People here know that I have written on impeachment, both the historical and political reasons for it. People may know that if there were a compass that points at legitimacy, it would point straight at me. Legitimacy is the issue that Democracies must face. Without the faith by an overwhelming segment of the population in the integrity and legitimacy of the government, there is no government. The Declaration of Independence declares that legitimacy is the issue that Americans set their division from the mother country on.
Within the Democratic Party there is an argument over whether support for impeachment will marginalize the party. It will not, but it has to be handled the right way.
For the time being impeachment is more than a protest, but less than a reality. It is a goal, and it is a statement. It states to one's fellow Americans and the world that George Bush does not represent an acceptable range of American politics. Instead, he is outside the acceptable cone of executive action. Impeachment is a sign that we have rejected what he stands for. Even more so when coming in contrast to the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton on charges which were concocted in what Joe Conanson rightly calls "the hunting of the president".
However, politics is not just personal politics, but party politics. And for the time being, it is not yet ripe for the party to support impeachment, nor even for every candidate to support impeachment. Instead the key point which the party must support is investigation. DeLay, Downing Street, Spygate, Treasongate and Abramoff demand no less than an exposure of the corrupt means by which the Republican holds power - these means are the K Street tentacle of a goptopus that has reached into the ballot box, into the tax code, into the bedrooms of Americans, into the phone conversations and emails - to attempt to strangle in the cradle any effective dissent.
The Democratic Party, as much as I might like it to, cannot yet come to the microphone, as a party, and say: "It is time to impeach" for the simple reason that there is not enough soot blackening the Republicans. People need to know, not just the facts, but the details, they need to feel those details come in battalions. With criminal charges flying they will hear them, they will come to understand that the Republican apparatus depends on bribery to hold its power in place. We know there is smoke, but impeachment is the hose to put out the fire. And Americans will believe in that fire when they see it on the evening news.
But individual Democratic office holders have started to come forward, and more and more need to come forward, one at a time, phrasing it in hypotheticals that polling shows that the country all ready supports. It is time to put pressure on those who are bubbling under on impeachment, to boil over, and say to the public what they say in private: that Bush represents an unacceptable abuse of power, that the culture of corruption must come to an end, and that the American people have said "enough is enough" to a illegitimate executive branch.
The historical backdrop of impeachment is this: of the big 4 - Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Nixon, Clinton - who have reached the point of a vote on the floor, only once has the party bringing impeachment lost congress in the next election - and that was the Whig civil war over Tyler. Of the big four - only in the case of Tyler has the party bringing impeachment lost the next Presidential election. Again, the whig civil war over Tyler.
Of the 9 time impeachment charges were filed, only twice has the party filing charges lost the next Presidential election - Reagan being the only other serious impeachment target that passed power on. Of the 9 times there has been a serious effort to impeach, only twice has the impeaching party lost Congress - The Republicans against Truman being the only other case.
In short, while politics is uncertain, impeaching an unpopular executive is as good a bet as you get.
But to get there, one must have a majority in the house, for this there is no substitute. While Senators may decide to support or not at the present time at their leisure, the house is the place where there must be a gathering pressure for investigation of a corrupt executive. The House is the people's body, and it should reflect the will of the people as it can be ascertained. That will is towards rejection of a President who has promised much, and delivered little.
There is, also a final important reason for the movement to impeach to spread, and that is history in the other direction - not looking back at history for clues as to our future, but the future looking back upon us as history. Over and over again, when moments came to oppose Bush and his illegal siezures of power, the people and the representatives of those people have failed to act with sufficient unity and decisiveness. In two successive elections the public ratified a party that they did not want in power. In key decisions the supreme court has ratified the actions of the executive. In war votes and budget votes, the house and senate have bent to his will, even when every reasoning individual knew the actions were folly.
If we are to recover our dignity to that future, we must draw, for now and always, a line in the sand. We are already hypocrites in the histories to be written, having casually supported an impeachment over a sex scandal, and then stood idly by while high crimes and misdemeanors were committed. We have watched in stupification as a gigantic debt has been piled up, and the retirement of the future squandered on pretty explosions for CNN to film. This is our last, our very last chance to set a mark in the future, and prove that were are not merely vegitation that grows on couches and is plucked from the ground - that we are not pommes de terror.
Several other diarists here agitate for visibility in impeachment. I join them in this, and have recommended these diaries when I have seen them. But there is a need for a more cogent, literary, and eloquent form of agitation for impeachment - not merely quoting Republicans in their overblown rhetoric on Clinton, though it has a satisfying element of turn about - but in connect each and every scandal to the out of control nature of the Republican Party. Resolve that, each and every time you write about Abramoff, DeLay, Plame or any other aspect of the goptopus, to mention the need for investigation, and the possibility of impeachment as being acceptable if that is where the evidence leads.
Because we know that Bush has left a trail of crumbs behind him, and we all know where the evidence leads.
Behind this is the need to cohere a larger legitimacy movement - instead of individual issues, such as the sanctity of the ballot box, such as clean elections, such as an end to warrantless searches and tortured interpretations of the law in support of torture - there is one larger issue: the leaders of this government, having failed to provide life, liberty and ample room to pursue happiness, have violated the fundamental social contract. They have used bribery and corruption to cover that fundamental failure. This lost of legitimacy is reflected in a public mood that rises and falls with the price of gasoline and the availability of jobs.
We have become like shocked survivors of a shipwreck, clinging to the rocks. Impeachment is the first step to reasserting that most fundamental truth, that legitimacy of government is all, and a goverment which has lost this, has nothing else but temporary power granted by unwarranted tenure.
Thus the voice of the party, that is its writers, activists, supporters and every day rank and file, must provide political cover with a barrage. This way the faces of the party - elected officials - have room to push harder. By creating a backdrop of just screaming outrage, but logical, consistent and insistent demands for investigation into what smells and impeachment of what stinks - it will both draw in those who are wavering farther up the party, and give cover to many who would love to vote "Yea" on articles of impeachment, but can only do so when there is a Speaker Pelosi to gavel them into order.
[And I have to plug the Katrina music CD. A second CD is due out middle of this month, two more string quartets. After that a disc of piano sonatas, including the one I wrote just after the war vote for Iraq was taken - entitled "Ares" it is a comic parody of the rah rah warism of that moment.]