“Impeach the President,” or When Politics Sound Like Satire

by / 0 Comments / 100 View / July 16, 2014

The latest entry in what has become a tired list of superfluous attacks on either side of the American political aisle comes from ex-Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin. Her message is clear enough: due to what she (and, presumably, the American public) views to be an excessive use of executive orders and recent illegal border crossings, among a litany of other alleged constitutional violations, Palin calls for the impeachment of the incumbent President Barack Obama. As she states, “His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’” Besides commodifying immigrants in an ironic attack on their socioeconomic struggle, Palin describes that Obama ignores court orders and chooses to ignore laws he doesn’t like, including a “war in Libya without congressional approval.” She makes the case for impeachment regardless of practicality or the fact that, even if the Republican House passed the articles, the Democratic Senate almost certainly would not, by claiming that the people ought to send a message to Obama to stop a precedent from being set—a precedent, in her eyes, of an executive abuse of power. As she puts it, Obama is a “Lawless, Imperial president.”

The Post’s Aaron Blake has outlined other republicans who have mentioned impeachment in the last five years, including Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Representatives Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), former congressmen Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Allen West (R-Fla.), and the South Dakota Republican Party. Republicans are, however, wary of making the same mistake again. The Clinton impeachment famously backfired when it was viewed by many in the media as an overreach, leading to smaller-than-expected Republican gains in the midterm elections, a figurative blow to the party’s momentum. Already, the call for impeachment seems to have had unexpected ramifications. According to the Democratic National Campaign Committee, an influx of grassroots funding has reached Obama—over 10,000 donations in less than 24 hours, totaling well over six figures.

In her op-ed on the famously conservative Fox News, Palin also gracefully butchers an Edmund Burke quote by stating, “The only thing necessary to transform America into something unrecognizable is for good men to do nothing!” The America we have come to recognize, however, may not exactly be a standard to aspire to. An increasingly bi-partisan, polarized political landscape has produced an inactive congress, a media whose viewer-base is built on antagonizing the opposition, and a middle-ground of independents whose most convenient choice is apathy. According to a recent YouGov Poll, a third of Americans, and two thirds of Republicans think that Obama should be impeached…despite no legitimate authority on the matter lending credence to the calls for impeachment. Both Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic Attorney General Eric Holden have dismissed the legitimacy of the claims, pointing out that the grounds for impeachment are clearly outlined in the Constitution and simply don’t apply in this case. So, why now? Well, a public that is displeased and frustrated isn’t always beholden to pragmatic fact, and helplessness creates fodder for more extreme opinions. Impeaching the president because you don’t like him sounds like satire, but that’s precisely the point: desperation draws attention.

House republicans, on the other hand, led by Boehner, have a much different course of action in mind. They are in the process of filing a lawsuit against Obama over executive changes to the Healthcare plan, which they view to be an unlawful side-stepping of Congressional laws. As Holder said “It’s a more, I think, political gesture than a truly legal one. Filing a lawsuit against the president that has no basis is not going to improve the quality of life for the American people.” And while, initially, the lawsuit appears to be in the same vein as the calls for impeachment, the former is, in many Republicans’ eyes, a more logical and relevant campaign against the Obama administration than latter. Assuming that Republicans eventually back Boehner, the lawsuit will take a lengthy route through the courts as well as appear before the House, where Republicans will be allowed to air their grievances about Obama’s executive overreach. They will be able to tell their constituents that real, unprecedented action is being taken against Obama while ensuring that impeachment never seriously reaches the table again, for fear of it jeopardizing the case’s legitimacy. In a way, the lawsuit against Obama is the amicable middle ground, Boehner’s way of keeping the Republican party from imploding on this issue and maintaining his legitimacy as a conservative spokesman. It is a sacrifice, undoubtedly, one that will probably fail and may actually hurt a future Republican president should it succeed. But it’s the card Boehner must play to keep the fragile two-party system from reaching ruinous results.

Of course, this effort is lambasted by those who view it as small talk compared to impeachment. Palin stated on Fox News, “You don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight. There’s no place for lawyers on the front lines.” They are fighting words, indicative of the kind of audience that Palin hopes to attract—people who are fed up, who are angry and distrustful. Her effort is not to bridge the gap between people, but rather, to deepen the divide, then devour the dissenters. Her future is one of more noise, more political attack-ads, more vitriol and more pandering pundits.

In a rally in Austin, Texas on Thursday, July 10th, Obama directly addressed some of his critics in the candid manner that only a second-term president with a country in gridlock can. “You hear some of them, sue him, impeach him… Really? For what?” Obama wearily mused, “You’re going to sue me for doing my job? OK. Think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job when you don’t do your job.” Just when it seems like Obama may be missing the point of all of his detractors, he quips, “Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there is some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figured out.” That may very well be it. People are restless, displeased with the current political system of which Obama happens to be the shiny figurehead. He, in many Americans eyes, is the embodiment of a larger problem. Unfortunately, his use of executive order is merely a symptom, not the source of the illness. The sooner that the politicians and the public can agree that ours is a systematic problem, one that is engulfed and magnified by wasteful political maneuvers and radical soundbites, the sooner we can begin shaping the American political landscape into the one it was always meant to be: a platform allowing civil debate, one where impeaching an effectively innocent president is sharp satire.

You can read Sarah Palin’s op-ed here.

References:

Jackson, David. “Holder Blasts Palin over Obama Impeachment Call.” USA Today. Gannett, 13 July 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.

Klein, Ezra. “Boehner Is Suing Obama so He Doesn’t Have to Impeach Him.” Vox. Vox Media, 11 July 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.

Lucas, Fred. “Obama’s Response to Those Calling for His Impeachment.” The Blaze. TheBlaze Inc, 10 July 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.

O’Connor, John. “How GOP’s Obama Impeachment Talk Boosts Dems’ Donations.” Atlanta News, Sports, Atlanta Weather, Business News. Cox Media Group, 13 July 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.

O’Keefe, Ed. “Boehner Disagrees with Palin on Impeaching Obama.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 9 July 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.

Palin, Sarah. “The Case for Obama’s Impeachment: The Constitution’s Remedy for a Lawless, Imperial President.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 11 July 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.

Palin, Sarah. “Exclusive-Sarah Palin: ‘It’s Time to Impeach’ President Obama.” Breitbart News Network. Breitbart, 8 July 2014. Web. 12 July 2014.

Swanson, Emily. “Two-Thirds Of Republicans Think Impeaching Obama Would Be Justified.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 July 2014. Web. 14 July 2014.