There are dozens of op-ed pieces, blogs, and related commentary out there on The Boehner lawsuit of the president, impeachment, Obama’s alleged reintroduction of the imperial presidency, his willful unilateral actions etc. To dip into paint-can’s and attempt to come up with something original or worth your time might well be a fool’s errand. There is already too much redundant “commentating” out there.
But what we can do, Must do, is make sense out of polls that show that a substantial majority—say 65-70%– of the population oppose impeachment (yes it is a live issue) and a slightly smaller number 55-65% of people polled seem opposed to a lawsuit against the president. Whether or not these initiatives against the president are “frivolous” (Democrat line, and supportive moderate liberal commentators/politicians), we will ignore as well as the question of the validity of polls that may represent “venting” or something “remote, not to be taken too seriously”. The conservative commentator/blogosphere and Fox News machine may well have created something out of nothing, or very little.
But these matters are not our concern. What we are fascinated by, especially in a blog that focuses on broad issues and longer term trends, and not short, gossipy, speculative “deadline fodder” is making sense out of why such a seemingly large minority of people favor either suing the president or impeaching him. For most Democrats and moderate independents, the fact that, say 35% of polled Americans seem to favor impeachment—i.e. slightly over 1 in 3—and perhaps 40% would seriously consider the Boehner House Lawsuit seems disconcerting and appalling, at least to people who know the meaning of the word, “bipartisan.” “What is there to sue or impeach the man For?” “Why would a House plagued by near subterranean favorability ratings (the president remains an Idol by comparison) wish to put aside pressing business simply to deliver another slap at the man they love to hate?” Perhaps some residue from the throttling he delivered in the 2008 and 2012 elections?
The fact that his personal style, and perhaps personal attributes (like foreign birth—no, just kidding) and relative success on a number of issues—modest in some cases, but success—would attract detractors in this toxic, polarized climate (over-used but unavoidable adjectives) is really not so surprising. One lesson of Clinton’s impeachment (even with the acquittal that followed) and Bush II’s Non-impeachment—someone out there see if there were any polls done on the subject—underscores Not that the Democrats seem to produce more vulnerable chief executives, but rather that the Republicans, with the “out there” tea party faction, are simply much better at playing hard ball.
- Or as the blue-state majorities might put it, they go at politics with some ground rules and propriety not seen much anymore in the other party. Both Romney and Obama in 2012 carried on necessarily aggressive campaigns, but with very different styles of aggressiveness. It would be more accurate to say that the “handlers’ and campaign machines of these competitors took characteristically different approaches.
Because this issue of rationale for impeachment or lawsuit cannot be done justice in one post, we turn to our bullet format to pose questions and introduce provocations:
- Do we not need to see if evidence is available for any ongoing (if pro forma) polling data on the impeachment vulnerability of sitting presidents (particularly Bush and Obama, two presidents back to back involved in a certain amount of turmoil, economic or military upheaval, and most importantly, a core opposition who would opposed them on just about any conceivable issue, not excepting “walking on water”
- My contention is key, not wholly original but I think provocative and in need of some evidence beyond reasoning: namely that the parties and their followings in what might be called the “post-Watergate, post-“Monica-gate” 1970s to 1990s” hardening of political differences and the politics of “gottcha,” there has been and will always be about 33% of the most partisan end of Either party willing to condemn virtually anything proposed by the “Opposite Party” and willing to look for ways to seek any means possible to weaken their leaders—presidents, key Congressionals, governors, senior strategists (e.g. Axelrods, Roves, etc.). As distasteful as some of Pres. Clinton’s personal escapades might have been to the public, turning them into impeachable offenses, or the “cover-ups” that will nearly always go with such shenanigans, there is little doubt that the antics of the opposition, from the first accusations in January, 1998, to the “necessity of Trial” in 1999 (complete with a chief justice presiding in Gilbert and Sullivan inspired robes) and there is little doubt that the impeachment process itself has been cheapened (although arguably, Clinton did hand his opponents the sword) and to some extent trivialized,
