Betty Hall’s NH Impeachment Fiasco

By Nathaniel Gurien

Bless her heart, which is certainly in the right place, but strategy and tactics matter. The effort she spearheaded to deliver an impeachment resolution from the NH House to the US Congress was doomed from the start. Not to mention the damage done not only to the impeachment movement, but to Democrats’ electoral chances in November, in both NH and beyond.

Let’s go back to July, 2007, when 50+ “fired-up and ready-to-go” activists, including this writer, met in Worcester, Massachusetts to launch what would come to be known as the NorthEast Impeachment Coalition (NEIC). Speaking for myself, it was a heady, exhilarating, and well-run several hours, where we broke into working groups, both by state (NH, VT, MA, NY, CT, RI, ME) and to discuss campaign tactics and opportunities. Much was accomplished and tentatively decided upon. Each state chose a spokesperson for the event to brief the assembled on what they hoped to individually achieve.

We discussed organizing a proper political issue campaign with fundraising, events, advertising, phone banking, building NH public pressure on our US House Representatives, et.al. We together conceived of a major culminating rally/teach-in at Dartmouth College on September 26, 2007 to capitalize on the Democratic Presidential Debate venue, and the intense international media that would already be on-site. Adding a roster of headline speakers and panelists to draw crowds and attention was also suggested.

We chose Betty Hall to report on our proposals for NH. Much was made of the opportunity of the NH Primary and its accompanying media attention to jumpstart our campaign.

I left the summit meeting energized and ready for the next step of a core meeting of NH activists to plan and implement our campaign.

It never happened.

Despite numerous requests to convene a meeting time and place, Betty put it off and unilaterally chose to focus only on the proposed Dartmouth event. We all exchanged operational suggestions in anticipation of holding our organizational meeting, but Betty ultimately refused to set a time or venue for it, stating flatly, “I understood at the Summit that I was the leader and coordinator by designation not election. If the pilot (me) doesn’t fly low and slow enough you can grab your parachute and jump if you wish.” “ If you can't work this way, please feel free to withdraw from the process.”

I decided to pick up my blocks and play in another sandbox. I’d seen this type of petty ego politics in other progressive activist quixotic campaigns, and understood that any energy invested would be ultimately squandered and ineffective.

No long-term strategic goals were ever set, and tactics were, as Betty wrote, “…flying by the seat our pants.” Building a substantial foundation of public support is a prerequisite for success in issue campaigns but this advice and requirement was inexplicably ignored.

So, they went on to produce a nearly invisible and poorly-attended teach-in at Dartmouth College two months AFTER the Democratic Presidential Debate had come and gone. Still without a proper campaign and the required grassroots advance work of building adequate support, Betty went ahead with re-introducing her NH House impeachment resolution (HR24). As a result , it had little chance of success by itself, and even less as a tactic to force the opening of impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives.

The rally in Concord last week (April 14th) was moving and inspirational – Dan Ellsberg, Jon Nichols, Granny D, Betty herself and everyone else were wonderful, but at that point a successful campaign would have turned out thousands not hundreds of attendees, not to mention high-profile national and regional media attention.

The effort attracted few new converts and failed to connect with and energize tens (and possibly hundreds) of thousands of potential sympathizers in New Hampshire.

A key observation of many NH State Reps was that most of the emails they received in support of the resolution were from out-of-state. Who can blame them for being unwilling to take a political stand with such thin constituency support? Properly implemented, this campaign could have built a robust movement in NH, and approval of HR24 would have blown through the NH House by a two-to-one margin.

But such does not happen in a vacuum, plus this specific initiative should have been part of an overall strategy, not a “seat of our pants” crapshoot. Just because an issue is true, important and right does not bring success. God helps those who help themselves. We have to do the footwork.

Political activists take note: If we want to win, whether elective office or issues, it requires strategic goals and a well-organized, well-planned, goal-oriented campaign.

The tragedy is that for freedom-loving patriots, across the American political spectrum, this was not just another issue, it is THE ISSUE. Unlike e.g., “flag-pins” and “flip-flops”, it is about preserving the foundation of our liberty - our sacred US Constitution and the rule of law.

The failure of this specific effort and of the impeachment movement in general may have historic consequences that we’ll all have to live with, perhaps for generations. Our American Republic is under assault and its defenders are inadequately organized.

And yes – I am also personally responsible and apologize for my own failure of resolve. Perhaps more could have be accomplished if I hadn’t taken no for an answer.

The fat lady has not yet sung, but she's clearing her throat.