Last week's midterm elections fueled further speculation that a newly-emboldened Republican Congress might just try to impeach President Obama, but the Beltway media and Republicans continue to rely on two key arguments against it. The first is that impeaching the President is just what the Democrats want them to do, because it would be disastrous for the GOP. Republicans have even gone so far as to say that talk of impeachment is merely a concoction of the Democratic imagination, as Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said this week:
"The only people I ever hear talk about impeachment are Democrats. And, I think it's always for political purposes"
"I think this is a Democratic fantasy. And, I certainly don't see it coming to pass."
Note that Cole did not say impeachment was off the table, and neither did RNC Chair Reince Priebus when he was asked about it on Election Day. I don't think this is because they secretly want to do it, but because they secretly know that it's not at all off the table.
The second argument is that even if Republicans pass articles of impeachment in the House, they don't have the votes to convict in the Senate. That's what many of the 20 or so Republicans who Tom Cole didn't hear talking about impeachment have said, and it's what Cole didn't hear Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) say this week:
"Impeachment is indicting in the House, and that's a possibility, but you still have to convict in the Senate, and that takes a two-thirds vote. But impeachment would be a consideration, yes sir."
Now, naysayers like Cole have a point in that the people talking about impeachment aren't in leadership positions, but they're missing the point that Republican leaders aren't in leadership positions. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), especially, has been shoved around by those very same members on the very same issue that they're threatening to impeach over, and while Boehner might not want to roll his party's dice on impeachment, it is a fool's wager to bet he'll risk his speakership to block it. Post-midterm, the President has given Rorschach responses about how big he will go on immigration, but whatever he does, it will surely inflame the impeachment-mongers.
Once impeachment passes the House, it then faces the hurdle of Republican Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who actually can't do anything to stop an impeachment trial. Whether he likes it or not, the Senate will have to consider those articles of impeachment, and once again, there's little chance any of the 54 Republicans in the new Senate will vote against it. But that still puts them 13 votes shy of the two-thirds needed to convict. That's where the Democrats come in.
You do remember the Democrats, the ones who ran away from President Obama as hard as they could this election? Anyone who wants to know what lesson they learned from that should look at their post-election capitulation to Republicans on, for example, the confirmation of not-actually-former Whitewater lawyer and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch's confirmation. Politico Magazine is also out with a piece, this week, on five red state Democrats who are already signaling their willingness to jump with Republicans, the only question now being "How high?"
It's easy for Democrats to think they'd vote against impeachment today, but how will that vote feel in the heat of a presidential election, with a Democratic nominee who feels pressure to run away from Obama, too? In the broken-clock department, former Congressman Tom Tancredo asks the right question:
Here’s the key question: Is Obama so popular now that Democrats in 2015 and 2016 will fall on their swords to defend him? Do Senate Democrats want a vote against impeachment to be the defining issue in their 2016 campaigns, while also defending the influx of millions of additional illegal aliens across our unguarded borders?
What do you think? In addition to folks in that Politico piece, like Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, Democrats will be defending a lot of seats in 2016 and 2018 that Republicans made competitive again in this midterm. They flipped governorships in Illinois and Maryland, for crying out loud. Even Democrats who want to run as Democrats will be hard-pressed to die on this particular hill, especially if they think they can vote for impeachment safely, without hitting 67 votes.
That brings us back to the solution to the Republicans' first problem, because while they probably can't get all the way to 67 votes, they can probably get close to 60. That's more than enough for the mainstream media to spin the effort as "bipartisan," regardless of the merits, which will be a footnote to the horse race, at best. That's enough to give Republicans one last bite at winning a presidential election with white voters, especially since they've done nothing since 2012 to turn their dreadful minority outreach ship around.
I don't say this as a wish to see the President impeached, especially over something as meritless as executive orders, but Democrats, Republicans, and the political media are fooling themselves if they really think this can't happen. It can, and it will, and the only question now is who will have Obama's back when it does.