When Republicans cry 'Impeach!' do Democrats win?

It’s nothing new for a Republican to call for Obama’s impeachment, but it’s not something that’s engaged high-profile party figures. There's a reason Boehner says he disagrees with Palin.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File
Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, shown here last year during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority 2013 conference in Washington, has called for President Obama's impeachment.

Sarah Palin’s high-profile call for the impeachment of President Obama has renewed discussion of this provocative subject among some Republicans this week. But here’s an open question: Which party does this help? Is there a chance it’s benefiting Democrats at the expense of the GOP?

That’s what some on the right now believe.

“Democrats would love to run in 2014 on Republican impeachment proceedings. In their absence, they are already fundraising off of Palin’s comments,” writes Noah Rothman at the conservative site Hot Air!

Let’s back up a bit and look at the political context in which Ms. Palin raised the I-word.

It’s nothing new for a Republican to call for Obama’s impeachment. Various figures within the party have been advocating such action – or simply noting that it could be on the table – since around 2009. Most recently, in June the South Dakota GOP at its state convention called for the House to start impeachment proceedings. Then this week came Palin’s “impeach him” post on Breitbart.com.

So the subject’s been around. But really, Palin aside, it’s not something that’s engaged high-profile party figures. Those advocating impeachment are mostly a scattering of former congressmen and state lawmakers. Establishment Republicans – many tea party leaders, too – have tended to avoid talking about it, or say flatly they oppose impeachment. Thus Speaker John Boehner, asked to comment on Palin’s position, this week said simply, “I disagree.”

There’s a reason for that. Mr. Boehner lived through the experience of the impeachment of President Clinton, and from that took away the conclusion that it was nothing but a political disaster for Republicans. The GOP looks to do well in 2014 midterms, possibly recapturing control of the Senate. Impeachment proceedings could scramble those prospects.

Why? It could energize an otherwise-dispirited Democratic Party base, for one thing. Minority and low-income voters who generally turn out in low numbers in midterms might flock to the polls. And it might blot out virtually all other issues.

That’s led conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, among other Republicans, to say he would oppose any impeachment push.

“I think the reason why it would hurt the Republican Party would be because that would be the story. So that all of President Obama’s other problems … would recede and it would all be about, you know, this impeachment,” Mr. O’Reilly said on his Fox News show Thursday.

In some sections of the Democratic Party it’s already all about impeachment. Since Palin’s post on Tuesday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has sent out at least two fundraising e-mail blasts centered on impeachment themes, according to a piece Friday in Politico.

In a third e-mail titled “Palin HUMILIATED,” the DCCC claimed that its donation rate had doubled due to the perceived impeachment threat.

“Republican overreach continues to be a huge motivating factor for our grass roots. The response to impeachment has been well over six figures,” DCCC spokesman Josh Schwerin told Politico.

All this may explain why Speaker Boehner has finally begun to act on his threat to sue President Obama for what he (Boehner) says is executive branch overreach.

Boehner does not want impeachment talk to get out of hand, lest Democrats benefit. So perhaps he’s suing Obama in part to satisfy the demands of the party base for some sort of confrontational action.

“It’s much, much harder to accuse Boehner of being soft on Obama when he’s currently bringing the guy to court. That’s no small thing. It’s also more politically palatable to the broader American electorate than impeachment,” writes Aaron Blake at The Fix blog of the Washington Post.

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