Although in late 2005, Rep. Davis was an enthusiastic co-sponsor of a bill by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) that called for an investigation into possible impeachable acts by the president, Davis now says, “The Democratic Caucus has decided that impeachment would not be in the best interests of the country and I’m following that decision.”
At the same time, Rep. Davis, a former Chicago alderman, declares that his basic instinct is to follow the wishes of his constituents. “When I got elected to city council, I set up what I called the 29th Ward People’s Assembly. My pledge then was that on any issue of public policy, I would follow their position. If the group decided on a direction, I had to take it. And that approach has not changed.” Davis insists that if the people of his congressional district were to make it clear, through a letter-writing campaign or a petition campaign or some other means, that they felt impeachment were a priority for them, he would feel bound to act on their views.
For now, though, he says he’s not convinced. “I know there’s a significant group of people in my district who want impeachment. But there is also a significant group that, when the issue is explained to them, say that while impeachment is important to them, it is not their number one priority.” As long as there are major divisions of opinion, he says, he’s going with the Democratic Caucus position that “impeachment is off the table.”
Davis says he “may have said” at a district meeting that his attitude towards impeachment could be changed if he were to receive an impeachment petition from one percent of the voters in his district (roughly 6500 people), but he declined in an interview to commit himself to a fixed number of signatures. That said, he claimed he would be prepared to act by submitting a bill of impeachment if he were convinced that impeachment is what his district wants to happen.
What this suggests is that at least some Democrats in the House, like Davis, might be convinced to honor their oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution and impeach the president if there were enough of a groundswell for impeachment among their own constituents. Thus impeachment petition campaigns should shift from a national and a Washington focus to a carefully targeted focus on a few key districts like Davis’s, and others in the old “Gang of 39” that only a year and a half ago was backing Conyers’ impeachment hearings bill.
Most of them likely agree with Davis that the president has committed impeachable crimes, but have, at least for now, bought into the self-serving position of the Democratic Party leadership that winning in ’08 trumps defending the Constitution.
With the president and the administration continuing to show complete intransigence and antagonism towards the Democratic Congress, and a new report in the Los Angeles Times showing that to date Democrats have only passed 10 bills, most of them involving changing the names of buildings (and that no Democratic bill has even reached the president’s desk, much less been signed into law), it would make sense to begin such district campaigns as soon as possible. Voter frustration with governmental gridlock, continued war, and continued Bush crimes could lead to a much more favorable environment for impeachment bills in the not to distant future.