In Need of a Civics Lesson
Michael Tomasky notes in a Sunday Washington Post op ed that in the recently ended Yearly Kos convention, there was not a single panel dedicated to the question of impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney, a fact that would likely astonish those in the media who might have thought impeachment would be the first item of discussion if not the only one. Tomasky goes on to argue that attempting impeachment would be the worst mistake Democrats could make, because it would split the country, convince the public that Democrats were vindictive partisans and undermine their otherwise excellent chances of substantial gains in the 2008 elections.
Although I believe the Democrats would be in a much stronger position today, and better able to stand up to Bush if they had initiated an impeachment investigation months ago, I’m not really up for arguing with Tomasky about impeachment now, given that the Democrats have allowed their substantial momentum coming out of the 2006 elections to dissipate and then virtually destroyed their credibility this weekend by shamelessly cowering before Bush on the FISA vote. That vote shows that about 41 Democrats in the House and 16 in the Senate don’t have the courage or self respect to blow their own noses without asking George Bush’s permission. The notion that these pathetic sheep might have the courage and wisdom to use an impeachment proceeding to fight for the Bill of Rights and Congressional prerogatives under the Constitution’s separation of powers is just laughable . . . or sad.
What we know now is that we have to reestablish the fundamentals within our own party — starting with the wisdom and necessity of having a Constitution and limits on government power — before we can ask our party to exercise the mechanisms our Constitution gave us for correcting egregiously unconstitutional behavior. Quite simply, many members of our party need a civics lesson, and quickly. We’re talking about grade school stuff, here, followed by accelerated progress into graduate courses in American constitutional history. Too many in our own party simply don’t know why this country was founded with a Constitution and why that history is relevant today.
So while I’m not going to argue about impeachment per se, I object to
Lieberman’s Tomasky’s notion that the country hungers for a return to bipartisanship in the sense that it requires the Democrats to accommodate the Republicans on the range of public policy issues now facing the country. Where has Tomasky been? That view, when applied to the extreme radicals who now dominate the Republican Party, is precisely what has hurt this country, weakened the Democratic party and turned many of them into sheep who are incapable of defending the most basic democratic principles.
The country may well feel comfortable with a healthy tension between genuine liberals and their more expansive views about the use of government to promote the public welfare, and what used to be genuine conservatives and their views about the need to preserve individual freedom and initiative. I’m not sure the latter ever existed as a controlling majority of their own party. But the problem with Tomasky’s paradigm is that there are virtually no genuine conservatives left in the Republican party. They’ve either left voluntarily and in disgust or been purged by the Monica Goodlings. Those who claim to have begun as conservatives and remained have long since been thoroughly corrupted and co-opted by the imperialist radicalism of the Cheney neocons and the seductive illusion of security of Bush’s authoritarianism. There is nothing left that is even remotely “conservative” in the traditional sense.
There is no one left on the other side with whom liberals/progressives/Democrats can honestly contend in a traditional bipartisan manner, if such a state ever existed. Moreover, what the polls seem to suggest is that the country does not want the Democrats to move towards this radical group of Republicans but rather to move the government back to the democratic values that include respect for the Constitution, respect for the legitimate role of government in the promotion of public welfare — whether in assuring health care or providing essential services or infrastructure investment — and respect for the rule of law and the courts in moving the nation towards a basic sense of fairness.
The country wants the Democrats back in power not to bargain with the radicals that now run the country but to take power out of the hands of the radicals that have abused that power and run the country into a ditch, both at home and abroad. Rather than invite the current crop of Republicans to the bargaining table, the country more likely wants them sent to their room until they grow up and stop behaving like jerks and bullies.
There is no Republican party left that has anything positive to contribute to the major corrections that must be made in the body politic. If impeachment were more plausible than it appears today, there would be powerful arguments to be made for the ability of an impeachment investigation — the process itself, if not the final outcome — to restore confidence in the Constitutional principles of separation of power, limits on governmental power versus individual liberty, and the simple notion that those who debase the Constitution should be held accountable. But in the absence of that necessary and salutary process, it is not a substitute to urge a phony bipartisanship on a system in which there is only one party (mostly) committed to the Constitution while the other bears almost no allegiance to it at all.