Back in 1973, when Madison Mayor Bill Dyke was running for a third term, he faced a 27-year-old alderman named Paul Soglin, a longtime student activist who had made his name as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War and an equally outspoken advocate for economic and social and racial justice. Dyke attacked his challenger as a dangerous radical and speculated about whether there might be “enough decent people left in Madison so that I'm re-elected.”

It turned out that there WERE enough decent people left in Madison to elect Soglin. He swept to victory by a 53% to 47% margin and went on to become the city’s longest-serving mayor.

Now, state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, is opposing the impeachment of President Trump and claiming, “Good and decent people will rise and resist these vile efforts to effectuate a political coup of the president.”

Just as Dyke got it wrong in 1973, so Nass has it wrong now. Way wrong.

There is nothing indecent about proposing to impeach a president who stands accused of abusing his authority in order to benefit himself personally and politically.

Of course, Americans can — and will — disagree on whether it is appropriate, and timely, to impeach and remove this president. But it is absurd to suggest that a stance in support of Trump is decent while opposition to his wrongdoing is somehow indecent.

What is even more absurd is the senator’s suggestion that "individuals, organizations and allies of those responsible (for Trump’s impeachment) must be held to account.” Nass added, “That accountability must occur at the local, state and national levels.”

Seriously?

Citizens who exercise their constitutional right — and responsibility — to speak truth to power do not need to be held to account. They need to be celebrated. The same goes for members of Congress who assert their right — and responsibility — to check and balance a president who has abused his position.

When Nass suggests otherwise, he assaults the basic premises of the American experiment, as they were outlined in the constitution that was drafted in 1787, and as they were highlighted in the amendments that formed the Bill of Rights.

The notion that citizens should be “held to account” for disagreeing with Donald Trump, or with Steve Nass, sounds to us like reckless demagoguery.

Nass has always been a bombastic figure in Wisconsin politics. But when the senator starts suggesting it is indecent for Wisconsinites to support the impeachment of a president who stands accused of trying to get a foreign government to investigate a political rival and then refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations into his abuse of power, he goes too far. And when a powerful legislator announces that those who disagree with him should be “held to account,” it is appropriate to object.

That objection should come from all quarters — from those who support impeachment AND from those who oppose it. Respect for the Constitution, and for the right of citizens and legislators to embrace the impeachment power that is contained within it, should go beyond partisanship and ideology.

Wisconsinites should ask Nass what, exactly, he means when he suggests that supporters of impeachment are indecent. More importantly, they should ask how he would propose to hold them to account.

And let’s be clear, there are a lot of them.

Several recent polls have suggested that a majority of Americans support the impeachment and removal of Trump. Some polls have it closer, suggesting that the United States is evenly divided on the question.

Does Nass think that half of Americans are indecent? Does he think a majority of Americans need to be “held to account”? Where does he draw the line? Does he think that the 80% to 90% of Democrats who support the president’s impeachment and removal are indecent? Does he think that the roughly 45% to 50% of independents who support the president’s impeachment and removal are indecent? Does he think that the 10% of Republicans who support the president’s impeachment and removal (according to the latest CNN poll) are indecent?

Does Nass really think that all of these millions of Americans are somehow indecent and should be held to account? Does he really think that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites are somehow indecent and should be held to account? Does he really think that thousands of his own constituents are somehow indecent and should be held to account?

If this is where Steve Nass stands, so be it. That is his right.

But it is the right of Wisconsinites to reject his definition of indecency — and his reckless demagoguery — just as resoundingly as they did Bill Dyke’s.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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