Impeachment Is the Republican Boogeyman of 2018

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

From Esquire

Hey, all you Democratic congressional candidates who are running on a platform that, if elected, you will impeach the president*? Stop doing that immediately.

Hello? Hello?

Is this on?

This seems to be the handwring du jour for the punditariat, even though I can’t name a single Democratic candidate who is running specifically on this issue, or even one who’s running on the possibility of an impeachment. And neither, apparently, can The New York Times, which believes that all the serious people think that this non-issue is driving a good deal of the nascent congressional campaign. And, besides, David Axelrod is Very Concerned.

“If impeachment becomes a political tool instead of the end result of a credible investigation, then you are as guilty as Trump, in some ways, of taking a hammer blow to institutions,” said David Axelrod, former President Barack Obama’s onetime chief strategist, adding that it would also create risks in swing districts. “To say I’m for impeachment come hell or high water is to promise chaos.”

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. In 1994, when the Gingrich revolution brought the Republicans the control of the House of Representatives for the first time in decades, the talk of impeaching Bill Clinton for something began almost immediately. (People who were on Capitol Hill at the time remember vividly aides to the Republican leadership arguing that impeachment was coming simply because they had the votes.) Republicans didn’t care what chaos they brought about as long as it was sufficient to keep a Democratic president from governing.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Conservatives spoke quite plainly about their belief that impeachment always was meant to be “a political tool”-Ann Coulter even wrote a book on that subject-just one that had grown rusty from disuse. (Thomas Jefferson called it a scarecrow.) The impeachment of Bill Clinton, undertaken by the House Republicans full in the knowledge that it had no chance whatsoever in the Senate-was the ultimate political act in a series of political acts that began during the 1992 campaign, or even earlier, if Joe Conason and Gene Lyons are to be believed, and they are. And history has shown that, except for a blip in the 1998 midterms, the Republicans have paid no serious political price for what they did at all.

So, when you hear Republican strategists talking about how the Democratic candidates are slavering at the chance to impeach this president*, know that these low moans are strategic in their purpose, disingenuous in their history, and almost utterly dishonest about the state of play in the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans create phantoms like this all the time to frighten their base voters. Usually, though, these phantoms are black folks and foreigners, gay people and women. Now they’re trying to make scary monsters out of Amy McGrath and Randy Bryce. Boogedy-boogedy!

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