Chairman John Conyers Jr. Chairman Henry Waxman. Those titles will prove to be the most important outcome of yesterday’s elections, even if the Dems get the Senate too. It’s investigation and impeachment time. Vice President Cheney has already announced his plans to “probably” refuse to obey a subpoena from Congress. Democrats need to be preparing for that crisis now. And I don’t mean just elected Democrats. I mean you and everyone you know who has the sanity to no longer call themselves Republicans. I mean you, Harold Meyerson, who published an op-ed in the Washington Post advocating a bait and switch: run on health care and education and then take up impeachment after the election. It is now after the election. I mean you, Arianna Huffington, who argued that impeachment would distract from the election and could be addressed later. It’s later now. And before you start whimpering about the 2008 elections looming, consider this … .
A democracy that limits itself to elections will die. A democracy that appears like Brigadoon for a day every two years and then becomes a dictatorship for 729 days is dead. Citizen activism begins today, November 8th. We have a moral duty to impeach and distant elections be damned. But, even so, consider this …
In each of the nine cases in the past when one party has raised impeachment, that party has benefitted in the next elections. In other cases when a party has failed to press for impeachment when the grounds for it were widely known, that party has suffered. (Remember Iran Contra?) And look at what just happened yesterday.
Exit polls reported that voters by a margin of 62-33 percent voted on national, not local, issues. They voted for four, closely bunched, national reasons: corruption, terrorism, the economy, and Iraq. By 57-41 percent they disapproved of Bush’s handling of Iraq. They didn’t give a damn about taxes or “values” or local pork.
Every state except Arizona that voted on proposals to discriminate against gay people voted yes. South Dakotans rejected a ban on abortion. Voters in six more states restored some lost value to the minimum wage. But there’s no evidence that any of these issues drove voters’ choices of candidates. There is abundant evidence that voters were driven by opposition to the war and-probably more so-to Bush and Cheney.
Impeachment supporter Keith Ellison won a seat from Wisconsin as the first Muslim in Congress by speaking out for accountability. Progressive candidates backed by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) who spoke out against the war and for accountability, and who won, include Sherrod Brown, John Hall, and Jerry McNerney. Some will recall that PDA backed promising antiwar candidate Christine Cegalis in the Democratic primaries, and that the DCCC imported a candidate from out of state and dumped a ton of cash on her to squeak out a win: pro-war Tammy Duckworth. Yesterday she lost.
Yesterday’s vote was as much anti-Republican as anti-war. Voters said they wanted Democrats to control committees. Republicans failed to pick up a single new seat. Republican incumbents Lincoln Chaffee and Jim Leach opposed the war but still lost.
However, Republican Chris Shays barely managed to hold onto his seat by dropping his support for the war. And pro-war Democratic challenger Scott Kleeb in Nebraska lost.
Yesterday, prior to the votes, John Nichols at The Nation published a guide outlining key races to watch, races in which opposition to the war had been especially prominent in the campaigning. Here’s what he wrote, followed by what actually happened:
“The first polling places to close tonight will be in Indiana and Kentucky, at 6 p.m. EST. In a Louisville-based House district, Democrat JOHN YARMUTH, an alternative newspaper publisher, has a chance of upsetting Republican incumbent Anne Northrup. Yarmuth has made his opposition to the war a central focus of his campaign from the start, and he’s gotten so much traction that Northrup has started to break with the administration — using the now-common dodge of calling for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign. If Yarmuth wins, it will send a clear signal about the viability of the anti-war message.”
“At 7 p.m. EST, polls close in Virginia, where embattled Republican Senator George Allen faces a strong challenge from Democrat JIM WEBB. Webb, a veteran who was a Reagan administration appointee, switched parties and got into the race because of his fury over the war. Allen has stumbled frequently during this campaign, but at the end of the day a Webb win will say a lot about whether southern voters are as upset as voters in the rest of the country about the mess in Iraq.”
Webb leads despite extensive voter suppression by the GOP now being investigated by the FBI.
“At 7:3O p.m. EST, polls close in Ohio, where Democratic challenger SHERROD BROWN has highlighted his vote in the House against authorizing Bush to invade Iraq, complained about the cost of the war and called for an exit strategy from the start of his race against Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. A Brown win cannot be seen an anything but a big victory for anti-war forces.”
“The same goes for a win by Democrat ZACK SPACE, who is running for the seat opened up by the decision of disgraced Republican Congressman Bob Ney to quit Congress. Space has made his anti-war stance a prime feature of his campaign in a traditionally Republican district.”
Space won 62-38 percent.
“At 8 p.m. EST, polls close in New Jersey, where incumbent Democratic Senator BOB MENENDEZ has come from behind in his race with Republican Tom Kean Jr. by putting opposition to the war at the top of his platform. Menendez is one of a number of Democrats who have employed blunt anti-war messages in their television ads.”
“Polls will also close at this time in Connecticut, where the Senate contest between Democrat NED LAMONT and the man he ousted in the party primary, incumbent Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent, will tell us a good deal about the depth of anti-war sentiment. Lamont’s fall campaign has frequently stumbled and he trails in the polls. If Lamont were to win, or at this point finish close to Lieberman, it would indicate that even when a challenger has vulnerabilities an anti-war stance counts for a lot.”
