(REMINDER: If you haven’t had a moment to contribute to this year’s TPM Journalism Fund drive, please consider doing so today. It’s as easy as clicking this link.)
House Republicans are now deciding whether to impeach Joe Biden and, perhaps more importantly to them, whether Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene gets credit for demanding the vote. Yes, that’s where we are. Fully reality TV land. Many of us still clench up when we hear the I word. It stings. How dare they even consider. But as I argue in today’s edition of the Backchannel, it’s time to start saying, who cares? Go ahead and do it. We’ll see you at the trial. We’ll even bring the popcorn.
Learning to Love Impeachment
Originally Published: June 22, 2023 11:58 a.m.
As you’ve seen, House Republicans are now falling out amongst themselves not over whether to impeach President Biden but over which of the two reality-show-style contestant Reps (see Boebert-Greene cage match) gets credit and pride of place to be the first to impeach him, or rather the first to introduce the motion to do so. And really, who copied who?
This comes after months of threats that House Republicans will impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and perhaps various other Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries or other appointees. It appears that the first vote to impeach President Biden may come not for his various other imagined crimes but for the Trump-appointed US Attorney in Delaware (left in place for more than two years) not coming up with more charges against the President’s son, Hunter.
We all of course know that impeachment is not removal from office. Indeed, the symbolic sanction has been significantly devalued in recent decades. Still many of us still feel that it crosses a psychic line, an unmerited but woeful hammer a rogue majority can bring down on a President who has not only not acted in a way that merits impeachment but not even in a way that merits criticism.
In a word, it hurts.
But my message to you is, who cares? Toss aside any idea that it’s any sort of stain on any of these guys’ record or status in history or anything else. Because the reality is that it’s not. Impeach Joe Biden? Go for it. See you at the trial. And good luck with that. We now live in an era in which Democratic Presidents and appointees will be routinely impeached and Republican Presidents will routinely violate their oath of office and various laws. This is the reality of the situation. What’s important is removing any sense of sting it still has. Because that gives a rogue majority a power and a cudgel they don’t have and don’t deserve.
So let the House impeach President Biden or impeach him multiple times. But they’ll hold a trial! Well, that’s really okay. I see nothing wrong with a trial based on transparently nonsensical claims. In fact, every time Freedom Caucus weirdos hold the floor and national spotlight it hurts Republican standing. Public opinion polls and election results leave little doubt about this. Air the whole thing. Remove whatever sting it has left.
A House majority holds certain powers that are dangerous regardless, like the ability to force a calamitous debt default, the lesser but still real destructive power of shutting down the federal government. Those threats have to be managed and where possible avoided. In contrast, impeachment is just a silliness with no real stakes.
Indeed, even the vote is great politics for Democrats. Most House Republicans desperately want to avoid such a vote. That was clear enough in the reports from yesterday’s GOP caucus meeting. But if they do hold a vote now, there will be immense pressure on all House Republicans to vote yes. To vote no when the sacred chalice of impeaching Joe Biden is within reach is a self-evidently self-RINOing act. It creates turbulence and chaos among Republicans. It spurs primaries. Great.
Is this the political and parliamentary world we’d choose to live in? Probably not. But it’s silly to hold on to symbols in a world in which they’ve become meaningless. Embrace the reality of the moment and the opportunities it offers.
See you at the trial. I’ll bring the popcorn.