- In spite of the rise of the independent voter, the orthodox, true-believer factions of the two parties (especially the most Republican or Democratic 25%, but also the predictable partisan “next 25% of the parties”)—largely deaf to appeals on the issues of the other side—just not As deaf—much in the manner of “party-liners” in preceding decades,
- Translated into practical reality, we can expect, mostly but by no means exclusively on the Republican side (remember the “better hardballers”) that very roughly 66% of the voters who align with either party will reflexively oppose initiatives of The Opposite Party, and likely on substantive as well as purely electoral grounds (in other words the parties, again especially Republicans have become increasingly ideological since the 1980s as it might be argued that the Democrats were as ideological if not more so during the 1960s and 1970s)
- These true believers will also be more susceptible to lockstep calls for “gottcha” actions against the other party, including distortion of positions, “jumping on accidental or ill advised gaffes” and running all the way to the extreme threat of impeachment, or stalking horse “sub-impeachment” stunts like the Boehner led lawsuit, BUT, in the present case of the lawsuit, 75% of Republicans polled are said to support it, and 57% to support impeachment; we emphasize again that these are not Yet terribly meaningful or necessarily valid figures, but they probably are not that far off
- As a practical matter it is a blunt fact that Barack Obama is intensely disliked in the Republican Party, certainly politically, if not personally. When one hears that the base of that party is 57% for his impeachment and 75% for a lawsuit based on his excessive use of executive orders (read end-runs around the Republican House) it might cause consternation among Americans who do not support impeachment (65%) or the lawsuit (57% ); perhaps it might be better to say “are open to the idea of” either of these
- Although the lawsuit, rather exotic, seems more focused and to have aroused more genuine curiosity than impeachment, we want to turn again to the implications of 33% of Americans potentially favoring removal of the president; his perceived ideology and allegedly democratic-socialist or just socialist proclivities may have earned him this seemingly alarming statistic (later we will take up more specifically, possible motives for a president who has not even approached the high crimes and misdemeanors threshold for impeachment, not moral turpitude, nor scandal
- The gap between the national aversion to impeachment (65%) reflected in the CNN poll and the Republication opposition to it (42%) may partially be explained by the fact that the latest Gallup poll (Jan. 2014) of national party affiliation showed the Republicans to have sunk to 25%, the Democrats to 31% and “Independents” dramatically up to 42%
- The bottom line concluding this part of our argument is that Pres. Obama’s agenda (a bit to the left of Clinton’s), has created an “impeachment-open” opposition on 33%; assuming that the overwhelming number of those is the 33% are Republican, and that the Republicans make up 35% of the electorate, it is possible to surmise that 8% of those open to impeachment are independents or very odd Democrats (Dixiecrats, anybody?); although the number is unsettling (especially the 57% of Republicans who claim to support removal) it should be remembered that in a polity where recent elections presidential elections popular votes have been won by very narrow margins (Gore .5% 2000, Bush 2% 2004), or moderate ones (Obama 7.3% 2008, Obama 4.0% 2012), a 35% endorsement of impeachment would not seem threatening; in electoral public opinion, a presidential popular vote of 55% or more is deemed a landslide; on issue voting a 20% spread (60-40) is widely considered commanding, a 65% spread (technically 67%) on the impeachment issue not threatening, but disconcerting… if it were not for the take no prisoners Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, and the exceptionally virulent Republican dislike of Obama’s politics, Democrats might well be concerned, Clinton had 67% approval when the Lewinsky scandal erupted and he was in fact impeached, although his favorability on the issue dropped, it did not “go negative,” and in fact, loosely connected, the Democrats made modest gains in the 2000 congressional elections, 4 Senate seats and 3 House Seats
- Epilogue- The object of the preceding has been to put into perspective a seemingly odd and unsettling margin of support for impeachment in a one snapshot polling for a president who has not come close to historical standards for impeachment… besides the “not of this world” nature of some of the Tea Party faction, we will move to a consideration of the role of money in undermining some of the support for “Obamacare” (see our latest installment) and the general spinelessness of some parts of the media (no, not Fox News) in either stressing Obama mistakes or (more to the point) ignoring or “low-balling” his genuine accomplishments.