Speaker Pelosi said it. Senator Obama said it. Impeachment. It's off the table.
Impeachment is pain. Impeachment tears at the status quo and can't simply be laughed away with a cocktail (and commutation). Done wrong and it can bring unintended consequences of the catastrophic kind right down on our heads. As we struggle to end the war, as we endeavor to get our people elected, do we really want the public consciousness filled to the brim with these proceedings? Do we want to risk turning off just enough voters to lose this thing (again)?
My mom was a Kansas farmgirl. I know all about pragmatism. My dad drank himself to death by age 31. I know all about inconsolable pain, and making yourself into a martyr for no net-good outcome. As the child of both, I know all about holding your breath, hoping against hope that wrong will right itself up, that the pain will go away on its own.
My mom is someone who only looks forward. I look forward too, but I also look back. I look back because I respect the power of history to hurt us, even from the grave.
In 2004, I assisted in the Michigan coordinated campaign. I worked surrogate scheduling & advance for three weeks. When Election Day rolled around I was exhausted. Election Day should be a time to say "whew" and kick back and wait. Nope. Our office shifted from command central to the "legal war room." I got switched to phone duty.
Phones rang off the hook. Precinct after precinct reported difficulties with voting machines and people rolling through towns shouting out the wrong directions. Later, reports came in from Cobo Hall that GOP pollwatchers (mainly young white guys) were oppressive and overbearing as they watched over the shoulders of the ballot handlers (mainly older black women). Ugh, I thought, at the end of this all. This was only Michigan. We're not even talking about states where heavy-duty voter suppression typically goes down.
I realized that to win, you have to have superhuman reserves of strength (money & lawyers) because there is no telling what kind of fights you'll face. I also realized that in the game of elective politics, we'd always be at a disadvantage because Republican power worship pushes them to make decisions we'd never consider. In the battle of power vs. love, they'll choose power again and again. In the clutch, they'll sucker punch and not think twice.
We console ourselves thinking that we're not like them. Bring up the Clinton impeachment, and we feel righteous knowing that their impeachment was above else a power play. That we would never pull something like that ourselves. We think we're better because we'd never use every rule and loophole available to increase and consolidate our power.
We think we're better. But are we?
If we say no to impeachment because we're pragmatists, or because we're somehow "purer," what does that tell the world, or our children, about how we respect the law? About how we respect American ideals?
Sure we want this nightmare to be over. Sure we believe that if we could just take back the reins, that we'd make things right again. If only we had the power. Yes, the power. Then things would be fine. Just wait. Get the power...
If we say no to impeachment, to this public accounting, to this naming of what is true about this administration, we are playing by their code. We are privileging power before principle. We cloak it in pragmatism. But we're really saying yeah, laws were broken, but that happens, just don't worry about it. Those were just laws...
District Attorneys pick these fights everyday. And as far as impeachment goes, not everything is a high crime and misdemeanor. But let me ask you this: do you truly believe that Cheney (and in my dream, Bush) are too innocent, or too small-fry to be paid attention to?
If not them, who? If not now, when?
Play it pragmatist and we too say that laws don't matter. Only the people who enforce them do. In real life, I suppose I know this to be true. But I guess a part of me still wants to believe in justice. In a system stronger than the leaders who can so easily dismantle it to suit their needs.
One can be against impeachment because they wish to avoid trauma. But to them I say the trauma has already been sustained. Wishing, hoping, and sublimating it away is not going to help us heal. That stuff is going to rot in the ground. Poison us now, poison us later. More cancer metastasized throughout the body politic.
Thank you to lawmakers, including Dennis Kucinich and Jesse Jackson Jr, to MoveOn.org , and to the bloggers and countless others who have stood up and said that sometimes, we actually have to care about the principles that protect us as a nation.
Not everyone can be protected by the Bush clan.
Follow Stacy Parker Le Melle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stacylemelle