Sunday, March 05, 2006

If You Can't Impeach, What Then?

Michelle Goldberg at Salon writes about the recent public forum, sponsored by Harper's magazine, on the case for impeachment. Along the way, Goldberg addresses the sobering fact that even if the majority of Americans are in favor of electing Democrats and impeaching Bush, our electoral system may prevent both.

Lewis Lapham, editor at Harper's, briefly addresses the question of, What then?

Salon: [snippets]

With so much ferment on the left, last night's public forum, "Is There a Case for Impeachment?" had the buzzy feel of an important cultural event.

Polls show more Americans favoring Democratic control of Congress than Republican, but that does not mean they can make it so... Electoral maps that pack liberal, urban voters together have put Democrats at a structural disadvantage that is unlikely to be overcome by either exhortations about people power or disenchantment with Republican rule.

As Steven Hill, author of "Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics," wrote in Mother Jones last year, "Even when the Democrats win more votes, they don't necessarily win more seats. That's true in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the Electoral College." In the House, he wrote, "When the two sides are tied nationally, the Republicans end up winning about 50 more House districts than the Democrats."

The Senate is even more distorted; the fact that small, sparsely populated states have the same representation as large states with big cities gives a huge advantage to rural voters, who tend to be more conservative. According to Hill, "In 2004, over 51 percent of votes cast were for Democratic senatorial candidates, yet Republicans elected 19 of the 34 contested seats."

Still, if Bush must be impeached to save the republic, and if Bush almost certainly will not be impeached, where does that leave us?

Toward the end of the event, the gravity of America's dilemma led Lapham to speculate that even insurrection might be possible. It came in response to a question from an audience member who asked, "Are you willing to discuss the alternative that the American people have if they're faced with an illegal government because impeachment doesn't work? That alternative of course is for the people to overthrow the illegal government by the means that they consider necessary."

"I do think that it could easily get to the revolutionary stage, because I would expect the fight to be extremely ugly," Lapham said. "It might come to that. I don't think you're going to keep your democratic republic easily."

It was hard to tell if the applause that followed represented a flash of militant hope, or an acknowledgment of despair.