachment – and concentrate on Gonzales. Part of the country moving to support for impeachment is hearing that clamor. But make sure you always list WHY. And discuss items that the average, non-political citizen can understand and will agree with.
Finally give Pelosi, Reid, et-al the respect they deserve – they are moving this forward as fast as is politically possible. They are doing a terrific job. This is a democracy and thus it takes time. And part of what we are fighting for is to bring the democratic process and the political conversation back to our democracy.
Initially published on Liberal and Loving It.