Dispelling the myths on impeachment: An interview with John Nichols

Best-selling author and The Nation Washington correspondent John Nichols visited Brattleboro last week to talk on the necessity to investigate President George W. Bush and remove him from office. His new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founder' Cure for Royalism and the book provides a hidden history of an American institution: the peoples' right to impeach our elected leaders. The Genius of Impeachment reveals how impeachment movements played a fundemental role American history and Nichols' book credits Vermont in his last chapter - "What then From Newfane?"- for lighting the fuse that sparked a nation-wide impeachment movement. John Nichols has been on a nationwide book tour and wanted to end it in the heart of the impeachment movement, Windham County. I caught up with Nichols after the event to talk more about the latest developments, misconceptions about impeachment, and the role Vermont plays.

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Blue wave in Vermont (with cartograms)

This is the fifth in a series of pretty pictures showing what this year's blue wave looks like. So far, I've done Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, and New Hampshire.

Vermont only has one district, so a cartogram by district is just a big boring outline. It's also debatable whether Vermont had a blue wave. Nevertheless, I don't want to skip Vermont, so I'm posting it on a travel day.

Here's how things stood before the 2006 election.

The green represents independent congressman (and senator-elect) Bernie Sanders, who caucused with Democrats.
And afterwards...

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ORDINARY HEROES: The "Lame-duck" Mayor

Watching Republicans like Tom Delay dismiss the Democratic victors as a "lame duck Congress" reminds me of one of my favorite political stories. It's an instructive tale about how "good ol' boys" who try to undercut a newcomer's power can wind up eating their words in the end.

Here's what happened: In 1970, Vermont was still a Republican stronghold. There wasn't much of a constituency for a socialist political party...but a few anti-war activists decided to form one anyway. They called it Liberty Union. During the '70s, the same 3 or 4 guys from the Liberty Union Party seemed to run in every election, for whatever office was open. I don't think any of them ever got more than 5% or 6% of the vote, and they were never a factor in the elections. But they kept running. A lot of mainstream Vermonters considered them a joke.

In 1978, one of Liberty Union's perennial candidates--a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn--quit the party and moved to Burlington, the state's biggest city (population: 37,000) and home of the University of Vermont (UVM). He gave up politics, rented an apartment and worked as a writer. But his retirement didn't last long. Burlington had been run by the same group of good ol' boys for decades. The mayor, Gordon Paquette, had been in office for 5 or 6 terms; no one stood a chance against him. However, in 1981, as the mayoral election approached, Paquette and the local police got into a dispute. If I remember correctly, the cops wanted a raise; the mayor wouldn't give it to them. (Note: anyone out there remember the details?) The socialist from Brooklyn jumped into the mayoral race as an independent, and a supporter of workers' rights, standing 100% behind the cops. And the police, as a symbolic "Screw you" to Mayor Paquette, endorsed the Socialist in return. It was as improbable an alliance as you could imagine. But the unexpected mainstream support turned Our Hero into a credible candidate--albeit a prohibitive underdog--for the first time in his career. And he took advantage of it. With a dedicated group of supporters, he went out and registered UVM students like crazy. He also reached out to people who'd become weary of Paquette's political machine. Of course, Mayor Paquette and his cronies didn't take this challenge seriously. Why should they? So on election day, they--and pretty much everyone else in town--were astonished to discover that the socialist had actually won the race...by 10 votes. (Or 12, depending on who's telling the tale).

That was just the beginning. The shell-shocked good ol' boys of the city council considered the election a fluke. They were sure there was no way the socialist would ever get elected again--he was an automatic "lame duck." So they decided to ignore him. For example, they began scheduling city council meetings without informing the mayor's office when and where they were being held. But they miscalculated--instead of making the new mayor seem irrelevant, they made him a sympathetic figure, And he fought back. He publicized the council's outrageous actions, admonishing them for violating the public trust. In the next election, the public responded--not by returning a Good Ol' Boy to the mayor's office, but by throwing city council members out. The socialist got his own council members installed, and Burlington's city government was transformed permanently. Today, the mayor has moved on, but the city government is still stocked with his allies.

And what happened to this lame duck? Well, he became a political icon in Vermont, respected for his independence and honesty, and gradually moved up the political ladder: On Tuesday, former Burlington mayor Bernie Sanders was elected to the US Senate. We can only hope all of our newly elected "lame duck" Democrats do just as well.

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2007/08 Governor's Races

Nobody has looked at the impending governor's races for the next two years yet, so here goes.  Three state houses are up for election in 2007 with 11 more to come in 2008 (including Vermont and New Hampshire, the two states that still elect their governors to two-year terms.)

A quick rundown of the seats:

Solid R: Mississippi, North Dakota, Utah
Likely R: None
Lean R: Vermont
Tossup: Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Washington
Lean D: Kentucky, Delaware
Likely D: Montana
Solid D: New Hampshire, West Virginia

More below the fold...

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Too Far to Go, Nicco

[Crossposted at What's the Point?]

There's a John Updike collection of short stories called Too Far to Go that describes, among other things, the deep sadness of a married couple who are losing or have lost the connection that brought them together.

In the title story (I think - I may have some details wrong, but this is what I remember), there is a deeply melancholic scene that describes the husband lying awake while his wife is sleeping in the same room, but in a separate bed.

It captures the helplessness and vulnerability that can set in during the quiet, lonely half-asleep hours of the night, when it can seem impossible to find the strength within oneself to rise and deal with the things that need to be dealt with.

The hours when one's bed becomes like a womb, and even the most confident and capable of adults are left to feel like weak and dependent infants, incapable of leaving the warmth and security beneath the covers.

The husband tries to find the energy and strength within himself to simply get up and join his wife, who is only just a few feet away, and begin to rebuild the trust and affection in their marriage.

But, he can't. It is just too far to go.

I'm very happily married, but for some reason that brief scene and the phrase "too far to go" have always stayed with me. Not in relation to a lack of marital bliss, but to all the other things in my life that can feel occasionally insurmountable.

So, today, while reading the Carpetbagger's reporting (I know Stoller broke it earlier in Breaking Blue) that Dean Webmaster Nicco Mele was signing on to McCain's probable run for President, it was the first thing I thought of.

I had the pleasure of working with Nicco on-site at Dean HQ during the primary campaign.

And though I didn't spend too much time with him, he struck me as a very decent, thoughtful, intelligent human being. His work with EchoDitto and his interest in and support of citizen journalism have been very laudable.

One of the things that most people wouldn't know is that quite a few of the main Dean web people (and probably many of the others, including Howard) were not at all sharply partisan about Dean and would often say favorable things about his opponents. And had very nuanced opinions about a number of topics. Meaning, well, they were very reasonable, non-dogmatic people.

But, McCain, Nicco? Really?

Sure, he's not pure evil, but he could have done so much more in the last five and a half years to help blunt the disaster of the Bush administration. No need to detail the atrocities.

And given the current condition of America and our place in the world, to me that is entirely unforgivable.

Supporting McCain?

It's just too far to go, Nicco.

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