Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bury My Heart in Kingston

After a lengthy illness over the past six years, my hope for America's future died yesterday. It succumbed during an electrifying meeting in Kingston, New York, between local citizens committed to the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their many documented crimes against the American and the world's people, and their erstwhile exemplary progressive Congressman, Maurice Hinchey (D Hurley). After listening to a number of ethically and logically unassailable and eloquent arguments for impeachment put forth by his constituents, Congressman Hinchey responded first, by expressing his total agreement with the substance of these claims. Then he launched into what I experienced as a tortuously technical and legalistic explanation as to why he could not and would not support the growing popular movement for impeachment--which the latest Zogby poll shows 53% of the people support-- regardless of the passionate urging of his constituents to do so.

The lynchpin of Hinchey's argument is his no doubt sincere tactical judgment that, since impeachment is impossible to achieve as a practical matter, he therefore would not "waste his energy" pursuing it as a moral obligation--this despite his sworn statement central to his position in the Congress to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Asked why he would not at least sign on in support of Dennis Kucinich's bill calling for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney (HR 333), he claimed that the Kucinich bill was itself unconstitutional because it circumvented the House Judiciary Committee whose job it is to initiate articles of impeachment. While perhaps technically accurate, Hinchey's logic here is like comparing the "offense" of a high school student who slaps his dozing classmate awake to that of another kid who brings an AK-47 to school and slaughters the senior class. We are in the midst of just such a grave national emergency!

Still, I fear that Hinchey's main strategic point will prove to be essentially correct. In fact it is at the root of my despair for America's future. He told us that in his judgment no more than 100 Representatives in the House would ever support any bill for impeachment, and since a simple majority of 218 votes is required to impeach, it could never happen. Many of us argued that this view was far too static and as such overly pessimistic, and therefore, likely to create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. The groundswell of popular support indicated by recent polls suggests that the nation is on the cusp of a sea change whereby--especially given more publicly outspoken leadership in Congress by such as Hinchey--upwards of 75% of the people would support impeachment. And this great popular pressure could bring us to the 218 votes required. But alas, our vehement entreaty fell on deaf ears. Hinchey would not be moved.

It must be granted that Hinchey's gloomy prediction that the 218 votes required for impeachment is an impossible hill to climb may well prove to be correct. And this realization, not Hinchey's tactical intransigence, is the more profound core of my despair. The truth is that the American people have been betrayed by the People's House. As the Bush administration continues to take a wrecking ball to the institutional and legal structure of American democracy, and with 17 months to go (if indeed the 2008 election is not cancelled), the vast majority of the people's representatives who apparently will not vote to impeach have violated their sacred legal obligation to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. The people's only remaining recourse, which Founders like Jefferson and Madison themselves would certainly advocate under these circumstances, is to take to the streets in all manner of civil disobedience in a last-ditch effort to avert the final destruction of American democracy.

Otherwise, Here Lies America: R.I.P.

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