From Vermont to Illinois to California, voters this fall will be deciding the fate not just of candidates for Congress but of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Communities that are home to more than 1 million Americans will have an opportunity to cast ballots on the question of whether Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the president and vice president.
Only the U.S. House of Representatives can impeach a member of the executive branch, and only the Senate can convict the targeted official and remove him from office. But the founders always intended for citizens to have a voice in the process. Thomas Jefferson, who argued that power must ultimately rest in the people, as they alone are the surest defenders of the republic and its democratic aspirations, observed, “It behooves our citizens to be on their guard, to be firm in their principles, and full of confidence in themselves. We are able to preserve our self-government if we will but think so.”
Duly troubled by a president and vice president who have launched wars without congressional declarations, who have spied without warrants, who have disregarded and disdained the Constitution, citizens across the country have put themselves to the task of preserving self-government by raising the call for impeachment. Dozens of communities have considered resolutions calling on Congress to act, and this fall’s referendums will raise the volume.
The precise wording of the questions varies from town to town. Prepared with the assistance of activists with the Constitution Summer project (www.constitutionsummer.org), the propositions in San Francisco and Berkeley read like actual articles of impeachment. In urging members of the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney, for instance, San Francisco’s Proposition J goes far beyond now standard complaints regarding abuses of power related to invasion and occupation of Iraq and argues for holding the administration to account for the mismanagement of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
The proposal is more to the point in tiny Pittsville, Wisconsin — population 866 — where voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on a local resolution that declares: “The U.S. House of Representatives should start an impeachment investigation against President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney now.”
If the voters say yes, says Bob Hoch, organizer of the Wood County Impeachment Coalition’s petition drives, a call to act will be dispatched to the state’s congressional delegation — two of whom, Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore, have already joined a House call for an impeachment inquiry.
There are those who will suggest that referendum votes in handful of communities as distinct as San Francisco and Pittsville can’t possibly mean much to the national discourse. But, surely, the cynics are wrong.