December 21, 2005,
Just when you thought Republicans had won the Stupid-Party Sweepstakes for 2005, the Democrats go ahead and make the Republicans look brilliant.
Republicans were in the running this year for their abject failure on Social Security reform (by foolishly going for a massive overhaul and not just getting small private accounts), the Harriet Miers misstep, a tin ear on Hurricane Katrina, a poor job on communicating about the war in Iraq, and a confusing White House message on immigration.
But the Democrats are now poised to surpass the GOP in idiocy and grasp the victor's laurel of political incompetence. And the interesting thing about it is that their friends in the media and their grassroots will applaud them all the way.
Republicans were certainly the top contenders for the Stupid-Party Sweepstakes early this year, when the party's higher-ups decided not to learn from the Clinton-era health-care disaster of 1993-1994. Instead of going for a small private-account scheme that they could build out each year, they pushed for a massive and painful program of reform, replete with talk of Social Security cuts and "clawbacks" and the like.
But just when the odds looked insurmountable, Democrats are grasping to overtake Republicans. Seemingly forgetting how they did so well in the 1998 elections, they have begun idiotically calling for Congress to impeach President Bush over the war and the wiretapping of international calls.
Let's step back in time to 1998 and see the similarities. Republicans, blinded by hate for Bill Clinton, decided impeachment was the best way to handle the Monica Lewinsky affair. This may have made them feel good. It may have been justified. It may have even made sense to their grassroots activists and primary voters. But it never made any sense to independent voters. Republicans impeached Clinton, overplayed their hand badly, and had it slapped by voters in 1998. Specifically, the impeachment so boosted African-American turnout that Democrats were able to hold on to seats and gain others in the south that they simply shouldn't have. John Edwards was helped by this wave, as was the now-defeated former governor of Georgia.
Now, let's fast forward to the present. Democrats are now throwing around the "I" word themselves. Most of these Democrats, like the pro-impeachment Republicans in 1998, are in completely safe gerrymandered districts or left-leaning states. Having an impeachment vote would make them feel very good and help them vent. It would be a way to get back at a politician who has defeated them routinely. Does this sound familiar? Liberal Democrats feel impeachment would be justified for the Iraq war, the wiretapping program, and just about anything else. Blinded by their hate, they'd do anything to lash out at the president. Sound familiar? Impeaching President Bush makes sense to Democrats' grassroots supporters, their primary voters, Hollywood elites, college professors, antiwar activists, and the mainstream media. (If you doubt me on this last point, read Jonathan Alter's column in Newsweek here.)
But if you think back to 1998, when Republican impeachment efforts were ill-advised but driven by internal party dynamics, Democrats seem poised to repeat history.
As a Republican, I hope they do.
Because if they do, they'll learn two very important numbers the numbers 41 and 18.
41 is the number of Democratic congressional districts that voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004. 18 is the number of Republican districts that voted for Kerry over George W. Bush. Any political observer can see that this means that impeachment talk would endanger twice as many congressional Democrats as Republicans. Once the issue is brought up, what does a Democrat in a Bush-voting district do? If he says he's for impeachment, he's just handed his 2006 Republican challenger (and the RNC) a massive turnout tool. If he says he's against impeachment, he's just angered his liberal primary voters, his donors, and his volunteers. It's a no-win situation.
Moreover, what's the strategic calculation in attacking President Bush on his strong suit the war on terror? The Democrats can make their case on the wiretapping of incoming or outgoing international calls, but do they really think this will help them convince voters skeptical of their national security bona fides that they're a party that can defend America?
On a more basic level, do Democrats think a country that flocks to action movies (True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to mind) where a tough hero bends the rules in order to save the day and kill the bad guys will turn around and send a war president packing?
That's as silly as thinking back in 1998 that an America with a 50-percent divorce rate, visible thong underwear, and racy cable television programming was going to bounce a popular president for lying about an affair with an intern.
Robert Moran is a vice president at Republican polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates. He is an NRO contributor.