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It caught my attention this week when I read a column in which my friend the deservedly much esteemed thinker Mr. Thomas Sowell writes that both John Boehner’s lawsuit and Sarah Palin’s call for impeachment look like “playing Mickey Mouse politics during an election year.” To support this view, he refers to the fact that Americans “have to worry – and worry big time – if Republicans blow their chances of taking control of the Senate.”
Mr. Sowell bases his epithetical criticism of the demand for impeachment (“Mickey Mouse politics”) on the possibility that “Republicans blow their chances of taking control of the Senate.” He implies that seriously broaching the impeachment issue will produce that adverse outcome. But in the effort to justify that implication he assumes that the impeachment/trial process would be completed before the November election takes place (“leaving the Republicans with egg on their faces”).
This assumption only makes sense if a) the GOP leadership purposely mishandles things by treating the impeachment process without respect for the gravity and extent of the Obama faction’s offenses against the Constitution; and/or b) purposely follows a scenario that prevents the American people from using the November elections as an opportunity to alter the composition of the Congress with impeachment in mind.
Mr. Sowell’s assertion that the impeachment issue will adversely affect the election also ignores the fact that the elitist GOP leadership’s feckless response to Obama’s lawless actions is already turning off conservative voters. Because conservatives loath Obama’s efforts to abrogate and overthrow the Constitution, they also loath the GOP’s failure seriously to call him to account for his crimes against the Constitution and sovereignty of the people of the United States. Such disaffection is likely to affect turnout among precisely the voters GOP candidates must galvanize in order to win election/re-election this fall.
Impeachment is the constitutionally empowered way of making sure that the accounting these voters seek takes place. Why did the framers of the Constitution make it easier for the House to impeach than for the Senate to convict civil officers of the U.S. government? If they intended the House to impeach only if and when the Senate already had a majority in favor of impeachment, why did they make it easier for members of the House to achieve the majority required for their chamber to play its role?
The misconception that impeachment must be contingent on a pre-existent Senate majority nullifies the effect of the different majorities the Constitution requires for each House to perform its assigned role. This sly effort to nullify the people’s power of accusation is a direct consequence of the corrupt mentality fostered by the two-party sham that is presently strangling both life and virtue out of American politics. It appears as an example of the pernicious state of affairs John Adams foresaw when he wrote that “a division of the republic into two great parties … concerting measures in opposition to each other … is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” (Letter to Jonathan Jackson, Oct. 2, 1780)
Though they were unfamiliar with Lenin’s maxim about “probing with bayonets,” the key contributors to the U.S. Constitution understood how resistance to tyranny is nurtured. As I have pointed out elsewhere, their own experience before the onset of the Revolutionary War convinced them of the importance of information and deliberation when it comes the moral conviction and political will people require to sustain action in defense of liberty. By charging the House with the responsibility for impeachment, the framers meant to assure that actions and policies that smack of tyrannical intent will be properly investigated, debated and formally laid out before the people, as and when they occur.
The impeachment process is therefore, in the first place, a way of developing information essential to the security of the Constitution. It challenges the representatives of the people to consider that information in light of the principles and requirements of constitutional government. If they see dangers, the process challenges them clearly and formally to articulate those dangers to their constituents, in a fashion consonant with the fateful consequence of neglecting to deal with them. This is consistent with the statesmanlike understanding of politics that makes concern for the common good of the society the ultimate focal point of citizen activity and concern.
When he discussed impeachable offenses, Alexander Hamilton describe them as related “chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself” (Federalist No. 65). Impeachment is therefore predicated on a careful regard for the common good. By giving the prerogative of impeachment to the body whose composition is most directly and frequently dependent on the people, the Constitution challenges citizens to remember that their responsibility as citizens goes beyond what affects them as individuals, to encompass the good of the society itself. This is what politics is ultimately about when free people govern themselves as citizens, rather than simply suffering themselves to be governed as subjects, serfs or slaves.
On account of the citizens’ responsibility in this regard, the Constitution also assures that civil officers of the U.S. government, including the president, can never plausibly assert that citizens are not permitted to examine and criticize their actions. Representatives they elect wield the power of accusation. Evaluating the need for such accusations, and their validity, is therefore essential if citizens are to form a judgment about how well or ill those representatives have performed their duty. So even if freedom of speech were not explicitly protected in the Bill of Rights, it would still be among the privileges and immunities of citizenship.
Those who pursue the elitist faction’s anti-constitutional agenda mean to bring the constitutional self-government of the American people to an end. They want the impeachment/removal provisions of the U.S. Constitution to fall into permanent desuetude and waste away. They know that the power constitutionally to impeach and remove the chief executive distinguishes the self-government of the American people from governments in which some monarch or some oligarchic clique lays claim to rule by divine right, or historical tradition, or simply by proving and maintaining forceful superiority.
Letting the impeachment prerogative waste away from disuse is tantamount to degrading the people of the United States from members of the sovereign body that oversees the government at all levels, to hapless subjects of whatever forces happen to force or gull their way into power, no matter how destructively they abuse that power. The false prophet of Communism, Karl Marx, foresaw the withering away of the state. But the elitist faction’s increasingly obvious agenda for Americans entails the withering away of the sovereign people of the United States, who came into their own as humanity’s most successful example of self-government.
Like physical fitness, fitness for self-government requires exercise. Impeachment is the exercise in self-government that is called for when those entrusted with the responsibility of representing and serving the sovereignty of the people appear to be taking measure aimed at replacing that sovereignty with their own. Considered on the whole such steps add up to a crisis far more fundamental than the particular violations they involve, for their total effect is to leave in place a mere pantomime of lawful government, as the lassitude of the people lets the chief prerogatives of their sovereignty waste away.
Impeachment may or may not lead to the conviction and removal of the would-be tyrant who now occupies the White House. If it does not, it will at the very least expose the Obamas’ criminal intent, and galvanize the political will of the people against the faction responsible for aiding and abetting that intent. It will focus the American people on the general and pervasive character of the threat to their liberty. It will inform, rouse and temper their political will to blunt the advances of his probing bayonets. Through the decent pride they rediscover in their own vocation as citizens, it will remind Americans of the Providential good, beyond material things, which they will lose if those tyrannical advances reach their goal.
As Americans, our passion to “win” must not be allowed to produce a Pyrrhic victory empty of results that vindicate constitutional self-government. Properly undertaken, the impeachment process lays down a precedent of active vigilance and concern for the unalienable right of liberty. This precedent will stand against the precedents of tyranny Obama aims to establish in pursuit of the elitist faction’s goal. If worse comes to worst, it prepares the spirit and moral conscience of the people to bear the battle. At all events, it is a fitting marker to leave to rising generations, a marker that reconfirms the ground on which patriots must stand when they are determined not to go, docile and whimpering, unto the end of liberty. Are you one of them? If so, have you joined the pledge to impeach mobilization? Are you encouraging all the like-minded people you can influence to do the same?
Media wishing to interview Alan Keyes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.