The Evans Report: The Politics of Impeachment


The Evans Report: The Politics of Impeachment

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The Evans Report from Randy Evans 

Desperate people do desperate things, whether in sports or politics. As Democrats concede that they face “strong headwinds” in the upcoming November midterm elections, most pollsters and pundits concede that 2014 could be another historic election year with huge gains for Republicans. Meanwhile, Republicans have adopted a bunker mentality hoping to avoid the kinds of catastrophic gaffes that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in years past.

Notably, even though the 2014 election year began with Republicans laser-focused on one issue – Obamacare – President Barack Obama’s political challenges this year have changed all that. Unlike virtually every other midterm election year in modern times, where one issue tends to dominate, polls show that most Americans believe that everything is wrong with no one issue driving; the growing consensus is that the country is clearly headed in the wrong direction.

The combination of all of these political dynamics has translated into a game of political chance by both Democrats and Republicans with heightened risk-taking at levels unheard of in the modern political era. As in football, this type of risk-taking can lead to skewed lopsided election results.

President Obama and Democrats need three important election dynamics to survive the 2014 midterm election. First, Democrats need to drive up voter intensity among key voting groups, including African-Americans, unions and liberal white women. Second, Democrats need to maintain and/or increase margins among Latino voters. And, third, Democrats need division among the Republican ranks that translates into either depressed or divided voter energy among conservative and Republican voters.

Notably, there is an issue that has the potential to achieve these dynamics — impeachment. When the threat of impeachment is introduced into the 2014 election lexicon, voter intensity among African-Americans increases to presidential election year levels.

Voter intensity among unions, liberal white women and other constituencies vested in President Obama as the president increases by double digits. The impact is notable and real.

As a result of these dramatic political consequences – even as U.S. House Speaker John Boehner rules out impeachment in favor of lawsuit against the president — House and Senate Democrats have fanned the flames of the prospect of impeachment should the Republicans control both the House and Senate. While not grounded in reality, it is good politics.

Of course, the chances of an actual impeachment are very remote notwithstanding repeated U.S. Supreme Court rulings that the Obama administration has acted unconstitutionally. Impeachment requires two-thirds of the Senate to convict a president of offenses sufficient for impeachment and no one expects Republican gains to come anywhere near such numbers. Senate Democrats would never vote for impeachment.

More significantly, Republicans remember well the political consequences of the last time the House passed articles of impeachment and the Senate held a trial. President Bill Clinton was not impeached. On the other hand, Republicans were punished at the polls.

Of course, if Republicans are not going to drive impeachment talk, the question is how can Democrats desperate for a political life raft drive it. So far it appears that immigration is the political tool of choice.

As reports come in of thousands of undocumented children crossing the southern border, conservative Republicans have responded, sometimes harshly. Needless to say, it is a politically dangerous issue for Republicans.

The treatment of children necessarily implicates important humanitarian concerns. And, Latino voters watch closely to see what happens and who acts compassionately.

Meanwhile, conservatives insistent on securing the border and stopping the influx of illegal immigrants have responded and, in some cases, taken action. Consequently, the emotions associated with the immigration issue make it a volatile and explosive issue.

With limited choices to redirect the national dialogue from Obamacare, national security, and the deficit and national debt, it appears President Obama is poised to grant amnesty to the children who have already arrived. If he does, it could turn the 2014 midterm election on its head, diverting attention from all other issues and driving conservatives into an impeachment fever pitch.

Putting aside its implications for the United States, such action would undoubtedly drive up voter intensity among key Democratic constituencies and secure the Latino vote while dividing Republicans between pragmatists and ideologues.

Although serious, the historical implications of amnesty would undoubtedly get lost in the political ramifications of an election that took an unexpected turn. As a result, for a political party rarely known for its discipline, immigration is the one issue that keeps Republican candidates running for office in 2014 up at night.

Certainly, presidential amnesty through executive order without Congressional action would be an unprecedented (and likely unconstitutional) move. But, desperate people do desperate things. And, by all accounts, that is exactly where the president and Democrats find themselves.

Can Republicans actually resist the overwhelming temptation to rush to the extreme of advocating impeachment? So far, the answer appears yes.

But, even if they succeed, there will undoubtedly be a vocal few who will nonetheless seize the moment to call for the impeachment of the president. If that happens, watch for President Obama, Democrats and the mainstream media to give them megaphones to drive the issue like no other.

Make no mistake – impeachment is oddly enough the most significant issue lurking in the background and the one that could most impact the outcome of the 2014 elections.

Randy Evans is an attorney and columnist.


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