By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Saturday’s impeachment vote yanked the mask of moderation off those L.A.-area House Republicans who had previously sought to project an image of judiciousness. Glendale Republican James Rogan was one of those Judiciary Committee members who decided to press ahead with the charges even after the public delivered its anti-impeachment verdict in the November elections. Long Beach Republican Steve Horn, who once upon a time was a practicing political scientist, was strangely drawn to the notion of election nullification, and voted to impeach the president on all four counts. Both Horn and Rogan come from districts that Clinton carried handily in the last two presidential elections — districts which they now are likely to lose in the election two years hence.
When historians look back on the events of last week, they will doubtless marvel that the Republicans not only forced through an impeachment with little popular backing and of questionable legitimacy, but did it in such a way as to maximize their own marginality. They forbade the House from voting on a censure option that poll after poll had shown the public supported. They insisted upon the impeachment during a time of military action. And they enacted impeachment on the very day that their own legislative leader, House Speaker–designate Bob Livingston, fell prey to the puritanical zeal of right-wing Republicans in his own caucus. Livingston’s resignation allowed House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, in the only genuinely great speech delivered in Congress in years, to call for a halt not just to the sexual McCarthyism that the GOP has inflicted on the political culture, but to the larger cultural civil war of the ’60s that the right is hellbent on keeping alive.
It is the Republicans’ insistence on waging that war that remains the ultimate reason for last weekend’s impeachment. When Henry Hyde thinks about Bill Clinton, he told the L.A. Times in a remarkable admission, he thinks of sullying "the significance of military service," and of "this idea that everything is relative." Hyde has also repeatedly expressed his admiration for demonstrators who illegally obstruct access to abortion clinics. And now he has taken his politics of moral transcendence and imposed them on the one question where they should carry no weight at all — the right of a free people to select its own leaders, and to oust them only when a majority believes there’s a compelling case for doing so.
In the House debate last Saturday, however, some Republican members actually argued that democracy is not a transcendent value. Bob Inglis, an outgoing Judiciary Committee member from South Carolina, hauled in from the Bromide Museum the argument that the U.S. "is a republic, not a democracy," a nation in which legislators should be utterly independent of popular sentiment — which is an accurate enough description of his home state through much of its history (South Carolina had more restrictions on the right to vote than any other state), but not a case that the GOP should want to make very loudly in the matter of removing a president. Most Republicans, I think, would take issue with Inglis — if not with the wisdom of his argument, at least with the wisdom of bringing it up — but Inglis’ argument is actually key to the legitimacy of their action. Only a factional leadership convinced that its power supersedes even the most fundamental expression of popular will could do what the Congress, last Saturday, did.
To borrow a line from my friend Johnny Angel, there’s a name for such people: Banana Republicans.