Lamont lost 50-40 percent. Most observers expect Lieberman to caucus with the Democrats while voting with the Republicans.
“In another key state where polls close at 8, Pennsylvania, a big win for Democratic Congressman JACK MURTHA, perhaps the House’s most identifiable war critic and a favorite Republican punching bag, would make it clear that Democrats who have spoken out against Bush administration policies are not suffering for it.”
No decision has been reached yet in Murtha’s race. He will lose or win by a hair.
“And a win in another Pennsylvania race by Democratic challenger JOE SESTAK, a military man who has been outspoken in his advocacy for an exit strategy in his challenge to Republican Congressman Curt Weldon in the state’s 7th district, would say something more about the potency of the anti-war message.”
“If Democrat PAUL HODES upsets Republican Congressman Charlie Bass in New Hampshire’s 2nd district, it will be opposition to the war by Hodes that made the difference.”
“That can be said if Democratic challenger LINDA STENDER defeats Republican Mike Ferguson in New Jersey’s 7th district.”
Stender has apparently lost 49-48 percent. We should wait for analysis of the credibility of the election and the extent of fraud.
“At 9 p.m. EST, polls close in much of the country, including the upper Midwest and some of the interior west, North Dakota Senator KENT CONRAD, a Democrat who cast a courageous vote against authorizing Bush to go to war in 2OO2, is running well ahead in his reelection race. A big Conrad win — with over 6O percent of the vote — would show that even in rural, conservative states it does not hurt to oppose the war.”
Conrad won big 69-29 percent.
“If fast-closing Democratic challenger JIM PEDERSON upsets Republican Senator Jon Kyl in Arizona, it will be because of Pederson’s unrelenting focus on the need to end the war.”
No deal. Pederson lost.
“A win in Minnesota’s 1st district by Democratic challenger TIM WALZ, a retired sergeant major in the Army National Guard, would come at the expense of pro-war Republican Congressman Gil Gutknecht.”
Walz won 53-47 percent.
“In the open Minnesota-6 seat, a win by Democrat PATTY WETTERLING, who has advocated for the rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq, would send a very loud anti-war message.”
No deal. Wetterling lost.
“The same would go for a win in the 19th district of New York state, where polls close at this hour, by Democratic challenger JOHN HALL, who has used his opposition to the war to close the gap in his race against popular Republican Congresswoman Sue Kelly. Hall’s still got an uphill climb in this contest, but if he succeeds, then clearly it is the war that is taking Republican incumbents down.”
“Finally, watch in Wisconsin for how well a Green challenger, RAE VOGELER, finishes in her race against Democrat Herb Kohl. Like many Greens around the country, Vogeler has focused attention on the failure of Democrats such as Kohl to take clear anti-war positions; If Vogeler or other Greens delivering similar messages finish with significant percentages of the vote, it will serve as another indication of the intensity of anti-war sentiment.”
Vogeler got 2 percent, but that may speak more to Americans’ growing refusal to back third-party candidates and desire to achieve a Democratic majority than to support for the war.
“At 1O p.m. EST, polls close in most western states. If Democrat JON TESTER upsets Republican Senator Conrad Burns in Montana, Tester’s criticism of the war will have been a big factor — indeed, it was the Democrat’s anti-war stance that helped him win his party’s primary in June over a more centrist Democrat.”
This race is undecided as of yet, under possibly suspicious conditions. It should be watched very carefully, as should the undecided Senate race in Virginia, where the war was also the main substantive issue.
“Similarly, a win by Democrat BRUCE BRALEY in Iowa’s open 1st district, will send an anti-war message. Braley has highlighted his support for an exit strategy from the start of the race.”
Braley won 55-43 percent.
“At 11 p.m. EST, polls in the far west close. If Democrat DARCY BURNER defeats Republican Congressman Dave Reichert in Washington state’s 8th district, the war will have been a big factor.”
No decision yet.
“In California’s hotly-contested 11th district, Democrat JERRY McNERNEY won his primary in large part because he was the more clearly anti-war candidate. If he defeats Republican Congressman Richard Pombo in what is likely to be one of the last contests to be decided tonight, Congress will be tipped a little further in the direction of a “Bring the Troops Home: position.”
In the end, the vast majority of the races Nichols highlighted as tests of support for the war broke decisively against the war and against members of Bush and Cheney’s party. A few of these races were won by Democratic veterans for peace. But many more Democratic veteran candidates lost, most of them supporters of the war, including Duckworth, mentioned above, and including Charlie Brown who recently asked Cindy Sheehan to stay away from his events. It would appear that voters are rather indifferent to whether a candidate is a veteran or not, but are strongly supportive of opposition to the war whether from a veteran or a non-veteran.
Democrats yesterday gained majorities in at least six new state legislatures: NH, IN, IA, MI, MN, WI. This creates six new bodies that citizens can ask to send impeachment charges to the U.S. House of Representatives. Bills that would do that have already been introduced in three state legislatures: VT, IL, CA. New Jersey activists are hard at work, intent on being the state that comes through.
Numerous national organizations are forming a coalition to advance impeachment through multiple strategies, and this is the moment to do it. Leaders of these groups will announce their plans in Philadelphia, across from Independence Hall, on Saturday, November 11th, as detailed here: A democr”>http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/impeach
DAVID SWANSON can be reached at: email@example.com