Recall: Impeachment by Another Name


Wisconsin will soon be conducting a Recall Election against Scott Walker, and a band of Republican State Senators, who like Mary Surratt, provided aid and comfort to the Governor, as they plotted and conspired to deny state workers of their collective bargaining rights.

If voters wonder why an Impeachment indictment was not presented in the State Assembly, and specific charges were not prosecuted at a trial in the State Senate, the answer is while a Recall is like an Impeachment, by an another name, there are differences.

Before the Progressives amended the Wisconsin Constitution to give the people a direct voice in the removal of elected officials, Impeachment was the only way to take out rouge public figures. The proponents of the Wisconsin Constitutional Amendment that created the recall in 1926 intended to give voters a direct method for replacing office holders. They wanted to bypass the impeachment process, which requires a majority vote in the State Assembly, and a two-thirds margin in the State Senate.

U.S. Senator Robert La Follette had advanced similar measures at the federal level. Until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, U.S. Senators were not chosen through a vote by the people, but were hand-picked by state representatives. La Follette transferred power to ordinary people by removing the smoked-filled rooms, and by shifting the process into the hands of the voters, through the ballot. Impeachment, like the indirect method of picking Senators, was also outside the reach of ordinary voters, that is, until the advent of the Recall.

Unlike Impeachment, which requires a Senate trial where evidence of bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors is presented, only two things must be done to win a Recall. The first is the extremely onerous requirement of obtaining the signatures of 25% of those who voted in the prior election, which in Walker’s case was over 500,000, and second is the heavy burden to reverse the previous vote of the electorate, a majority of whom supported Walker. People generally do not like being told they were wrong in the first place, even if they were.

While impeachments have historically been used against Presidents by political opponents, for political reasons, and have often resulted in political outcomes, the Recall is not burdened with the personal agendas or egos of individual Senators.

After the death of Whig President William Harrison, John Tyler, a Southern Democrat, entered the White House, and when he started vetoing nearly every measure the Whig Party presented, an Impeachment resolution was introduced in the House, before it was defeated 127 to 83, thanks to Democratic resistance.

Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, who became Republican Lincoln’s Vice-President in 1864 under a National Union ticket, became President when Abe was assassinated in 1865, and after he vetoed several Republican measures, the House voted to impeach him, before a Senate trial resulted in an acquittal, by just one vote.

Bill Clinton, who had a consensual and perfectly legal affair with a younger woman, was targeted in an impeachment charade egged on by the sinister Newt Gingrich, which ultimately failed in the Senate by a handful of votes. If the Recall method had been used, instead of impeachment, the people would have acquitted Bill in a landslide.

The Recall is not easier than Impeachment, as two large obstacles must be overcome before there can be a removal, it is more democratic, and it gives more direct power to the people.

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