THE BLOG
02/12/2006 06:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Debating Impeachment Among Democrats

Can you even imagine Republicans, even if they had a minority in Congress, debating whether or not to call for the impeachment of a Democratic president known and documented as guilty of a wide range of high crimes and misdemeanors? In particular, if you can imagine that, can you imagine the
Republicans who opposed impeachment arguing that they were doing so for strategic political reasons?

This is hard to imagine, because the Republicans won a majority in Congress by loudly proclaiming what they would do if they had it. The main thing they said they would do and still say they will do is oppose the agenda of the Democrats.

Meanwhile, Democratic voters and lapsed voters keep waiting for the Democrats to have an agenda. Polls show that most of us want strong positions on single-payer health care, clean elections, ending the war, shifting to renewable energy, investing in education, restoring the minimum wage, and other policies that incumbent Democrats are usually - at best - taking baby steps on. They seem to be operating under the delusion that they might achieve something small by trying to cooperate with the radical right-wingers who rule the committees.

One of the positions that we Democratic voters seem to care most strongly and decisively about is impeachment of the president. In a recent Zogby poll in Pennsylvania, 85 percent of Democrats favored congressional candidates who are committed to impeachment. Over 75 percent strongly
preferred such candidates. These and other polls are revealing not just a preference, but a passionate preference.

Democrats who think they can run on content-free platforms and win because of disgust for Bush are apparently aware of the disgust that's out there. What they are missing is that it's even higher for Democrats who fail to stand up to Bush. I've been at a number of events around the country - Democratic events and anti-war events - where the applause and cheering for impeachment has been topped only by the booing and hissing for Democrats who roll over and refuse to challenge the Bush regime.

Some commentators, including Arianna Huffington, who has been kind enough to let me post my disagreement here on HuffingtonPost, say we can't push impeachment until after non-Republicans win a majority in Congress.

This makes no sense to me, because first we need a reason to vote the Democrats a majority. You don't get a majority without offering people a reason to vote you one.

If 85 percent of Democrats want candidates who stand for impeachment, impeachment could help win a majority. These two goals are not opposed, but that of impeachment needs to come first if that of winning Congress is to be achieved.

Winning Congress for the Democrats may or may not be needed in order to impeach Bush and Cheney. It also may or may not lead to impeachment. It depends what sort of Democrats we elect, how we pressure them once they're in, and whether we've built a massive campaign for impeachment that is already up and running once they get there.

It's hard enough getting Democrats to do what they promise to do in their campaigns. Imagine how hard it would be to get them to do something controversial if we'd all kept quiet about it during the campaigns!

It is not a waste of time to push popular positions without any guarantee or even likelihood they'll succeed. It is the only way to make them eventually succeed. And that includes: it is the only way to change the political balance.

It is also the only thing Democrats in Congress are doing right now. Why should the Dems push futile proposals on education, energy, the war, and every other issue, but not push a futile proposal on impeachment? If we're going to declare everything futile, then they should just go home until someone miraculously gives them a majority.

OR, they could fight for what people want them to fight for, and provide us a reason to vote them a majority.

I say we need to demand right now that they sign on (as 23 of them have) to H Res 635, John Conyers' bill to create an investigation that will make recommendations on impeachment.

And let's be clear: We need to impeach both Bush and Cheney.

But there are several reasons we should not worry about the remote possibility that impeaching Bush would stick us with Cheney as President.

An investigation into possible grounds for impeachment, as well as proposals for censure, serves an educational and political purpose, whether or not we get to impeachment. We further discredit the Bushies, and we help to build an opposition.

Impeachment and removal from office are two separate things, one of which has never been done in U.S. history. We should try for removal from office, but we shouldn't worry about it one way or another while fighting for impeachment.

It would be virtually impossible to investigate Bush or Cheney without incriminating the other one. If we impeach one, we impeach both.

Cheney is running the show now backstage. If by some combination of incredibly improbably occurrences he ended up president, we'd be better off with him up front as a walking advertisement for voting against Republicans. We'd be no worse off, since he's already in charge.

It is, in any case, our duty to demand impeachment. If you cannot impeach for the highest crime imaginable, taking the nation to war on the basis of lies, then you can never impeach, or impeachment must be reserved for sex. We must not be the ones to effectively remove the impeachment process from the US Constitution.

It is the duty of every citizen to demand what is right and just, come what may. More important than who sits in the Oval Office is that they know that we can hold them accountable for their actions.

Allowing criminal underlings to provide immunity is a recipe for disaster. If Bush is untouchable because Cheney is criminal, let's stop and think where that leaves us.

And let's stop and think about what it means to be a citizen. We all know that it's unlikely that a Republican Congress will impeach Bush and Cheney. But most of us understand that no important change has ever looked likely - through the course of history - before it's been won. And most of us know that our respect for Democrats will increase dramatically if they fight for what is right, likely or not, plausible or not, reasonable or not.

Americans are fed up with Bush but even more turned off by Democrats' failure to develop a backbone.

Can you imagine every Democrat in Congress standing strongly for impeachment? Can you imagine the pressure that would put on Republicans to join them? I bet you can.