The conference began with reports from the various states. There were delegations from all the New England states and from an impeachment committee in Chatham, New York. So far, following the lead of activists in Vermont, the focus has been on state and local organizing. In Vermont, where municipal business is still done in town meetings, the direct democracy approach has facilitated impeachment organizing. A resolution to impeach the president appeared on the town meeting agenda in dozens of towns last year and received a majority vote in nearly every one. Organizers were able to parlay the town meeting results into an application of public pressure so strong that the state senate passed an impeachment resolution, and the state legislature would have followed suit but for the objections of one Democratic leader. Under the rules of the U. S. House of Representatives, a resolution of impeachment by the legislature of just one state is sufficient to bring the matter before Congress and force an investigation. Committees are now active in every New England state to pressure state legislators to act, and impeachment resolutions are likely to come before town councils, state party committees, and town meetings with greater and greater frequency.
Democrats like the Vermont legislator were cast as villains throughout the conference, and nobody had a good explanation for the party's failure to hold the president accountable, other than the obvious one: politics over principle. There was great dissatisafaction with New England Democrats in the House, not one of whom has yet signed on to co-sponsor the only impeachment resolution now pending: H. Res. 333, Dennis Kucinich's resolution to impeach Cheney.
The widespread consensus of conference participants was that public sentiment in favor of accountability is overwhelming. Heads shook whenever a speaker mused at the gap between public opinion and the stated positions of House Democrats. "Honk for Impeachment" demonstrators from various parts of New England confirmed the state of public opinion, testifying uniformly that nearly everybody honks when they see the signs, even in New Hampshire, where Bush once had considerable support. The wrath of the honkers will be visited on House members over the coming months, as phone call traffic increases, critical missives go out to newspaper editors, and members' offices come under occupation by more and more determined demonstrators.
There was considerable interest among conference participants in the events of 9/11 as grounds for impeachment and removal. Although not everybody agreed on the strength of the case against Bush and Cheney for their part in 9/11--whether as conspirators or merely malfeasors--there didn't seem to be anyone present willing to buy the story put out by the government to explain what happened that day.
Two big events are coming up in New England where impeachment advocates are determined to maintain a high profile. On August 25, the Bush family gathers at Kennebunkport. Also gathering will be a huge contingent of demonstrators from across the country. Cindy Sheehan is expected to be there. Also, the Indigo Girls. The last time Mainers put together a protest for the Bush compound, over 2000 showed up. This will be bigger. On September 24, the Democratic presidential candidates hold a debate at Dartmouth College on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire. Demonstrators will remind the public that candidates who oppose impeachment must be presumed advocates of the illegal expansion of presidential power and potential tyrants themselves.
Ideas on how to attract public attention to executive accountability included a mock trial contest in which teams submit 30-minute videos to YouTube of their criminal prosecution of the president on one or more offenses, house parties for showings of Bill Moyers' recent program on impeachment, an online database specifying each and every criminal offense committed by the president, "freeway blogging" (big impeachment signs on the highway) and other oversized signage, a deck of Impeachment cards, one for each of the top 52 executive branch offenders, and even a sailboat regatta off Kennebunkport with spinnakers reading "Impeach" in big letters. One activist from California introduced the participants to an online pledge to strike. When enough people have signed up, the organizers are determined to call a 72-hour halt to all commerce. No work. No purchases. No travel. Nothing.
The atmosphere at the conference was one of urgency. The unanimous conviction was that there are enemies among us, and they're determined to destroy our liberties. The real terrorists are in Washington. Unless Bush is held to account, everything he does will serve as precedent for the next despot, and we will live under dictatorial rule for some time to come if we fail to act now.