Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Impeachment Game

Over the past several months I've been receiving emails from a concerned progressive in my community that begin thusly:
Subject: DSM/impeachment petition meeting with [congressperson] office staff Thursday afternoon

Body: You are getting this update because you gave your email address on the Petition for Investigation of the Downing Street Memos as Evidence of Impeachable Crimes or told me you were interested. A steering committee was formed after the October planning meeting and we have been trying to set up a meeting with Rep. [congressperson's name removed] to present the petition. Congress' schedule hasn't been determined yet, and was too full in November, so we don't know when we will be able to meet with him. For now we have a meeting scheduled with etc.
The torrent of comments I've observed recently on radio call-in shows and blogs suggests a strong coordinated nationwide effort among a certain sect of the American left to get Bush impeached. I haven't done any real research on subject, but yesterday I found some firm evidence for my inference in a chat transcript starring Washington Post polling editor Richard Morin (he wrote the following in response to four separate questions about why the Post hasn't polled its readers on impeachment):

For the past eight months or so, the major media pollsters have been the target of a campaign organized by a Democratic Web site demanding that we ask a question about impeaching Bush in our polls.

The Web site lists the e-mail addresses of every media pollster, reporters as well as others. The Post's ombudsman is even on their hit list.

The Web site helpfully provides draft language that can be cut-and-pasted into a blanket e-mail.

The net result is that every few months, when this Web site fires up the faithful with another call for e-mails, my mailbox is filled with dozens and dozens of messages that all read exactly the same (often from the same people, again and again). Most recently, a psychology professor from Arizona State University sent me the copy-and-paste e-mail, not a word or comma was changed. I only hope his scholarship is more original.

We first laughed about it. Now, four waves into this campaign,we are annoyed. Really, really annoyed.

Some free advice: You do your cause no service by organizing or participating in such a campaign. It is viewed by me and others with the same scorn reserved for junk mail. Perhaps a bit more.

That said. we do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion--witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls.

Morin's absolutely correct. Setting aside the question of whether Bush has actually committed any impeachable offenses, the congressional will simply isn't present on either side. Because impeachment is not a plausible option, the time and effort spent on spam email campaigns and meeting with members of Congress amounts to little more than politically-flavored playtime masquerading as real action. I understand the frustration that many liberals suffer as they watch Iraq on the brink of chaos, the Patriot Act's resurrection, and the emerging details of a secret program to eavesdrop on domestic communications. But there are more constructive ways to focus one's political energies—such as working to convince undecided voters that the modern GOP is the party of the "have-mores," helping to forge a unified front out of the many single-issue progressive interest groups, and pressuring local Congresspeople in more attainable legislative directions than impeachment. I hate to say it, but it appears as though this particular wing of the anti-Bush crowd has truly lost touch with reality, and their vain efforts only subtract valuable energy from credible attempts to foment real change in the American polity.