July 9th, 2019 2:11 PM
Etta Worthington, head of Western Front Indivisible, helps submit witness slips, postcards to voters and more. | File photo
By Tom Holmes
Etta Worthington became interested in impeaching President Donald Trump almost from the day he took office.
Right off the bat, Worthington, of Forest Park, said Trump did not divest himself of his business interests, which violated the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government officials from accepting payments and gifts from foreign governments. She said Trump's hotels "flagrantly" violate the Emoluments Clause because they take in foreign profits.
"He's been selling access to himself," Worthington said.
Next on her list of indictments is Trump's "egregious behavior regarding the Muslim ban and what people are calling the 'Trump Camps,' i.e. detention centers which people say are like concentration camps where kids are being separated from their parents."
Trump's next "high crimes and misdemeanors," according to Worthington, is his behavior surrounding the release of the Mueller Report—which investigates Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election—the firing of James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and his appointment of William Barr as Attorney General. Worthington said Barr has clearly obstructed justice by limiting access to the full Mueller Report and counseling witnesses to plead "executive privilege" when refusing to answer questions put to them by the House Judiciary Committee.
"Barr," she said, "has essentially become Trump's own personal attorney by obstructing a lot of access to information."
Worthington heads a political action group called Western Front Indivisible, which is loosely composed of 15 to 30 members, depending on who happens to show up at their monthly meetings, and 300 members if you count the names on her email list.
What began as Western Front added the name Indivisible when the Forest Park group affiliated with a national, grass roots organization by that name. Indivisible, according to Worthington, was formed by two former congressional staffers who put together a 20-page document on how to resist the 45th president based, ironically, on the grassroots tactics used by the Tea Party. The document went viral, the movement grew organically and now there are 5,000 groups across the country.
Worthington is in contact with Indivisible's national leaders twice a month.
While Worthington said she personally favors moving ahead with impeachment, the leader of Western Front Indivisible acknowledged that in her relatively small group as well as on a national level, the anti-Trump coalition is divided on the wisdom of pursuing impeachment, primarily because they worry about the Senate not voting to convict, Trump then saying he's been vindicated, and the Republicans using the impeachment process to their advantage in the 2020 election.
What the Indivisible movement both on the national level, as well as here in Forest Park, seems to be supporting is pushing the House of Representatives to hold an impeachment inquiry, not a vote on impeachment itself.
Worthington expressed impatience with Congress not moving on an impeachment inquiry. "The problem I have with the inactivity right now," she said, "and in particular [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi is that they are all thinking politically. We don't elect people to think politically. We elect them to uphold the constitution, and if they are not doing that they need to be challenged."
"We need to get the facts out," Worthington said, "and have it on television where everyone can see and hear the facts, like John Dean did during the Watergate controversy. If that happens, more and more senators are going to get increasingly nervous the closer we get to the election. It would become like a TV reality show and that would even impact red districts,"
Listing her paying jobs as a writer, a sous chef for her daughter's catering company, an Airbnb host, and adjunct faculty at Columbia College, Worthington spends about 20 to 40 hours a week in activism.
Responding to the many people in this country who contend that activism like hers is a waste of time and won't change anything anyway, Worthington told a story about her recent experience with Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th).
On May 29, Davis held a town hall in Forest Park, where he "came out in support of impeachment," Worthington said. After the meeting Worthington said she asked him if he would be a co-sponsor to a bill, and he replied that he would.
"I then told him that I was going to check and see if it's on his website and if it is not, I would be calling his office," Worthington said. "When it did not appear I called and the staffer who answered the phone did not know anything about it but that he would pass the contents of my call on. The staffer did what he promised and the Seventh District Congressman's name was on his website the next day."
"I didn't change his basic stance," she concluded, "but my call made a concrete difference in getting him officially signed on. We do have a say in what happens. We don't have a say only when we don't say anything."
Worthington then rattled off a series of actions people can take to make their voices heard and have an impact. Advocates can tweet their representatives. Other social media like Facebook and Instagram can also be used.
Staffers, she said, keep tallies regarding how many constituents are for or against legislation in process. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Campaigns can always use volunteers on their phone banks, text banks and to canvass and enter data, she said.
Two relatively new ways to make an impact are by submitting Witness Slips and Postcard to Voters. While a bill is going through committees, Witness Slips are a way for citizens to comment on bills as they are in process. In the Postcard to Voters program, the volunteer supplies the cards and hand writes a message to Democratic voters.
Worthington said she feels a sense of urgency around her activism regarding impeachment and the 2020 presidential election.
"This may be our last chance to reclaim our democracy," Worthington said. "We can't afford four more years of Trump. I would like to challenge everyone to say they are responsible for making a change."
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