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Grass-roots Democrats Push NH Legislature Towards Impeachment

Howard Dean's scream may have capped the unraveling of his campaign, but it was also the herald for a grass roots movement that played a major role in overturning the Republican stranglehold on power.
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Howard Dean's famous scream may have capped the
unraveling of his presidential campaign, but it was
also the unwitting herald for a grass roots movement
that six years later played a major role in
overturning the Republican stranglehold on power, not
only nationally, but across the river in New Hampshire
as well.

Now those same grass roots groups are calling for
impeachment, taking the challenge directly to Dr.
Dean's own Democratic Party hierarchy.


If 86 year old Brookline New Hampshire resident
Betty Hall has her way, the New Hampshire legislature
will be the first in the nation to invoke Jefferson's
manual and send a call for impeachment to Washington
D.C. "Impeachment is huge for us because Bush is
going to kill our elections. The right to vote is the
most important right of all and he's stolen the last
two elections," she said to The Commons.


It was this perceived threat to the nation that led
her and others to bring an impeachment resolution to
the floor of last summer's N.H. Democratic Party
Convention. Hall said "we passed impeachment in June
of '06 over the objection of the top brass of the
party. We took the battle to the floor and won."

Hall
said that the defeated Party leadership went so far as
to not include the impeachment vote on their website's
convention coverage.


The Party establishment took another hit in last
year's Democratic primary when Carol Shea-Porter was
able to muster enough volunteers to out-hustle the
Party's favored candidate and take the nomination for
U.S. Congress.


Porter benefited from the work of Democracy For N.H.,
the New Hampshire version of Democracy For America, a
grass roots organization that Dean created to give new
purpose to the volunteers who had worked for his
campaign.


After last November's election, some of these
volunteers found themselves in the legislature as
well.


Tim Butterworth of Chesterfield N.H. is one. When his
granddaughter was born in 2003, he realized how angry
he was with what he sees as the sorry state of the
world and the profligacy of our government's actions
and reacted with anger and determination. He became
more of an activist than he had been, then ended up
running for and winning a seat in the House. During
the first session, he was impressed that every
proposal that came forward from the body rather than
from the leadership passed. "As a group the Democratic
Party would be much stronger if the leadership
listens, leading the people in the direction they want
to go" he said.


Indeed, N.H. Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley
has tapped two long time state activists to create a
grass roots committee for the party. According to
committee co-chair Howard Morse, the party is aiding
and abetting grass roots groups and is working to
bring the various groups together under the Democratic
Party umbrella. His co-chair Chas Pru describes it as
a sea change. He is encouraged that the Democrats are
taking the grass roots interests to heart.


Robert Perry of Strafford, who is one of the leaders
of the House legislative impeachment effort, said "the
success of the grass roots movement in N.H. has caused
the leadership to pause and assess what it all means."
He said that state party recognizes what the grass
roots are doing and are making space for them in the
party structures. He said, "The leadership has us on
board."


There is no indication that the leadership has gotten
aboard the impeachment train however. In spite of the
vote for impeachment at the '06 convention, Howard
Morse remembers "no clear call of any kind for
impeachment. There might have been a vote, it might
have even passed, but in all the reporting that I saw,
it did not come up. Its much ado about what I think is
nothing."


Betty Hall has a somewhat different take. "I think
that establishment Democrats don't understand what's
out there. The dumb bunnies don't understand how angry
people are."


Tim Butterworth: "I've always assumed that most
organizations have pyramidal structures. Generally the
ones on top have worked their way up. They tend to
become conservative trying to stay on top. D.F.N.H.
founder Alex Lee sees it the same way. "Bad habits
make the Democrats hold onto their bad political
calculus ... there is more interest in holding power
than in making positive changes. The election wave
came in but they're just worried about the undertow."


Robert Perry says that it is essential to move
forward with impeachment. He also has a different
assessment of the prospects. He said, "An impeachment
resolution presented this fall and voted on in January
has a good chance of passing the House and a better
than even chance in the Senate."


A legislative House with 400 members makes for an
unwieldy body. Party leadership can assert itself, but
House votes tend to be more of a reflection of the
individual districts and representatives, according to
Marjorie Smith, 11 year House veteran and Finance
Committee chair.


Hall, Perry and their allies will give these
legislators a chance to weigh in on impeachment in the
next session. Howard Morse predicts that "it would not
be well received and it would not be accepted." Hall
accuses the party of being overly cautious. She and
Perry see a real urgency. Perry cites U.S. military
threats against Iran. Hall is worried about voting and
constitutional rights. She has her own first hand
account of when she discovered her right to free
speech to be missing. "I was arrested and put in jail
for carrying a sign that said Bush is bad for America
in Nashua where Bush was speaking across the street.
The secret service wanted to put us in a cage far from
Bush, I refused to go and they arrested me, I had a
trial and was acquitted." That judge agreed that her
constitutional rights had been violated and the police
lost the case. Hall doesn't want to have to worry
about what the next judge will say. She wants
Constitutional redress now, in the form of
impeachment.


"I want to raise the level of noise" she said. Her
impeachment efforts are meant to do just that.