Rather, it comes in the elevation of the discourse to a higher ground where politicians and voters can ponder the deeper meaning of democracy and the republican endeavor.
When the whole of a political party finally concludes that it must take up the weighty responsibility of impeaching a president, as Democrats did in 1974 but Republicans never fully did in 1998, its language is clarified and transfigured. What Walt Whitman referred to as "long dumb voices" are suddenly transformed into clarion calls as a dialogue of governmental marginalia gives way to discussion of the intent of the founders, the duty of the people's representatives, and the renewal of the republic.
When a political party speaks well and wisely of impeachment, frustrated voters come to see it in a new way. It is no longer merely the tribune of its own ambition. It becomes a champion of the American experiment. To be sure, such a leap entails risk. But it is the risk-averse political party that is most likely to remain the permanent opposition. This is the requirement of politics, not as the game that is played by both major parties but as the essential struggle in which the founders engaged.
If Pelosi hopes to build a new and more vital relationship with the American people, a relationship that runs deeper than any particular issue or individual, she must overcome the irrational fear of presidential accountability in general and impeachment in particular that have so paralyzed Democrats as an opposition force. If Democrats win Nov. 7, it will be because the voters recognize that America needs an opposition party, not to reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic that a federal government thrown off course by neoconservative foreign policies and neoliberal economic policies has become, but to turn the ship of state in a new direction.
Pelosi owes it to Salli Martyniak and all the other activists who are pouring themselves and their dollars into making her the next speaker of the House to put impeachment back on the table. Pelosi owes it to her San Francisco constituents who so clearly favor impeachment. Most importantly, Pelosi owes it to the republic that as speaker she will have it in her power to restore and redeem. SFBG
John Nichols, a political writer for the Nation, is the author of The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism (The New Press). He will discuss the book and impeachment Nov. 1 at 12:30 p.m. at Stacey's and 7 p.m. at the New College Cultural Center.
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