Tell your Republican friends they are being used

Right-wing impeachment message, December 2011

Right-wing impeachment message, December 2011

For many of us, it’s heartbreaking to see our Republican friends and family members being brainwashed by Fox News and GOP identity politics beyond all rationality. Sometimes we try to argue the merits of issues with them, to no avail of course. Other times we just write them off, which can make for some estranged relationships. But here’s another idea: let’s try to point out to our Republican friends that they are being used by the Republican Party.

Nowhere are rank-and-file Republicans being used by their party more than on the question of impeaching President Obama. Tea Party Republicans like Sarah Palin are fanning the flames for impeachment. Other Republicans, such as U.S. Senate candidates David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia and Jodi Ernst of Iowa, have entertained the possibility of impeachment. Some Republican House members have speculated about having the votes to impeach President Obama. None of these Republicans, however, has adequately articulated the grounds for which they would impeach President Obama, because of course there are no such valid grounds.

Therefore, you might try mentioning the following to Republicans with whom you want to keep a relationship:

According to the Constitution, Presidents can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Midemeanors.” Impeachment is thus an extraordinary act, not a normal political tool like a vote or a speech to use whenever members of the other party simply disagree with the President. We have another Constitutional tool for that. It’s called an election.

–Senate conviction and removal of a President from office after he or she is impeached by a majority in the House requires a two-thirds vote. Republican leaders know there is no chance they could get that many Senate votes against President Obama. Democrats currently hold a 55-45 seat majority in the Senate (two of the 55 are Independents, but they caucus and typically vote with the Democrats). The battle in this year’s elections is over who will control the majority in the Senate, with perhaps just a one or two seat advantage either way. Even if the Republicans get 51 or so seats, and even if all Republican Senators would vote against President Obama in an impeachment proceeding, which is by no means certain, that’s far short of the 67 seats needed to convict and remove the President, assuming all Senators take part in the vote. Given the rank partisanship and lack of merit behind the Republicans’ current impeachment talk, it’s likely that no Democrat would vote to convict and remove President Obama.

–The Republican Party seems to be ginning up impeachment largely as a fund-raising tool and a way to throw red meat to its base, which makes up a minority and keeps shrinking. We call this the GOP Death Spiral.” Ask your Republican friends if they are wasting their money donating to the hopeless cause of impeachment, and if so, why.

–If the Republicans in Congress impeach two Democratic Presidents in a row over what almost everyone would agree are purely political reasons, the Republican Party becomes a pathetic joke, in which it is seen as resorting to extraordinary measures to try to achieve what it is unable to achieve with its ideas and candidates at the ballot box. See GOP Death Spiral.

–Even in the extremely unlikely event that Republicans could muster the votes to impeach and remove President Obama, who then becomes President? Vice President Joe Biden! Do your Republican friends think that Joe Biden is somehow more conservative, or would pursue a substantially different agenda, than President Obama? Of course not. That’s why impeaching a President for anything other than a serious crime that truly warrants impeachment is such a silly waste of time, and why the current Republican impeachment talk is merely a personal political attack on President Obama.

–Suggest to your Republican loved ones that, as a Democrat or Progressive, you want to see a healthy two (or more)-party system. You want the Republicans to come to the table with good candidates and good ideas, and to have healthy debates and give-and-take between the parties for the good of the country without either side compromising their principles. Tell them that their current scorched-earth path of impeachment talk, however, removes the Republican Party from the political mainstream, and could send them into an oblivion in which they don’t take back the White House, and all the good things that come with it (picking Supreme Court justices, setting the country’s agenda and budgets, running the agencies that make big decisions, conducting foreign policy and wars, etc.) for many years. Ask them to come back to reality.

Is such an approach to your Republican friends a last-ditch effort? Probably. Would such an effort be futile? Maybe. But it’s worth a try.

Photo by Wonderlane, used under Creative Commons license.

6 Responses to Tell your Republican friends they are being used
  1. Green Eagle
    July 23, 2014 | 5:21 am

    They’re not going to listen to reason on this issue any more than any other issue.

    All I have to say to them is “Give it a try. See if it works out any better for you than the last impeachment tantrum you threw.”

    • Messaging Matters
      July 23, 2014 | 11:24 am

      That sounds just like points 3 & 4 in the post, so yes.

  2. steeve
    July 23, 2014 | 9:11 am

    “even if all Republican Senators would vote against President Obama in an impeachment proceeding, which is by no means certain”

    That’s 100% certain. These are republicans we’re talking about. When it really matters, like tax cuts for the rich or sticking a shiv in some random liberal, they are in complete lockstep. There won’t be even a single republican in the House voting a different way.

    And to a republican, passing impeachment just in the House is enough to make them feel better.

    “You want the Republicans to come to the table with good candidates and good ideas”

    But there isn’t room. Someone who is simultaneously sane and conservative is called a Democrat. The only way to a healthy political debate is to destroy the republicans, then raise up a party from the left.

    • Messaging Matters
      July 23, 2014 | 11:31 am

      @steeve, during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, 5 Republican Senators voted “Not Guilty” on both counts, and 5 others split their votes between the 2 charges. So it’s fair to say that it’s by no means certain that all GOP Senators would vote to convict President Obama if he were impeached, and obviously it’s speculative to claim that it’s “100% certain” that all of them would vote to convict. We just don’t know. But as the post indicates, the important point about the votes is, the path to 67 votes or 2/3 is quite daunting.

  3. Rich (In Name Only) in Reno
    July 23, 2014 | 9:17 am

    Back in 1970, then House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford stated, “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” In this instance, Ford was speaking of impeachment of Associate Justice William O. Douglas, a liberal member of the Supreme Court targeted by the Nixon Administration for removal.

    Our history of the last 30+ years indicates that for Republicans, Ford’s “moment in history” is analogous to “Democrat in the White House.”

    • Messaging Matters
      July 23, 2014 | 11:33 am

      Thanks @Rich, great history there. The Republicans are piling up a record of these cynical moves as part of their regular politics. However, that could make what they’re doing now more transparent to more people, and thus less effective.

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