The Day of the I-Word Approacheth

The Prospect‘s Steve Erickson reminds us all of a salient political fact that we will soon be facing: particularly if Republicans do well this November and capture the Senate, the I-word–impeachment–will be very difficult to avoid.’

It’s now clear to anyone who doesn’t need it spelled out—and if you do, increasingly in recent weeks it’s being spelled out for you anyway—that the stealth issue of the upcoming congressional contest is the president’s impeachment. On the right, impeachment has become the wildfire crucible, and the purest purity test yet for those sanctified few who have managed to pass the others; that Obama hasn’t actually done anything to warrant impeachment, or at least anything as egregious as misleading a public into war, couldn’t be more beside the point. He’s Obama; his very existence calls for nullification; the historic fact of his presidency is a transgression against the national image of those Americans who more and more come to the conclusion that things started going very wrong in this country sometime around 1861.

Well, that last comment may go a bit over the top, but it does make sense that a fevered effort to ramp up the GOP’s conservative base towards November is going to flush out impeachment sentiment, and the “Obama’s leaving office soon” factor might actually encourage rather than discouragement a vengeful impeachment drive, just as it did in 1998.

Erickson is certainly right to suggest that if impeachment does gain momentum, it will become a litmus test on the Right, certainly for anyone running for president. And while the pressure will be particularly intense for Members of Congress who may have to vote on impeachment or conviction, it’s difficult to imagine any Republican avoiding a clear position. If it becomes evident sooner rather than later, it could even affect Democratic turnout this year, and buttress what is already likely to be good turnout in 2016.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.