For anyone who cares about democratic values, the most significant thing about the impeachment debacle was the vapidity of the surrounding debate—its failure to raise serious questions about the structure or future of American democracy. This, and not the question of Clinton’s vindication, is its true significance. Indeed, beneath the inflated constitutional rhetoric and salacious media attention, the proceedings reveal some troubling features of the operation of power in American politics today.
One is the Southernization/Dixiecratization of the Republican Party, and the development of a strong mobilization of bias against Clinton and what he is held to represent—Ivy League savvy, feminism, the blues, “relativism,” the sixties—that long preceded Lewinsky or even Whitewater. The likes of Bob Barr have been calling for Clinton’s impeachment from day one, and certainly ever since his early position on gays in the military. Remember the Vince Foster rumors, spread with malignity by Jerry Falwell? Pundits are fond of pointing out that this antipathy toward Clinton is not borne out by polling data, and have thus concluded that many conservative Republicans must be “voting their consciences.”...
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