Need a Reason to Vote? War and Impeachment

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Urbana-Champaign may be “Impeach Bush Central”- and one of the
very few places in the country where voters can have their say directly on
both impeachment and war. Local voters will see a referendum on each
of these questions on the ballot this November 7.
Of course the local referenda are advisory only, not binding. But
activists, including Yarbrough, hope there will be a ripple effect. “She is
looking to broaden the appeal of her resolution,” says Jan Kruse, an
activist with the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort (AWARE), “and we hope her resolution will
help our referenda.”
The big news about that is: the ripples could extend to Washington. If the state resolution
passes, by federal law it must go directly to the floor of the US Congress for debate.
“Sometimes people think this is not a legitimate effort,” says Durl Kruse, also an
activist in AWARE, “but then they see that there is a way to impeach the President, and
that changes.”
Actual impeachment would be an uphill battle, especially in the current Republicancontrolled
Congress. But local activists think the debate itself is valuable as a platform to
raise awareness on an illegal and immoral war, imperialist occupation and cynical assaults
on the Constitution.
Stated reasons for impeachment run very close to arguments against the war. Bush lied.
Cheney lied. The Administration intentionally distorted intelligence reports to make
them seem like reasons for war. They said they would go to war only as a last resort,
and then kept raising the bar to ensure noncompliance. Finally, as millions marched
against war in the US and around the world, the Bush Administration thumbed its nose
and attacked.
The invasion was illegal under international law, which only allows for the use of force
in self-defense, to prevent an imminent attack- as in, warplanes are on the way, can we
shoot them down? (yes)- or as part of a UN-authorized action, which this was not. International
treaties, such as those with these requirements, are under the US Constitution
the highest law of the land, and the Bush Administration broke it. His Administration,
arguably with the complicity of the Congress but nonetheless, has also undermined the
US Constitution by essentially ignoring it.
If lying about having sex with an intern is cause for impeachment, Durl Kruse
notes, then thousands of wrongful imprisonments and deaths, US and Iraqi, must
count for something.
The Urbana City Council early on passed a resolution opposing the invasion of Iraq, joining
over 100 other “Cities for Peace.” At the time 300-400 area residents were protesting
every Saturday on North Prospect Avenue in Champaign against the Bush Administration’s
plans to invade Iraq, which it was claiming was not the plan.
There has been a constant anti-war presence at local events, from the Martin Luther
King Day celebration, to the Taste of Champaign, the Fourth of July parade, Sweet Corn
Festival and Urbana Farmers’ Market. And last year a new Urbana City Council passed
another resolution, this time calling for withdrawal of US troops from occupied Iraq.
Residents again filled the Council chambers to speak up for the resolution, while a
handful of opponents wrote bitter letters to the editor, portraying supporters as
“activists”, as if the designation somehow meant they couldn’t also be neighbors, community
members and voters. Opponents, including some at the News-Gazette, asked rhetorically:
if anti-war council members were so sure their position represented the city populace,
why not let the voters decide?
In the Spring, AWARE took their detractors up on this. At the founding conference of
the Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice, here in town, AWARE members learned that a
little-known provision in Illinois law provides that every year in every township in the
state, at one particular township meeting, a majority of voters who live in the township
and attend the special annual meeting can choose to add up to three referenda to the
November ballot. The annual meeting was about two weeks away.
The Mayor of Champaign would later accuse activists of a kind of stealth campaign,
but in fact they acted openly within days of learning of the opportunity. AWARE organizers
proposed two referenda, one calling for an immediate troop withdrawal, another for
both Bush and Cheney’s impeachment. Activists at both meetings, Cunnigham Township
in Urbana and Champaign Township in Champaign played to packed houses. These
meetings usually consist of about two people, whose thankless job it is to attend. Participation
for a change was welcome- at least in Urbana.
Spirits ran high in the Cunningham Township office, jammed with anti-war voters, as
township officials patiently explained the process. The only debate was over specific
wording and the order in which the referenda would appear.
In Champaign, Mayor Schweighart, upon learning of the effort, sent out a call for war
supporters to attend and defeat the move, apparently unwilling to hear from voters on the
issue. Anti-war attendees in Champaign did achieve the required two-thirds majority to
place their items on the ballot for voters, after heated debate, by a single vote.
Anti-war activists in a few other Illinois townships added anti-war referenda the same
night. Apparently no others succeeded in adding a referendum for impeachment,
although some reportedly tried. In at least one township, officials blocked the item from
the agenda.
AWARE has purchased yard signs in support of the referenda (available at the Urbana
Farmers’ Market), sponsored signs in MTD busses, and attempted to purchase a billboard
ad (but the company turned them away).
Door-to-door canvassing, voter registration up until October 10, and fundraisers small
and large are helping to spread the word throughout the month of October.
Rep. Karen Yarbrough will speak in the Urbana City Council chambers October 17 at
7pm, and at a campus rally for impeachment the next day at noon.
Other events fill out the month. There may be a demonstration on October 28 to coincide
with national protests against the war.
On November 7, it will fall to the voters to decide the referendum questions. It could
go either way, regardless of popular opinion. Mid-term elections are typically low-turnout
elections. Numerous studies have found that low turnout often means conservative
turnout. In a local election such as this a single vote, as in the Champaign Township
meeting, could decide.
National polls consistently show a clear majority in the US oppose the ongoing war, in
line with polled majorities of US troops, including those currently stationed in Iraq. In
forum after forum, activity after activity, campaign after campaign, local residents have
shown that they oppose this war and they oppose the Bush Administration.
It appears that the support is there in the community for these referenda, but their success
depends upon supportive voter turnout on November 7.

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