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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In Vermont, the first Tuesday in March -- Town Meeting Day -- is a sacred day for those who still believe in the power of direct democracy.
We take great pride in having our say not just how things are run in our towns, but also on bigger issues like war and peace.
Last year, more than 40 towns across Vermont approved a non-binding referendum regarding the deployment of the Vermont National Guard in Iraq. In doing so, Vermont became the first state to debate the deployment of the National Guard.
This year, five Vermont towns went beyond the Iraq war to take on the architect of it -- George W. Bush.
In the southern Vermont towns of Newfane, Marlboro, Putney and my hometown of Dummerston, and in the central Vermont town of Brookfield, town meeting voters approved a measure to demand that our Congressman, independent Bernie Sanders, file articles of impeachment to remove Bush from office.
That too, isn't surprising, considering the state's tradition of using Town Meeting Day to consider issues beyond road repair and school funding.
In 1974, several Vermont towns had town meeting votes calling for the impeachment of Richard Nixon. In the early 1980s, Vermont kick- started the nuclear freeze movement with town meeting votes that eventually inspired other states to debate the need for more nuclear weapons. The vote on impeachment Tuesday follows this pattern of voting locally to act globally.
As Dan DeWalt, the Newfane Selectboard member who started this whole process by getting an impeachment article on Newfane's town meeting warrant, told reporters Tuesday, "In the U.S. presently, there are only a few places where citizens can act in this fashion and have a say in our nation."
The vote in Dummerston came as a surprise. I couldn't stay for the whole meeting, but my wife was there covering it for my newspaper. The impeachment article came at the end of the formal meeting, under the heading of "other business," where voters can propose articles for consideration at town meeting.
As in Newfane, a demand for impeachment was requested in Dummerston because Bush "misled the nation about Iraq's weapons mass destruction, misled the nation about the tied between Iraq and al-Qaida, used these falsehoods to lead our nation into war unsupported by international law, (has) not told the truth about American policy with the respect to the use of torture and has directed the government to engage in domestic spying, in direct contravention of U.S. law."
It passed by voice vote in Dummerston, as well as in Putney. Newfane and Marlboro voted by paper ballot, the tally was 121-29 in favor in Newfane and 60-10 in favor in Marlboro.
Some would dismiss Tuesday's vote as a cranky temper tantrum by the most liberal towns in the most liberal county in the most liberal state in the union. It's true that Windham County, where I live, is the most liberal spot in Vermont. But in a place where elections can't be stolen and the spinmeisters have no effect, people in five towns stood up and said, "Enough!"
Sadly, Sanders won't be introducing articles of impeachment. He said Tuesday that Republican control of Congress makes it "impractical to talk about impeachment."
I think Bernie's wrong on this one. More than two dozen House members have co-sponsored a resolution calling for the formation of a select committee that would make recommendations regarding impeachment. Sanders ought to join that group and forcefully push for impeachment proceedings to begin.
This nation can't take another three years of failed policies, reckless wars and a pervasive culture of corruption and cronyism. Vermont has led the way in the past. We can do it again. Tuesday may mark the beginning of a nationwide debate over the continued legitimacy of the Bush presidency.
I only hope that more Americans will follow our example and join us in seeking an end to our ongoing national nightmare.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.
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