Surprisingly, for a meeting of progressives, there was no dissention. Instead, there was a broad acceptance of the notion that impeachment of this president should not be a matter of partisan strategy, but rather an imperative for defense of the U.S. Constitution.
As former Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House impeachment panel that voted out three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, put it at the forum, the Constitution is being gravely threatened by Bush's abuses of power and his constitutional crimes, and the American public is "way ahead" of a Democratic leadership that is counseling caution and that is saying impeachment is "off the table."
With a PowerPoint display cycling through a list of 10 impeachable crimes on a large screen behind them, speakers from the After Downing Street Coalition, Veterans for Peace, Progressive Democrats of America, Democrats.com and Code Pink joined Holtzman in laying out a strategy for pressing the new Democratic Congress to "do the right thing," and open impeachment hearings early next year.
Plans call for a national Impeachment Day on December 10, with town hall meetings across the country voting for impeachment resolutions, to be followed by a week spent lobbying congressional district offices. Meanwhile, a coordinated campaign will begin encouraging grass roots groups to set up impeachment lobbying offices in every one of the 435 congressional districts across the land. As well, activists will begin collecting a planned one million signatures for presentation to the House leadership in January, calling on them to initiate impeachment hearings.
It is a bold, audacious plan, and one that will give real voice to the aspirations of an electorate that made it clear on November 7 that they want, as one participant put it, for a new Congress to "take out the trash."
A session featuring progressive bloggers followed the initial forum, with the discussion focusing on how to break through the corporate media blackout on impeachment. It is clear that alternative media, and particularly Internet-based news organizations, have managed to get the impeachment story out there, which explains why a recent Newsweek poll found 51 percent support for impeachment. But there is still a need to force the mainstream corporate media to take impeachment seriously, and to begin reporting honestly on how the current administration is undermining constitutional government and the rule of law.
The session broke up at 4 pm after two hours of discussion, with activists primed to go back to their own organizations to start working for December 10, and to gear up for the big petition drive and for the lobbying and organizing work ahead.
As one participant was leaving, he passed a young mother heading up the long winding staircase in the atrium of the Constitution Center. She was holding the hand of a very small, very tired little girl in jeans and pigtails. "The Constitution has a lot of steps, Mommy," the little girl said, very seriously.
Indeed it does. And one of those steps is the impeachment clause, which calls on members of Congress to hold a president to account who violates his oath of office, abuses power, and lies to the people of the country about the reasons for going to war.