Here’s a not-so-modest prediction about the near future of our politics:
• President Obama will be impeached within a year for one (or more) of the current “scandals” buzzing around his administration. Take your pick: Benghazi, the IRS, or the seizure of AP reporter phone records.
• When that happens, Amercia may become completely, finally ungovernable.
Why do I think President Obama will be impeached? Because a not insignificant portion of the GOP base has never accepted his legitimacy to govern. Nearly half of Republicans have believed that Obama was born outside the U.S. (He wasn’t.) Most of them have believed that ACORN stole the 2008 election for him. (It didn’t.) I’m not sure if it’s ever been polled, but it’s also clear that many Republicans have believed that Philly’s New Black Panthers so massively intimidated white voters in the city that Obama was able to steal Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in 2008. (Again, wrong.)
With scandal fever building this week, it may simply be time for Republicans to tap all that raw anger on their side and decide that something President Obama has done—anything, even—rises to the level of an impeachable “high crime” and misdemeanor.
At The American Prospect, writer Jamelle Bouie has long suggested that Obama will be impeached in his second term. He’s sticking to his guns this week:
To a large and influential chunk of the Republican Party, Barack Obama is simply illegitimate. It was the same with Bill Clinton twenty years ago, and it’s likely to be true of any Democrat who wins the presidency. In Obama’s case, it’s why “birtherism” took hold among the conservative base, and it’s why GOP lawmakers have done everything possible to obstruct the actual process of governing, going as far as to block his nominees to the Cabinet—an unprecedented level of obstruction.
Increasingly, the question isn’t “will Republicans try to impeach Obama,” it’s “when will it happen?” If the GOP takes the Senate in next year’s elections, and thus gains control of Congress, don’t be surprised if we begin 2015 with impeachment proceedings against the president. The conservative base wants it, and as we’ve seen over the last four years, that’s all it takes for the Republican Party to act.
If that happens, well, kiss modern American democracy goodbye.
Why? Because impeachment is fundamentally a political process—it’s not directed by independent prosecutors or impartial judges. It occurs in the House of Representatives, where a majority of officeholders owe their jobs (at least in part) to elections in which … they campaigned against the President. Suffice it to say: Not everybody will be voting their conscience. More than a few folks will vote for partisan advantage.
And if Republicans decide to impeach a Democratic president again—the second in a row, after Clinton and the Lewinsky mess—well Democrats are probably going to take it personally. They’ll make an entirely rational political decision that there’s no reason not to obstruct, harass, and yes, impeach every Republican every chance they get. They could’ve impeached Ronald Reagan over Iran-Contra; same, probably, for the first George Bush. Goodness knows, parts of the base were screaming for it during the second Bush Administration. Why show restraint if Republicans won’t?
Which means every new president would start Day One of their administration on an impeachment countdown. With presidents always playing defense and Congress always looking for a reason to bring charges, nothing would get done. How could it?
The result? Perpetual gridlock. The public’s business would never get done. When that happens, government will have failed. It’s happened before in our history—the Founders gathered in Philadelphia and wrote the Constitution rather than live with a weak national government incapable of even paying its own debts.
We’re possibly just two or three short steps from such a scenario playing out. Has President Obama been a perfect president? Nope. Has he committed “high crimes and misdemeansor” worthy of impeachment? Not in the scandals we’ve named here. But there are other considerations. If America goes down the road of impeachment, there will be no going back.