In my recent piece, “Organize to Push Congress Toward Impeachment,” I named as an immediate goal:
A leadership group should be formed. I propose that the people comprising this leadership group should meet the following main criteria: a) They should be effective and credible spokesmen for the idea that this impeachment is a vital necessity for the nation; b) They should have the knowledge of the American system, and the connections, to be effective in making that system work for the movement; c) They should be regarded as people of integrity by the American people; d) They should make it easier, or at least not harder, for Americans who are politically moderate or conservative to join and support the movement.On one or two other sites where that piece appeared, there were comments expressing objections to the idea of such a leadership group. “We don’t need leadership,” was the general idea.
Among the people I propose for possible membership in this leadership group are these: Bill Moyers, Bruce Fein, Walter Cronkite, Jimmy Carter, and/or Walter Mondale. I also propose that these legally trained people who have been doing excellent work on these matters be included –either as members of the leadership group or in some other capacity: John Dean, Elizabeth de la Vega, and Glenn Greenwald.
Let me articulate further why I think such leadership is essential.
To maximize the chances of success, a social movement to pressure Congress toward impeachment should be: 1) visible, 2) mobilized and activated, 3)coherence, and 4) clearly about doing what the country needs –and the Constitution demands– and not about mere partisan politics.
Half the American people, apparently, are ready for impeachment. There are many little organizations, websites, voices crying out.
But you wouldn’t know it from attending to our national conversation. Impeachment is not the main story, nor even in the top half dozen.
But put, say, Jimmy Carter and Sandra Day O’Connor before the microphones, saying to the country “The president and vice president have been lawless, have been assaulting the Constitution and the rule of law like nothing ever seen in the history of America, and the Congress must impeach them to honor their sacred oath to defend the Constitution,” and that would change.
Impeachment would become the focus of national attention.
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ACTIVATION AND MOBILIZATION
Though there are tens of millions of Americans who favor impeachment, only few of them are taking any action to achieve that goal. Even among those who are impassioned about the issue –so I have been told by a hard-working activist– there is often a lack of follow through:
“How is it that the masses can be so outraged,” this activist has written me, “a good number convinced that something needs to be done, yet not be willing to make a 5 minute phone call, write a letter to the editor? …Sometimes I think maybe people just don’t believe it’s going to matter in the end and so don’t bother.That sense of hopelessness and futility is probably key to the problem– and that probably derives in part from NOT having a sense of being part of something large and dynamic. Consider how many millions took to the streets in 2004, when there was a concrete goal and a national campaign organization to enlist people in doing the various necessary tasks of walking the streets, making the phone calls, etc.
If a group of prominent leaders can succeed in making visible a national movement to express the people’s DEMAND for impeachment, that will give the sense of hope and potential effectiveness that can activate and mobilize the huge constituency for impeachment.
All those individuals and organizations that favor impeachment are doing their own things. If the force moving toward impeachment is to be effective, it must be able to coordinate all these actors to flex its muscle in a focused way. Without coherence, the movement will be ineffective.
With coherence, the movement might put a million people on the National Mall at the same time and demonstrate –to Congress, to the media, to the rest of the public– that there is a popular groundswell that DEMANDS impeachment.
If an effective blue-ribbon set of leaders and spokespeople emerged and proved its ability to make impeachment Topic # 1, the various scattered groups and individuals would recognize that putting themselves under THAT umbrella would be the route to success, and this would make it possible to coordinate all the actors.
BEYOND MERE PARTISANSHIP
The media and the Republicans are all set to make impeachment out to be a mere power struggle between political factions.
But put a group in front of the microphones –including the likes of Bruce Fein, and Bob Barr, and Sandra Day O’Connor, along with their more liberal counterparts– to declare that this is not about power but about preserving the American system of government, and that interpretation goes out the window.
This, in turn, will make the movement still more powerful by a) undercutting the Republicans’ attempts to dismiss impeachment, b) requiring the media to pay attention to the real issues, and c) showing the American people what’s at stake and making it easier for moderates and conservatives to join the movement.
For all these reasons, the effectiveness of the “DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION! IMPEACH THEM NOW!” movement depends strongly on the creation –at this point– of a leadership group that can command that kind of respect and attention.
Afterword: The idea of “Organize to Push Congress Toward Impeachment” remains, I am happy to report, alive. By “alive” I mean that things are actually developing in a way that is consistent with the possibility of eventual actual success. Things could run out of steam before achieving a full launch, but so far there is sufficient progress to support continued hope.
In particular, there is at least one prominent person –and quite possibly several of the kind needed– on board to serve on this leadership group. If things continue to develop, I will eventually report the specifics. Or maybe I won’t need to, as the report will appear on the network news and the front page of the New York Times!
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