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The People's Path to Impeachment

You wouldn't know it from the media, but grassroots movements are afoot all over the country to hold the president legally accountable for his lies.
 
 
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On June 6, Jim Bronke of Concord, Penn., addressed the Concord Township board of supervisors:

Township supervisors and friends, I come here today not as a Republican or as a Democrat but as an American citizen concerned for our way of life. I hope that you can view this package not as a political statement but as a plan for the future … Rules of the House of Representatives explicitly allow state and city legislatures to introduce resolutions. Our First Amendment guarantees any citizen, city, or state "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This is what I ask you to do with this motion.

Bronke requested that the board consider a motion to request an impeachment inquiry of the president of the United States. When a board supervisor told Bronke that the only path to impeachment was through U.S. senators and representatives, Bronke corrected the supervisor, stating that "there are multiple paths toward impeachment, this is another."

Bronke was absolutely right.

The Concord board is hardly national news. But taken in conjunction with the staggering number of state legislatures and city and town councils across the country that have passed impeachment resolutions, the lack of coverage of the movement is a conspicuous absence in mainstream media.

Illinois, Vermont and California state legislatures have impeachment resolutions pending. The Democratic parties of Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, Maine, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, California and Hawaii have all passed resolutions. Then there are the 18 city and town councils that have passed resolutions, with seven more resolutions (including Concord) pending, to say nothing of the 27 local political groups and parties across the country that have adopted impeachment resolutions.

The broad sweep is not surprising as the evidence is well-documented: President George W. Bush lied to Congress and the American people in order to lead the country into war, and continues to conduct illegal wiretaps, sanction torture and violate the separation of powers by picking and choosing congressional legislation.

Despite the clear case, impeachment has become a taboo word in D.C. politics. A chasm has emerged between high-level politicians too afraid to push for accountability, the media that seeks the "news" that comes from these politicians and their circles, and the American public they are supposed to be serving.

In a recent Zogby poll, Americans were asked what would restore their trust in government and the No. 1 reply was "personnel changes/impeachment." As David Swanson of impeachpac.org notes, polls by Ipsos, Zogby and American Research Group have found support between 43 percent and 53 percent. And if it's Democrats, the numbers shoot up to 80-90 percent, with a consistent majority of Independents supporting impeachment.

Swanson says, "For impeachment to have anything close to majority support despite opposition by both political parties and almost no positive coverage in the media is remarkable."

Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House Publishing is intimately familiar with the divide between Americans and the political representatives and media who are supposed to represent them. Johnson worked with lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to create the book Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush -- a concise reader that makes the legal case for impeachment. Says Johnson, "We've had more than one friendly mainstream journalist tell us they pitched a story to their editor and were told, 'Don't even go there.'"

Despite the media blackout, people from every state in the union have participated in the Melville House campaign, sending copies of the book to their representatives. Johnson notes that they have heard from groups as varied as Veterans for Peace, Goldstar Families and Republicans for Impeachment. "A lot of people were paying more attention in civics class than you think," he quips.

Teaming up again, Melville House and CCR have arranged a National Impeachment Teach-In launching on July 19 with events around the country. Centered on a 30-minute DVD, "How to Impeach a President," materials are being made available online, providing the information and tools to reclaim political power. It's telling that the constitutional lawyers at CCR are appealing to the public -- attesting to the fact that holding this administration legally accountable will not happen without public support.

As CCR lawyer Michael Ratner says in the film, "This is not going to happen in a court. It's going to happen when the people of the United States say to their members of Congress, we've had enough."

But what of the political likelihood? Johnson thinks it's a "winnable fight." He says,

This is not about party politics. It's about the very real damage being done to the constitutional separation of powers by this administration. This is a grassroots movement that represents American democracy at its best -- people from all walks of life trying to work with their government to enact the corrective measures put into the Constitution by the founding fathers for exactly this purpose.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is a former assistant editor of AlterNet.