NEWFANE, Vermont — Cindy Sheehan and I are traveling Vermont this weekend, stopping in close to a dozen towns from Burlington to Brattleboro, to talk about why we think the president and vice president should be impeached — and the essential role that Vermonters are playing in the process. We come not to tell the people of Vermont how to vote on impeachment resolutions at two dozen town meetings next week. That would be not just presumptuous but foolish. Frankly, the Vermont voters who have given America George Aiken, Ralph Flanders, Jim Jeffords, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders do not need any advice from us about how to make political choices.
Rather, we come to celebrate the wisdom of local activists Dan DeWalt, Ellen Tenney and the thousands of others who have chosen to embrace a Jeffersonian vision of how Americans relate to their federal government, and to take a little of that wisdom back to the rest of the country.
It was Thomas Jefferson who observed more than two hundred years ago that, “Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic.”
It was Jefferson, as well, who asked of those who would inherit that republic: “But will they keep it?”
The answer to that question, for this particular moment in history,will come from the Vermont town meetings that debate calls for theimpeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney next Tuesday. Last year, seven towns voted to impeach. This year, the numbers will multiply dramatically — and town meetings in the neighboring states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts are taking it up, as well, this spring.
No, decisions made in town meetings across the Green Mountain State will not, in and of themselves, restore the republic — which, rather than the punishment of individual men, is the purpose of impeachment. But, as Americans in towns and cities across this great country despair at the determination of their president to surge the country deeper into the quagmire that is Iraq and react with horror at courtroom revelations about the manner in which their vice president has used his office to manage attacks on the reputations and livelihoods of an administration critic and his spouse, Vermont can signal to the nation that there is an appropriate response to the crisis.
More importantly, Vermont can put that response — impeachment — backon the table for use by the American people and their Congress. Theattention to the votes cast by Vermonters will remind Americans that the founders did not intend for the people or their representatives toallow any president or vice president to act as “a king for four years.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was wrong to suggest, as she did during the heat of last fall’s election campaign, that impeachment was “off the table.”
No section of the Constitution can or should be rendered inoperable byany politician — even a well-intentioned one.
The Constitution does not belong to the politicians. It belongs to allof us. And the medicines it prescribes for the ailments of the bodypolitic are ours to administer.