Speaking In Code About Impeachment As an Election Issue

I notice that portions of the lefty blogosphere seems fired up over the idea of impeaching Bush.  Some have argued that impeachment is a bad idea under the current climate.  Saner heads have come out to say that impeachment isn't a good campaign platform.  And they are right, it isn't, but in a way, it also is.

I argue instead that talking about impeachment publicly using the "I" word is the wrong way to go about things and is typical of the left's occasional desire to lead with the heart rather than making calculated, pragmatic, strategic decisions.

It is well known that conservatives have developed coded language to talk about issues such as affirmative action and abortion.  For example, a reference to the Dred Scott decision is an unspoken invitation for people to draw comparisons to Roe v. Wade.

The left has failed to develop similar double language which seems on the surface to be one thing, but which speak to a deeper meaning in the hearts of committed progressives.

The idea of impeaching Bush captures the imaginations of the Democratic Party's progressive activist base, but it also provokes a knee-jerk defensive posture among conservatives who think they should automatically go in the other direction if Michael Moore, Al Franken, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, or whatever liberal boogeyman of their choice supports something.

On the other hand, speaking of holding this administration accountable for its actions, of reasonable government oversight as part of those wonderful checks and balances that we learned in civics class, of sending a message to Bush all seem less confrontational and resonate with voters who lean Republican but could plausibly vote Democrat under the right circumstances.  Of course, impeachment is a method of holding Bush accountable, of practicing oversight, and of sending a message to Bush, and the left should see these words as wink-wink-nudge-nudge code about impeaching Bush (if we can take control of Congress), while swing voters should see it as meaning that we should restore a sense of balance to American government that has been missing under a one-sided Republican regime.

While speaking in the context of government accountability, one can recite a litany of Republican sins, not necessarily the ones that gall progressives the most, but the ones which most clearly illustrate to potential voters why the Bush administraton is bad.  However odious certain Patriot Act provisions maybe, they shouldn't be front and center unless you can personalize the issue and show a sympathetic face who has been directly harmed by the legislation and not just point to a theoretical slippery slope to Orwellville.  Now that he has been confirmed, the Alito nomination will be a lousy talking point to people not already inclined to view him badly until you can point to an extremely bad Supreme Court decision written by him.  These Republican sins do belong on the list of things that need oversight, but on the list of reasons to send a message to Bush in the 2006 mid-term elections, they should rank far below more palpable and easily graspable concerns like the UAE port deal, Hurricane Katrina, the Abramoff scandal, and the failure to come close to predicting the current situation in Iraq.

So, I'm not saying that we shouldn't impeach Bush.  The question about whether we should is really mostly irrelevant until we are in a position of power.  I'm saying that we can talk about it as long as it is framed properly using coded language that activates the progressive base rather than straight-forwardly in a way that allows right winger to frame liberals as extremists and activate their conservative base.

Tags: Framing, impeachment (all tags)




sucks as an issue.

It just sucks.

No one will vote for impeachment except the fruits and nuts who post here and at DKos and other lefty blogs - including myself.

People vote for pols who seem like they will solve a problem.  We need to define a problem, propose a solution and get people to vote for that person.

When we push impeachment, we are pushing divisiveness, vindictiveness, revenge and other very negative issues and emotions.  People don't vote for those.

Please, enough already about impeachment.

by dataguy 2006-03-10 04:39AM | 0 recs

People don't vote for divisive, vindictive, negative issues? Are you serious? What about immigration? Civil rights? Anal SexGay marriage?

Further, impeachment is not about revenge. It's about responsibility. You cannot in any permanent sense unravel the mess that is our government without assigning responsibility and punishing the criminals responsible. Otherwise, they continue to commit crimes. Put another way: if Nixon had died rotting in jail, maybe Cheney wouldn't be so quick on the trigger.

Of course, nobody should run on impeachment as an issue. They should run on responsibility. Adult supervision. Transparency in government. Restoration of civil liberties; "terrorists will never take away our civil liberties".

But, if asked, they should say "yes, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be impeached -- there is certainly enough evidence -- and if they're found guilty, they should live out the rest of their lives in a Texas jail with no possibility of parole." No equivocating.

by lightyearsfromhome 2006-03-10 05:35AM | 0 recs
bumper sticker

I have an "Impeach Bush" bumper sticker on my vehicle. Do I think it will happen? No. Do I want Darth Cheney or that wrestler from Illinois who is DeLay's sock puppet to take over? No. I just want those who advocated Bill Clinton's impeachment over  private and personal behavior in the White House to explain to me why they think dubya's evisceration of the Constitution and the law doesn't warrant the same remedy.  

by Michael Bersin 2006-03-10 05:58AM | 0 recs


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